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An Italian flourless chocolate cake hits the right sweet notes for Valentine's Day

Chocolate is inextricably linked to Valentine’s Day, and much of it comes packaged in heart-shaped boxes.
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This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for Italian flourless chocolate torta. (Milk Street via AP)

Chocolate is inextricably linked to Valentine’s Day, and much of it comes packaged in heart-shaped boxes. For something different, consider making a torta Barozzi, a sumptuous and sophisticated flourless chocolate cake that’s often imitated but rarely duplicated.

Traditionally, torta Barozzi is made without wheat flour (and is therefore gluten-free). Instead, a combination of ground peanuts and almonds — along with whipped egg whites — delivers a structure that’s somehow rich and dense yet still light.

For the torta recipe in our book “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, we skip the peanuts, as almond flour alone works fine. To achieve a complex chocolate richness, we use both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate (ideally, chocolate with about 70% cocoa solids). Instant espresso powder accentuates the deep, roasty, bitter notes, and a dose of fiery dark rum lifts the flavors.

Aim for soft, not stiff, peaks when whipping the egg whites; it leaves them resilient and elastic enough to contain the bubbles, which expand in the heat of the oven to help your torta rise. Don’t substitute Dutch-processed cocoa with natural cocoa.

While the recipe will still work, the cake will be lighter in color, and not as deep in flavor. And take care not to overbake the cake. Remove it from the oven when a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a few sticky crumbs clinging to it. Serve with lightly sweetened mascarpone or whipped cream, or with vanilla gelato.

ITALIAN FLOURLESS CHOCOLATE TORTA

Start to finish: 1 hour Servings: 8 to 10 10 tablespoons salted butter, cut into 10 pieces, plus more for the pan 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped ¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder, plus more for dusting 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder 4 large eggs, separated, room temperature ¾ cup white sugar, divided 1 cup almond flour 1/2 teaspoon table salt 3 tablespoons dark rum Heat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the middle position. Butter an 8-inch-square pan, line the bottom with a parchment square and butter the parchment.

In a medium saucepan over medium, melt the butter. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, cocoa and espresso powder. Let stand for a few minutes to allow the chocolate to soften, then whisk until the mixture is smooth; cool until barely warm to the touch. In a large bowl, vigorously whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of the sugar until lightened and creamy, about 30 seconds.

Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until homogeneous. Add the almond flour and salt, then whisk until fully incorporated. Whisk in the rum; set aside. In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites on medium-high until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add the remaining ¼ cup sugar, then beat until the whites hold soft peaks, about 2 minutes. Add about a third of the whipped whites to the yolk-chocolate mixture and fold with a silicone spatula to lighten and loosen the base. Scrape on the remaining whites and gently fold in until well combined. Transfer to the prepared pan and gently shake or tilt the pan to level the batter.

Bake until the cake is slightly domed and a toothpick inserted at the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 to 45 minutes; the cake will deflate slightly as it cools. Run a paring knife around the inside edge of the pan to loosen the cake, then invert onto a platter; if needed, peel off and discard the parchment. Cool completely. Dust with cocoa before serving.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more weeknight-friendly recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap.

Christopher Kimball, The Associated Press