Walnuts stand in for flour in this gluten-free treat. (Kate Lawson / The Detroit News)
I know that the issue of celiac disease is a serious one. I have a few acquaintances that suffer with this autoimmune digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. Gluten is the enemy here and it’s a very real danger to many Americans.
Fortunately, I do not have the disease but the overuse of the phrase “gluten-free” has gotten my attention, as I’ve see it appear on labels for everything from ketchup to oatmeal. This has become big business to many food manufacturers, who often charge more for a product that makes the claim.
To be fair, many unlikely products do contain gluten (soy sauce, for one), but when companies jump on a fad bandwagon just to make money, I have a hard time keeping my lips zipped.
The topic came up recently when we were entertaining dinner guests and I served this torte made from walnuts, sugar and eggs. Standing in for flour, the walnuts are mixed in with beaten yolks and sugar, and stiffly beaten egg whites are folded into the mixture. It makes a rather boring-looking dessert, but when topped with a decadent layer of coffee-flavored whipped cream, it takes on a taste of the sublime.
There’s nothing to recommend this dessert as low-calorie or low fat, but then you don’t need a huge slice to satisfy.
And it is gluten-free — just in case you were wondering.
Walnut Coffee Torte
This flourless torte is made with a minimum of ingredients — almost nothing more than walnuts, eggs and sugar — then generously coated with coffee-flavored whipped cream. Adapted from Bon Appetit
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons walnuts (about 5 ounces)
4 large eggs, separated
½ cup sugar
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon instant coffee crystals dissolved in 2 teaspoons heavy whipping cream
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using coarse grating disc (with large holes), grate walnuts in processor. Remove grating disc, leaving walnuts in processor bowl. Fit processor with metal blade. Using on/off turns, grind walnuts until finely ground but not pasty. Set aside 2 tablespoons ground walnuts for garnish.
Butter bottom (not sides) of 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks in large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Gradually add ½ cup sugar, beating until well blended. Stir remaining ground walnuts into yolk mixture. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold whites into nut mixture in 2 additions. Transfer batter to prepared pan.
Bake cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife between cake and pan sides to loosen; remove pan sides. Cool cake completely on rack (cake will fall in center). (Cake can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and store at room temperature.)
Using electric mixer, beat cream, powdered sugar, coffee mixture and vanilla in large bowl until peaks form. Spread coffee whipped cream onto top of cake. Sprinkle top with reserved ground walnuts; arrange walnut halves in center of cake. Cut cake into wedges. Serves 8.
Per serving: 325 calories; 26 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 72 percent calories from fat); 20 g carbohydrates; 147 mg cholesterol; 45 mg sodium; 6 g protein; 1 g fiber.