Swiss Sweets If you serve these treats on a silver platter, your heart's desire will know your love is nothing to truffle with.

February 12, 1997|By Nick Malgieri | Nick Malgieri,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

The Swiss are justly famous for their sweets. Though they didn't exactly invent chocolate (many will argue that they perfected it), they certainly use chocolate as well as native ingredients to their best advantage in desserts.

And what could be better for Valentine's Day than a terrific

Swiss dessert.

The first, a truffle cake, comes from the venerable Sprungli pastry shop in Zurich. In business since the middle of the last century, Sprungli is probably among the best half-dozen pastry shops in the world. It's certainly a Swiss institution, and this cake is one of their specialties that is shipped the world over.

Basically, it's a chocolate nut cake sandwiched and topped with the same chocolate filling that's in a chocolate truffle rich, luscious, and just the thing to woo that special someone.

Chocolate-Orange Tarts use the same type of filling for a delicate tartlet. By the way, if you can't find tiny tartlet pans, use mini-muffin pans to bake the pastry shells. Just be sure they're very well buttered.

The last dessert isn't chocolate, but it's a real Swiss classic. From the Engadin in southeastern Switzerland where the really tall mountains are comes the Nusstorte (Walnut Cake). Two crumbly layers of pastry encase a caramelized walnut filling a perfect combination of flavor, texture and tailored appearance. Walnuts are common in the region, so it's really native Swiss.

Whether you are a chocolate lover or not, Swiss desserts satisfy everybody's sweet tooth, and I'll bet they are just the key for this special day.

Truffeltorte (Chocolate Truffle Cake)

Makes 20 servings:

CAKE BATTER:

6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely cut

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

2/3 cup sugar

8 large eggs, separated

1 1/3 cups ground almonds

2/3 cup dry bread crumbs

TRUFFLE FILLING:

1 1/2 pounds semisweet chocolate, finely cut

2 cups whipping cream

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Cocoa powder for finishing

Butter 12x18-inch (or 11x17-inch) jelly roll pan and line with sheet of parchment. Butter paper.

To prepare Cake Batter, place chocolate in small bowl over hot water to melt, stirring occasionally. Beat butter with 1/3 cup sugar until soft and light. Beat in melted chocolate. Add egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

Combine almonds and crumbs and stir into batter. Beat egg whites until very soft peaks form, then beat in remaining 1/3 cup sugar in slow stream and beat until firm peaks form. Stir 1/4 of whites into batter, then fold in rest of whites with rubber spatula. Spread cake batter in prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes. Slide cake from pan to rack to cool.

Meanwhile, to prepare Truffle Filling, place chocolate in bowl and set aside. Combine cream, butter and corn syrup in pan and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and allow to stand 5 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Strain into bowl. Cover and refrigerate until thickened. Immediately before using filling, whisk hand to lighten slightly.

To assemble cakes, divide baked layer into 6 layers, each 4x9-inches. Place 2 layers on pieces of cardboard to make handling easier. Spread each with 1 thin layer of filling. Repeat with 2 more layers of cake. Place last layers on cakes and frost outsides with thin layer of filling.

Divide remaining filling in half and place half on top of each cake. Smooth filling into wedge shape on top of each cake slant short ends inward toward center of cake. Chill cakes to set filling. Dust very lightly with cocoa powder before serving.

Chocolate and orange are a perfect combination, especially in these tartelettes.

Chocolate-orange tartelettes

Makes 24 Chocolate tartelettes

DOUGH:

1 cup unbleached flour

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup sugar

Dash salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into pieces

1 egg, beaten

FILLING:

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) soft unsalted butter

1/2 cup light corn syrup

1 pound semisweet chocolate, cut into pieces

1/2 cup orange liqueur

Candied orange peel to decorate

To prepare Chocolate Dough, sift flour, cocoa powder, sugar, salt and baking soda into mixing bowl. Rub in butter finely. Add egg and stir until dough holds together. Shape into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill.

To prepare Chocolate-Orange Filling, combine cream, butter and corn syrup in saucepan and stir well to mix. Bring to boil over low heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and allow to stand 5 minutes. Whisk smooth. Add liqueur and pour into bowl to cool.

Roll chilled dough on floured surface 1/8 inch thick. With floured fluted cutter, cut dough into 24 disks. Line 24 tartelette pans with disks of dough. Fill with dried beans. Bake tartelettes at 350 degrees about 25 minutes or until dough is baked through. Cool in pans. Remove beans and unmold.

Beat filling with electric mixer until light. Use pastry bag fitted with medium star tube to pipe large rosette of filling into each shell. Top each tart with strip of candied peel.

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