Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Baking Again

Many years ago, I would host an annual Christmas Dessert Party at the old bungalow on Suwanee. I would not allow anyone to bring anything; I had to make all the desserts, usually 8 to 10 different ones. And they could not be repeats from prior years. The parties were a big hit, especially since dessert was served with sparkling and non-sparkling wines, and of course coffee before everyone departed. I think at the peak there were 20+ people attending and each left with a collection of the recipes. 

All this is a lead in to my return to baking, which I have not done seriously in a couple of years. No, I have no intention of resurrecting the dessert party, but I was inspired reading my friend Liz's blog and her baking escapades. Also I had a request from Frank to make the Torta di Nocciole e Cioccolata (Hazelnut Chocolate Cake) which I have made a number of time in the past and was one of the hits from the parties. I had a copy of the recipe in my recipe notebook but I could not remember where it come from. I just happened to be looking in some old cookbooks earlier this week, and found the recipe in Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano. The book is falling apart from years of use. She had a cooking show years ago, and was one of my favorites. I can now give proper credit for the recipe. Thanks to the Internet, I just found that she still has a restaurant in Sacramento, CA, called Biba. (<--- click the link to check it out). I miss her TV shows; that was real cooking, not "entertainment"

The torta just came out of the oven and smells great. 

Torta di Nocciole e Cioccolata
Hazelnut Chocolate Cake
From Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano

Serves 10 - 12

6 ounces whole hazelnuts
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
6 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
1 cup granulated sugar
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/3 cup dark rum
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
6 large egg whites, beaten in a large bowl until stiff peaks form
Confectioners’ sugar for garnish.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10-inch spring-form cake pan, shaking off any excess.

Place the hazelnuts in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet and back until lightly golden 3 to 4 minutes. Wrap the hazelnuts in a large kitchen towel and rub off as much skin as possible. Put the hazelnuts in a food processor and chop them into fine pieces. (Be careful not to process them into a powder.)

In a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter with the egg yolks, whole egg and sugar at high speed until pale yellow and fluffy. Add the hazelnuts, chocolate and run and mix into the eggs. Add the flour slowly, beating gently to incorporate. (The batter should have a soft, somewhat loose consistency.) Fold in the egg whites thoroughly.

Pour the mixture into the buttered cake pan, level the top with a spatula, and back until the cake is golden brown and a thin knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out just slightly moist, 30 – 40 minutes.

Cool to room temperature, remove from the pan, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and serve

My comments: 

  • I find it very hard to remove all of the skin from the hazelnuts and 3 to 4 minutes was not enough time in the oven to get them golden. I ended up leaving them in about 8 minutes or so, but still ended up with some skin. I don't think it is a big deal, but this is probably the most work of the recipe. (Any suggestions Liz, other than having a friend in Washington state ship you hazelnuts with the skin already removed?)
  • For the chocolate, I used Valrhona Manjari, dark chocolate with 64% cacao, but I think any really good quality semi-sweet chocolate would work. 

1 comment:

Liz said...

I would say order some of those skinned hazelnuts from Oregon (if you click on the picture in my blog, you can get their info) but in the absence of that, your towel method is the one I use. It's messy and you won't get all the skins off, but at the end of the day, no one will know the difference. Can't wait to hear how this dessert turned out. Pictures, please!