6.30.2008

hazelnut brown butter cake

I'm sorry I've been so lax about posting. I have no excuses, other than that I've been eating instead of blogging. I have a backlog of about 3-5 things to get up here and I promise I'll get to it posthaste.

the ganache, it's taking over the world

So, about this cake. I intended to make it ages ago, because the name has the words Hazelnut and Brown Butter in it, and that's all I really needed to know. Then I read the recipe and saw that I had to get the skins off the hazelnuts and I had whip egg whites to stiff peaks, and I balked. De-skinning hazelnuts is a pain in the ass and I have an irrational fear of whipping egg whites, because I'm certain that I can't do it properly.

WELL. This cake is proof that you can do EVERYTHING wrong and your cake will still taste like these:



I blanched the hazelnuts with baking powder and then scrubbed them and rubbed them in a towel to get the skins off. Fail. I roasted them in the oven and then rubbed them so vigorously that they started breaking. And the skins stayed on. In frustration I gave up and dumped the nuts in the food processor anyway, looking like this:

hazelnuts

I ground them up with the other ingredients and then realized I probably didn't grind it fine enough. Oh well. Onward.

The brown butter got a bit over-brown. It didn't smell burnt, but it was more like Nearly Black Butter. Shit. Move on.

I have a new mixer. I was excited about this because I knew it could do the egg-white-whipping very quickly. Directions said on High, 8 minutes. I walked away and two or three minutes later I peeked into my mixer and all hell had broken loose. The eggs had become overbeaten IN 180 SECONDS. Speedy fucking Gonzales, that mixer is. After the nut debacle, I wanted to toss the whole mess in the garbage, but I figured fuck it, I'd gone this far. I won't regale you with the horror of blending the butter-nut-flour mixture into the eggs, but suffice to say that the contraption looked nothing like batter until the very last stage. I tossed it in the oven and hoped that the damn thing wouldn't explode.

In the end, what I had looked like a cake.

speckled hazelnut cake

I frosted (well, ganache-d) the sucker and tasted it. And holy hell, it was good.

ganache spilleth over

So, have no fear. Even if everything goes wrong, miracles occur in the oven.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
Stolen from, as usual, Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques (I must have this cookbook.)

Chef Goin served this as her wedding cake. I have learned that anything served as a wedding cake by someone who cooks is AMAZING.

5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins*
1/2 pound unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon melted extra for greasing the pan)
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, plus extra for dusting the cake
1/3 cups all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites (I used 6 since I was using
large eggs)
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 °F.

Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet, and toast 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell nutty. Let them cool.

Cut out a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of a 10-inch round cake pan. Brush the pan with a little melted butter and line the bottom with the paper.

Place the rest of the butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, and using a paring knife to scrape the seeds and pulp onto the butter. To make sure not to lose any of the seeds, run your vanilla-coated knife through the butter. Add the vanilla pod to the pan, and cook the butter until the butter browns and smells nutty (about 6 to 8 minutes). It helps to frequently scrape the solids off the bottom of the pan in the last couple minutes to ensure even browning. Set aside to cool. Remove the vanilla pod and discard.

Grind the hazelnuts with the confectioners’ sugar in a food processor until they’re finely ground. Add the flour and pulse to combine. Transfer to a large bowl.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the granulated sugar and mix on high speed 4 to 5 minutes, until the mixture forms very stiff peaks. When you turn the whisk upside down, the peaks should hold. Transfer the whites to a large mixing bowl.

Alternate folding the dry ingredients and the brown butter into the egg whites, a third of a time. Remember to scrap the bottom of the brown butter pan with a rubber spatula to get all the little brown bits.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan, and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour**. Cool on a rack 30 minutes. Run a knife around the inside edge of the pan, and invert the cake onto a plate. Peel off the paper, and turn the cake back over onto a serving platter. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar or cover with ganache (below).

* Do not fear if your blanching-and-rubbing or your roasting-and-scrubbing doesn't yield perfectly naked nuts. It's okay. Keep going.

** Mine was done at 40 minutes so check yours even earlier, okay?

Draping Ganache for 10-inch Cake

4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely-chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

Melt the chocolate, heavy cream, and coffee in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Spread over the top of the cake.

2 comments:

annette said...

hey! your pictures are beautiful! the cake looks effin' delicious!

Candy said...

Ooh, ooh, you can fix broken, over-whipped egg whites! (Not if they're so broken that they're alternately watery and clumpy, but if they're only a little lumpy, they're totally salvageable.) You add a tiny bit of sugar and turn your mixer on low. Keep adding tiny bits of sugar until the consistency smoothes out.

Also, if you have a Kitchenaid or a Kenwood, those fuckers whip egg whites in no time flat. I never leave my egg whites unattended, and I never go full speed--I start at the very lowest speed and gradually increase speed, and stop occasionally to do the upside-down test to see whether they're stiff enough. The top speed depends on how many egg whites I have. The more egg whites, the lower the top speed. For 12 whites (angel food cake) I go between 6 and 7 on my KitchenAid. 4 whites or so I bump it up to 8 or 9. The only time I've ever gone all the way to 10 was that time I made mayonnaise and whipped only a couple of egg yolks--egg yolks are much more forgiving than egg white.

Dude. I want to make this cake when you're here in Portland. Chocolate + butter + hazelnuts = love.