I am 10 hours and one exam away from being done with the first semester of sophomore year! While it has been a great semester, I am sooo ready to go home and not sit and stare at books for hours and hours every day. With the excuse of using up the excess of eggs that I have before leaving for vacation, I procrastinated studying for chemistry to make this lovely cake. Baking is chemistry, right?
Bad idea, I literally cannot stop taking little slices of the cake, the kind of slices that make you not realize how much you’ve eaten until suddenly half the cake is gone… oops.
This recipe comes from this adorable old Italian cookbook my great aunt gave me full of rustic sweets with intriguing old-fashioned flavors like candied fruit and fennel seeds. There are also a wealth of cake recipes using old bread, but I never seem to be able to keep bread around until it gets stale enough to try any of them.
This is exactly the kind of Italian baking that I really love, the kind of cake that can be eaten at any time of day because it is just the right amount of sweet, without elaborate fillings. The flavor of the crumb is delicate and nutty, with a slightly tannic touch from the hazelnut skins. It can be enjoyed as-is for breakfast or snack, or can be doctored up into a show-stopping dessert. I can imagine it topped with raspberry jam whipped with heavy cream, then decorated with a few roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts. I decided to cover it with a chocolate ganache I had sitting around in my fridge from a past baking enterprise, and that was a delicious decision that I highly recommend. Ganache is really easy to make, just bring heavy cream to a boil and then take it off the flame and stir in some chopped dark chocolate, mixing until it becomes a uniform sauce. Anyone who has ever experienced the joy that is nutella knows chocolate and hazelnut are meant to be.
Torta alle Nocciole
150 g hazelnut flour (or whole toasted hazelnuts)
100 g butter
200 g flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk
If using whole hazelnuts, process them into a fine powder in a food processor. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the eggs with the sugar until the mixture is light and creamy, then add the hazelnut flour, the butter (melted), the flour, the baking powder, the oil and the milk. Pour the batter into a buttered cake pan and bake for 40 minutes until golden brown. Once done, you can decorate it however you want, or just eat it plain for breakfast! I used an old ganache that I had made a while back and had in the fridge, but I would imagine a topping of whipped cream tinged with raspberry jam would also be fantastic.
(adapted from I Dolci Caserecci, by Giuliana Bonomo)