SHF: Coffee, Chocolate, Hazelnut....brilliant!
Since I bought Nigel Slater's book Appetite a few months ago, I've been wanting to make the final recipe in the book, called 'a great chocolate cake for family, friends, dessert, tea, birthdays...'. What struck me was his description before the recipe, in which he explains that the recipe actually came from Tamasin Day-Lewis (yes, Daniel's sister) who used wholemeal flour and brown sugar in her recipe. Nigel had changed his to plain flour and normal sugar, which sounded great, but the original really intrigued me. I've never used wholemeal flour before, but I'm trying to eat more wholegrain stuff now, so maybe I could convince myself it was a health-conscious cake.....? Nigel added coffee to his recipe, instead of milk, so when this month's Sugar High Friday theme was announced as coffee, I actually had a legitimate excuse to make this cake. Ahem. *cough*. Yeah, convince away.....
I could only find once reference on the internet for Tamasin's original recipe, and that recipe forgot to include any sugar, so I rather doubted its authority. I'm right into 'authority control' now I work as a cataloguer ;-). Although I have a pretty sketchy strike rate when doing my own modifications to recipes - in fact I'm well-known for not following the instructions and wondering why my recipe doesn't turn out - I threw caution to the wind and decided to go it alone.
Maybe I'm throwing off the curse of the experimental cook, but this is truly one of the best cakes I've ever made, and probably one of my top two this year; the other being the spicy chocolate gingerbread. It uses ground hazelnuts along with the wholemeal flour, which gives a really moist texture, but also it's almost grainy with that unrefined flour and nubbly bits of hazelnut. I made this cake on Thursday night without any event in mind to eat it, which is not a wise thing to do when you have a wedding coming up, in which you're a bridesmaid! So, even though I keep sneaking a little slice each time I walk through the kitchen (bad girl!), I worried that it would have dried out by today. But no! This cake is truly rustic and homely, and holds its moisture really well, no doubt helped by the ground nuts and shot of espresso coffee in the mix.
One of the best features is this sandy rubble of topping sprinkled onto the top before baking, which uses some reserved hazelnuts and chocolate from the batter. Doesn't it looks mouth-watering?? I used a chunk of dark couverture from Chocolatier, which was pretty luxurious and allowed me to chop proper chunks of chocolate, which you can't do when you buy a block of Lindt or whatever. The crushed hazelnuts on top toast and roast in the oven, and give the most brilliant flavour. It has a similarity to Nutella, you know, so if you're a fan of that (and who isn't?) you'll love this cake.
The coffee flavour is subtle, and gives a deeper note. You could possibly sprinkle some more espresso over the topping just after it comes out of the oven if you want a bigger coffee flavour. Hazelnuts are my favourite nut flavour, but Nigel suggests that walnuts or toasted almonds could also be used, which might be easier to find (I found my ground hazelnuts in a baking supply store and stored them in the freezer).
This would be the perfect cake to take on a picnic or take for dessert to a BBQ. It's homely and unpretentious, despite the pedigree of its ingredients. It's not the type of cake you'll find served on bone china with a cup of Darjeeling at High Tea, but the type of cake you could feel quite comfortable shovelling into your mouth with your fingers. And I reckon that's its real winning point. Top stuff.
Read on for the recipe:
Wholemeal Chocolate, Hazelnut & Coffee cake
Adapted from Nigel Slater, Appetite p.438.
Nigel says you can make a few changes to the recipe without coming unstuck. He suggests walnuts or lightly toasted almonds instead of hazelnuts. He also suggests adding the finely grated zest of a small orange or even some finely chopped fruit such as dried apricots or stoned ready-to-eat prunes.
250g butter (1 block)
125g soft brown sugar
125g white or raw sugar (feel free to play with these sugar amounts)
4 large eggs
3-4 tablespoons strong espresso coffee
250g wholemeal plain flour
2 heaped teaspoons baking powder
200g skinned hazelnuts, coarsely ground (I used 100g ready ground, and 100g whole nuts)
250g good, dark chocolate - coarsely chopped (it should look like gravel)
23cm springform cake tin (for ease of removing the cake afterwards) or a normal cake tin.
-Line the cake tin with greaseproof paper, even if it is non-stick.
-Set the oven at 180C
-Beat the butter and sugars til they are fluffy and pale, preferably with an electric beater unless you want a real upper body workout doing it by hand
-Add the eggs one at a time, beating lightly between each addition. Don't worry if the mixture curdles.
-Stir in the coffee
-Dunp in in the flour and baking powder and fold them in, then fold in most of the hazelnuts and chopped chocolate, keeping a little back for the top of the cake. The mixture should be quite firm.
-Spoon it into the lined tin and smooth the top
-Scatter over the remaining hazelnuts and nuts
-Bake for about 1h 20 minutes or until the cake is springy. (Mine took about 1.5 hours). Test its donenss by spearing the centre with a skewer. It should come out without any raw batter on it
-Leave for 30 minutes or so before cutting. It is at its best slightly warm and loose textured.
Note: Because I used a combination of ready ground and whole nuts I ground in the processor, I think my cake was a bit more dense than Nigel's. If you want a looser textured cake, I'd suggest you grind all the nuts yourself.