June 22, 2012

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake

So the past few months have found me adjusting to a new baby and moving to a new part of the country. Needless to say my cooking has been very sparse. I'm finally settled in a place and am slowly getting my kitchen stocked back up. Now to find uninterrupted blocks of time in which to cook. Okay, maybe in a decade?

I had some hazelnuts from Trader Joe's in Cincinnati (how I miss you TJ!) waiting to be used up, and turned to Smitten Kitchen for some inspiration. Hazelnuts and chocolate are such a good combination, and this cake was delicious. I only regret it made such a small cake as it was gone in no time.

Hazelnut Brown Butter Cake
slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen

5 ounces (about one heaping cup) hazelnuts, blanched to remove dark skins
1/2 pound unsalted butter
1/2 vanilla bean
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
5 extra-large egg whites
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. Wrap the warm nuts in a dish towel. Let steam for five minutes and then vigorously rub them together to remove the skins.

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 1/2 pound butter in a medium saucepan. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise down the center, 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 at 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 35-40 minutes. 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.


4 ounces semisweet chocolate chips or finely-chopped chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream

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

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