Sometimes, when good friends come to visit, or even acquaintances, they say, “When I come, will you make ____________?”  I’m happy to oblige.  Who wouldn’t feel good about that sort of request?

Sue knew she was coming for several weeks and said, “The only thing I want is a big chocolate cake; I’ve just seen that new Meryl Streep movie, ‘It’s Complicated.”  Well, Sue doesn’t really eat much chocolate.  Ever.  I didn’t know what to do with the request and I hadn’t seen the movie.  I make killer chocolate chip oatmeal cookies and, once when I sent some for her birthday, she took them to the office and told me, “You know I don’t hardly eat chocolate.”  And now she wants a chocolate cake?  Too weird.

Anyway, I absolutely LOVE chocolate cake. Seldom make it because my husband is not a chocolate eater.  Though he, too, seems to be coming around. Hmm.  Once, when I was staying at Sue’s, we stopped at a sweet cafe for dessert and I happily waded through a huge piece of multi-layer dark madness because I just never get any at home and, truly, most restaurants don’t have good dessert.  (So sad……….)

So what kind of a chocolate cake was I going to make?  I had made a Chocolate-Hazelnut torte for Thanksgiving.  One of those deep, murky, thick and seemingly  heavy, but sweetly light, melting things made in the springform pan.  Almost no flour. Great for gluten-free.  Basically ground hazelnuts (which made the “flour”) and melted oh-so-fine Callebaut bittersweet chocolate.  I thought I’d see a rerun of that cake.  Ooooo.  Did I really have a reason to recreate it?  I was in heaven.

This particular confection is not French, but Italian, and is called…………….

Torta Gianduja     ( as I tell my students, “Anything in Italian sounds good to eat!”)

and the recipe had come from COOKS ILLUSTRATED ITALIAN FAVORITES.  Since I’m now testing recipes from COOKS, I was even happier to try it all again and see how it went.  Their recipes are amongst the very well-tried and true resources for serious cooks.  If  you ever  use them, you’ll see the difference.

 I had no memory of the time involved to make this cake.  I had made it a few days before Thanksgiving because the recipe indicated “can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for several days.”  Who wouldn’t do that at holiday time?  Besides, I wasn’t even cooking Thanksgiving dinner last year; I was just filling in the holes for a dinner my friend, and phenomenal cook, Tony was making.  I could take my time and make the few dishes I was responsible for…at my leisure.  Oh  joy.  NO timetable really.  But, as I began to put things together this time, I realized this was time-consuming.  Not terribly, but somewhat.  So, I warn you.  This involves slowly melting chocolate; don’t try the microwave for this one, though I otherwise recommend it for chocolate.  It takes 15 minutes to roast the hazelnuts the first time around and then you have to towel, towel, towel them to get the skins off.  You must then roast them a second time. This is if you have bought SHELLED hazelnuts and I usually buy nuts in the shell for something like this–just to insure freshness.  Nothing worse than stale nuts.  If you shell the nuts, that’s another half-hour or more if your hands aren’t in great shape.   You’re beginning to get the picture.  So, leave an hour and a half for making this cake.  It took me two hours because three people called in the middle of the prep and the puppy had to go out oh, twice.  Big breath.  Definitely worth the effort. Not something you make every week, is it?  So, here’s the cake I made…huge thanks to COOKS’

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT CAKE
TORTA GIANDUJA
SERVES 8 EASILY

8 T unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for the pan                                                      
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate

1 1/3 c hazelnuts (about 6 2/3 oz), shelled, toasted, skinned,
            and toasted again*
1 c granulated sugar, divided
2 T unbleached all-purpose flour or gluten free flour mix
6 large egg yolks
3 large egg whites
1/4 t salt                                                                                                 
Confectioner’s sugar
Whipped cream, optional                                                                         
Preheat oven to 350 and put rack in middle of oven.
Generously butter 9″ springform pan and set aside.
Place chocolate in heatproof small pot set over pan of simmering
water.  Melt, stirring occasionally.  Cool to room temperature.
Place toasted, skinned hazelnuts in food processor with 1/4 c
granulated sugar and process until finely ground.
In mixing bowl, with electric mixer (handheld or stand),  beat butter until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add remaining 3/4 c sugar, beating until creamy, 2-3 min.  Add egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add cooled chocoalte and beat briefly.  Add ground hazelnut-sugar mixture by gently stirring in. 
In another very clean and dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites with
salt and beat until stiff peaks form.
With rubber spatula, fold in one-third of whites to chocolate- nut
mixture.  Repeat twice, folding carefully to maintain lightness.  Pour batter into prepared pan.
Place in oven and bake 40-50 minutes until fairly firm and toothpick comes out clean.  Center of cake will be moist.
          Cool completely on wire rack for 
3 hours.  Cake can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for several days.  Just before serving, dust with confectioner’s sugar.  Cut cake into wedges and serve with whipped cream, if desired.
*Toasting the hazelnuts:  Toast the nuts in a skillet or in a 350 oven for about 15 minutes.  Transfer nuts to kitchen towel and gather the corners of the towel together.  Twist the gathered corners to seal in the nuts.  Rub nuts together through the towel to scrape off as much as possible of the brown papery skins.  Ok if some patches of skin remain.  Carefully open towel on flat work surface.  Gently roll nuts away from skins.  Return nuts to oven or pan and roast/toast for 15 more minutes.

      
and, of course… NEWS FROM THE TWO-DOG KITCHEN:  
Thanks for a great visit, Suzy ; I loved making the cake.  The dogs enjoyed you, too!!
Sing a new song and bake a new cake, Alyce