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