Continuing on my journey through cakes, pastries, and other things sweet, last weekend I made the Chocolate Nut Loaf cake from my Pierre Herme book. Some initial thoughts before I go through the process of making this one.
This was a moderately difficult cake to prepare compared to the other loaf style cakes I have made. The techniques themselves were not hard, but the ingredient list is long, and you have to do a lot of things. The payoff is great though. The cake has layers and layers of flavors, from the almond paste to chunks of chocolate, to the nuts. This cake was a teeny bit dry for my taste, but it is very dense. I may have left it in the oven just a bit too long. Still, it was stellar.
Ingredients, and a few comments on them:
- 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 7 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder - I actually did buy some good Dutch cocoa powder and it was worth it. It was more expensive than the Hershey's, but my wife tells me that the Dutch stuff is the best and I believe her
- 1/2 teaspoon double acting baking powder
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 5 ounces almond paste - this was very hard to find. I almost had to resort to making my own. I stumbled upon it at the crappiest grocery store of all, after looking in the high end ones first.
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2/3 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped - I roasted a bunch of hazelnuts and almonds so we could have extra because my wife likes roasted nuts. Skinning the hazelnuts was an arduous task. I don't think I will do it again.
- 1/3 blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup skinned pistachios, coarsely chopped - skinning pistachios is another arduous task. I love pistachios, but don't think I will go to this trouble again.
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona Manjari), cut into small chunks - I couldn't find the Valrhona, so I just bought a bar of 70% and it worked just as well. Valrhona Manjari is 65%.
- 1 stick plus 5 tablespoons (6 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature - you are reading that right, one stick plus 5 tbsps! That is a lot of butter.
Below you can see the almond paste. I keep saying this, but I really, really need to get a mixer. Beating that sugar with the almond paste was a total mess with my hand mixer. I got 'er done, but it took a while. You can see the kids having fun sifting the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together.I will give you the very short version of the recipe. You can find the full version here. To the above mixed almond paste and sugar mixture, you add the eggs and milk and beat the heck out of it until you get a mixture with the consistency of mayonnaise.
Then add the dry ingredients and mix those. Then you fold in the nuts and the butter, and bake.
Bake it, and presto, perfect! I am told if you don't like the random crack on top, you can paint the top with butter and you will get a perfect crack down the center. I like the randomness though.
And here is a cross section of the finished product. As you can see, there is a LOT going on in there.
If I do it again, I will cut the amount of nuts in half - there are just too many. I might take it out of the oven ten minutes earlier too. I thought this cake would be very moist but was a tiny bit dry. All in all, this cake is a lot of work but well worth it. It lasts forever wrapped up on your counter as well. We are coming up on the seventh day now and it tastes just like day one.