Monday, November 20, 2006

The Wedding Frenzy: Hazelnut Coriander Cake

Here is the recipe for the Hazelnut-Coriander Cake with Whipped Praline Ganache, which went over VERY well at the wedding. I first saw it on the Gastronome website and Ms. Art Attack loved the idea of it. It's a recipe that's not too sweet, as we used 70% (bittersweet) chocolate throughout. The coriander also adds an unusually tinge to the flavor -- just enough to make guests go, "What is that I taste?"

I think it's worth seeking out the hazelnut paste (also called praline or filbert paste). We got it at Spun Sugar, in Berkeley at about $10 for a pound. When we made the test recipe, I did it with chopped hazelnuts, which I thought made for a rough chewy texture although the overall cake was moister. Below is the final recipe, which I made four times: once for the 8" layer (we cut the final cake in half to make 2 layers), once for the 10" layer (we also cut this layer in half), and two separate times for the 12" layer. It easily fed 60 people, with the top saved for the bride and groom, and a little bit of the bottom tier left over.

Hazelnut-Coriander Cake with Praline Ganache & Chocolate Glaze

Adapted from the Hazelnut Torte in Claudia Fleming's The Last Course (and in turn, hers was adapted from Lindsey Shere's almond torte). The ganache and the glaze are from Rose Levy Beranbaum's The Cake Bible.

Equipment list:

One 8", one 10" and one 12" cake pans or springform pans
Cake racks for cooling and for decorating
Baking sheets
Cake turntable
20 cake dowels or plastic straws
One 8", one 10" and one 12" cake round cut in cardboard and covered with foil
(8" and 10" rounds should have a 1/4" hole poked in the center.)
One 14" cake plate or a foil covered cake platform.
One 1/4" wooden dowel, or a thick wooden skewer

For one 8" tier, one 10" tier, or one layer of the 12" tier:

1 cup (2 sticks unsalted butter)
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar
8 oz unsweetened hazelnut paste (aka filbert paste or praline paste)
6 large eggs (Separated yolks and whites)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground coriander

Preheat the oven to 325F. Butter your cake pan.* Line the bottom with parchment paper, and then butter the paper and flour the entire pan.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and coriander and set aside.

In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar until light and smooth. Add the hazelnut paste and beat until just incorporated. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Sift a third of the flour mixture into the butter mixture and using a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine. Sift in the remaining dry ingredients in two additions, folding gently after each.

In a separate VERY clean bowl, with VERY clean beaters, beat the eggs whites until you can form soft peaks, but the whites are not "dry." Fold one third of the whites into the batter until the mixture is combined. Add another third and continue folding, then add the remaining whites, and fold until just mixed.

Pour the batter into the pan and give it a couple of jiggles or taps to smooth the top. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean when inserted in the center. The torte should be puffy in the center and should spring back when lightly pressed.

Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before serving.

Whipped Praline Ganache
The followign makes enough to fill a 10" 2 layer cake, with some left over. We doubled the recipe to make enough for all the tiers.

NOTE: Be sure to allow the cakes to really, truly, all-the-way cool before you fill them.

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (we used 70% cacao El Rey Gran Saman chocolate)
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup hazelnut paste, or if you'd like more texture, 1 cup toasted chopped hazelnuts

Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine. If you're using hazelnut paste, add it here and process until combined.

Heat the cream to the boiling point, and with the motor running, pour it through the feed tube in a steady stream. Process a few seconds until smooth. If you're using chopped hazelnuts, stir them in now.

Transfer mixture to a large bowl of an electric mixer and refrigerate until cold, stirring once or twice. Don't let it get too cold, or it will be too stiff to incorporate air.

After chilling, add the vanilla and beat the mixture just until very soft peaks form when the beater is raised. It will continue to thicken after a few minutes at room temperature.

If the mixture gets overbeaten and grainy, it can be restored by re-melting, chilling, and re-beating.

To add the ganache layer: First, carefully level off the tops of all of the cake layers by cutting off the "dome" with a long bread knife. It's easiest and fastest to put the layers on a cake turntable for this process.*

Set down your first layer on a cardboard round* (if you're working on the 8 or 10" round, make sure you've punched a small hole (1/4") in the center first. Put down a thick layer of ganache (about 1 1/2 cups) on the cake and spread evenly, adding more to plug up any gaps. Lower the other layer onto the first and settle them evenly. Fill in gaps on the sides to make the whole cake tier a "solid cylinder."

Chocolate Cream Glaze
Makes 2 full cups, enough to glaze a 1-layer 10" cake. We made a little more than double this recipe for the entire wedding cake.

9 oz bittersweet (70% cacao) chocolate
1 liquid cup heavy cream

To prepare cake for glazing:

Brush all crumbs from the surface carefully. Suspend the cake on a rack set on a baking sheet to catch the excess glaze. It's best to have enough glaze to cover with one application: touch-ups don't produce as flawless a surface.

To prepare the glaze: Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine. Remove the chocolate to a small heavy saucepan.

Heat the cream to the boiling point and pour three quarters of it over the chocolate. Cover for five minutes to allow chocolate to melt. Gently stir together until smooth, trying not to create air bubbles. Pass through a fine strainer, and allow to cool until just tepid.

Check for consistency: At a tepid temperature a small amount of glaze should mound a bit when dropped from a spoon before smoothly disappearing. If the glaze is too thick and the mound remains on the surface or if the glaze seems curdled, add some of the remaining warm cream by the teaspoon. If the glaze is too thin, gently stir in a small amount of melted chocolate. When the consistency is correct, use at once or store and reheat.

The glaze should be poured onto the center of the cake, allowing the excess to flow down the sides. Smooth quickly and evenly with a large metal spatula, moving it lightly back and forth across the top until smooth.

Allow the cake to set for at least 3 hours at room temperature. Don't refrigerate.

Cake Assembly

I don't like to travel with the layers already assembled, but i do like to put it all together once to make sure the whole thing looks right. Then I can take apart the layers and box them up for transport.

When you're ready to assemble, take one cake dowel* and insert it into the center of the 12" tier. With a pencil, mark the height of the cake remove the dowel and cut about 8-10 of the cake dowels to this length. Insert the dowels around the center of the 12" tier in a circle about 2" from the center. Do not place a dowel at the center: this is where the wooden dowel or skewer* will go.

Repeat above the process for the 10" tier.

Measure the heights of all three tiers and add them up. Subtract about 2 inches from the sum. Cut the wooden dowel or skewer to this length. Insert it (point side up) into the center of the 12" cake and stake the cake by sliding the 10" cake over the skewer and letting the cardboard support sit on the dowels. Repeat for the 8 " layer.

*Some equipment notes:
We used two springform pans (8" and 10") and then a 12" cake pan for this recipe. From past wedding cakes, I've learned that a cake turntable is a great investment. Mine is plastic and not very expensive, but it does the trick and it really simplifies things like glazing and decorating.

You can buy the pans and also to turntable as well as cardboard rounds to put under the cake at Sur la Table or cake supply places like Spun Sugar. This is also the place to look for cake dowels, which look like lollipop sticks. You'll use these to space the layers of the cake. For the long wooden dowel, I recommend checking your local hardware store. You can use a long wooden skewer too, but the dowel is more stable.

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