Saturday, February 28, 2015

BOHEMIAN HAZELNUT TORTE - A NUTTY RHAPSODY

Hier geht's zur deutschen Version dieses Posts

















Another blizzard howls around our house, the third in two weeks! Alpine mountains tower over our backyard, shoveling is almost futile with the drifting snow, and a curtain of dagger-like icicles hanging from the roof grows to scary dimensions.

Icicles of Terror?

What can you do to avoid succumbing to the winter blues, or getting stir crazy? After digging out from another 11 inches of "light snowfall" to make our house accessible again, there's only one answer:

Go into my cozy kitchen, enjoy the warmth of the wood stove, and bake some more!

Emergency supplies to survive the next blizzard

Fortunately I always have nuts, Nutella, cream and rum in stock - perfect for making something rich and comforting to sustain us during this bone-chilling ordeal: Bohemian Hazelnut Torte, to our rescue!

Not for nothing, Czech Bohemia, once part of the Hapsburg Empire, is famous for its truly rich cuisine. With its wealth of pastries and calories it is no doubt on par with neighboring Austria and Bavaria.

Like all cakes in pastry chef Karl Neef's wonderful book on cakes,  Sonntagskuchen und Festtagstorten, Bohemian Hazelnut Torte needs a bit of work, but is so utterly worth the effort. In other words - a cake "to die for!"

The filling requires nougat. Unlike the one available in the US, German nougat is not white, but made with chocolate. Fortunately, Nutella is a good substitute.

Tart and spicy Pflaumenmus - my favorite jam

Another typical ingredient in Bohemian/Austrian pastry is Pflaumenmus (Austrian: Powidl). This spicy plum butter is similar to apple butter, but a bit tarter and more intense in flavor. You can substitute it with apple butter. Or get the real thing from a German deli shop, or at the commissary, if you are, like me, married to a veteran. 

Or you can make a pretty good substitute from prunes, without the hours-long baking process the original requires  - see my recipe for Pflaumenmus-Ersatz.  

Even though we really love our desserts - we are only two people, so I usually downsize, and bake either medium sized or even mini-tortes. You can choose between the two versions.

This torte is really "to die for" (here the mini-version)

BÖHMISCHE NUSSTORTE - BOHEMIAN HAZELNUT TORTE   (adapted from Karl Neef's Sonntagskuchen und Festtagstorten)
(9-inch/23-cm)

NUT SPONGE CAKE
75 g/2.6 oz all-purpose flour             
15 g/0.5 oz hazelnuts, toasted (toast together with the nuts for the caramel)
1 generous pinch cinnamon
1 generous pinch baking powder
3 large eggs
55 g/1.9 oz sugar
30 g/1 oz melted butter, lukewarm

NUT CARAMEL
60 g/2.1 oz sugar
10 g/0.4 oz butter
110 g/3.9 oz hazelnuts, toasted ((toast together with the nuts for the sponge cake)

BRUSHING LIQUID
60 ml/1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp. sugar
40 g/1.4 oz rum

FILLING
5 g/0.2 oz gelatin powder (or 3 sheets gelatin)
25 g/5 tsp cold water
550 ml/18.6 oz heavy or whipping cream
40 g/1.4 oz sugar
75 g/2.6 oz Nutella
35 g rum (2 tbsp + 1 tsp)
185 g/6.5 oz plum butter*) or apple butter

*) or make it yourself: quick and easy plum butter substitute

Toast all hazelnuts (for sponge and caramel) together in a dry pan, until golden, and most of the skins can be rubbed off. Use 15 g/0.5 oz for the sponge and set aside remaining nuts for the caramel.

NUT SPONGE:
Preheat oven to 355ºF/180ºC. Grease a 9-inch/23-cm springform pan, and line the bottom with parchment paper. (Or, if you don't want to deal with cutting a fairly thin cake in halves, grease and line two 9-inch/23-cm round cake pans).

For the sponge, grind nuts together with flour, cinnamon and baking powder

Place flour, 15 g/0.5 oz hazelnuts, cinnamon and baking powder in food processor. Pulse, until nuts are finely ground. (Grinding nuts together with flour or sugar prevents them turning into a greasy "nut butter").

Place eggs and sugar in a double boiler over simmering water. Using a whisk, beat mixture until it reaches 120ºF/49ºC (maximum). Remove at once from the heat and transfer to bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until egg mixture has cooled, and turned pale yellow and foamy.

Fold flour mixture and melted butter in egg mixture

Fold first flour mixture in egg mixture, then melted butter, until combined. Transfer batter to springform pan, or distribute in the two cake pans, smoothing top(s) with a rubber spatula.

Bake cake in springform pan for about 20 minutes (about 10 minutes for cake pans) until top is light golden brown and still feels elastic when slightly pressed in the center.

Allow cake to cool in the pan on a rack, then remove springform ring (or loosen rim in round pans with a knife), turn sponge out onto the rack, and peel off parchment paper.

The sponge should be light golden brown, and feel elastic in the center

NUT CARAMEL:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place sugar in medium sauce pan over medium heat. Melt, stirring constantly, until sugar turns golden. Add butter, stirring until blended. Add hazelnuts, stirring vigorously, until they are covered with caramel. Scrape out and spread nut caramel in one layer on prepared baking sheet.

Caramelizing hazelnuts

BRUSHING LIQUID:
In small bowl, stir together sugar, water and rum, until sugar has dissolved. Set aside.

FILLING:
In small bowl, sprinkle powdered gelatin over cold water (or cover gelatin sheets with cold water) to soak.

Whisk heavy cream with sugar until soft peaks form (standing or handheld mixer). Microwave Nutella until softened, then stir until smooth. Transfer to a medium bowl.

Folding rum-gelatin mixture and cream in Nutella

Heat soaked gelatin together with rum mixture in microwave (or on stove top), until it has melted. Stir rum-gelatin mixture together with 1 tablespoon of the whipped cream into bowl with the softened Nutella (to temper it). Then fold in remaining whipped cream.

ASSEMBLY:
Cut sponge horizontally in 2-3 layers (if baked in a springform pan) Put bottom layer on a serving platter. Grease ring of springform pan or cake ring, line with a strip of parchment paper, and place it around the bottom cake layer.

This cake cutter makes horizontal cuts easy
 
For 3 layers: brush bottom layer with 1/3 of the rum mixture, spread 1/3 of the plum or apple butter over it, followed by 1/3 of the filling. Repeat with two remaining cake layers.

For 2 layers: use 1/2 of brushing liquid, plum (or apple) butter and filling per layer.

The torte is assembled, now it has to be chilled

Place torte for at least 4 hours in the refrigerator.

Remove cake ring from chilled torte. Using rolling pin, coarsely crush caramelized hazelnuts. Sprinkle top of the torte with nuts and caramel shards. 

Torte topped with nuts and caramel (here the mini-version)

MINI-BOHEMIAN HAZELNUT TORTE  (use diet scale or fraction weighing spoon!)
(7-inch/18-cm)

NUT SPONGE
41 g all-purpose flour             
8 g whole hazelnuts
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch baking powder
97 g eggs*)
30 g sugar
16 g melted butter, lukewarm

*)break an egg into a cup, beat lightly, then measure the desired amount.

NUT CARAMEL
33 g sugar
4 g butter
62 g whole hazelnuts

BRUSHING LIQUID
33 g water
2 g sugar
21 g rum

FILLING
2.9 g powdered gelatin (or 1 2/3 sheet gelatin)
1 tbsp cold water (for gelatin powder)
310 g heavy or whipping cream
25 g sugar
41 g Nutella
20 g rum
100 g plum butter (or plum butter substitute) or apple butter

Prepare like the larger torte, but cut sponge only once horizontally and use 1/2 of brushing liquid, plum or apple butter, and filling per layer.

This torte will not get old (here mini-version)

Submitted to Sugarprincess Yushka's monthly blog event "Calendar of Cakes".

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5 comments:

  1. Oh, that is wonderful! I happen to have 1000g of It prune plums in the freezer, was hoping you'd show the real recipe cuz I lOVE my prunes :) I was just telling someone today re your site.
    I do remember icicles like that when I was a child in northern NH. They are truly
    dangerous and your storms are just evil :) Stay safe!!
    Susan

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. Susan, this is a recipe for oven baked Pflaumenmus - I haven't tried it, yet, but it seems more doable than cooking it on the stove top. If you try it, let me know what you think:

      PFLAUMENMUS (OVEN-BAKED)
      2500 g prune plums, halved and pitted
      250 - 375 g sugar
      cloves
      cinnamon sticks
      balsamic vinegar, good quality
      OR
      plum liqueur

      1. Spread plums out on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar, without stirring. Let stand for several hours.
      2. Add cinnamon and cloves. Place plums in cold oven. Bake at 240ºC until it starts simmering. Reduce heat to 130-150ºC, keep oven door slightly ajar, and simmer for 2 - 3 hours.
      3. Start stirring plums now and then, until mass sets around rims. Now transfer mass to blender and puree.
      4. Continue baking, until desired consistency is reached. Add shot of balsamic vinegar or plum liqueur.
      5. Fill Pflaumenmus into prepared jam glasses.

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  2. wow. this is one impressive cake! you're very talented!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Mimi, and thanks for visiting!

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