Monday, January 31, 2011

Chocolate-Nut Loaf Cake

Chocolate with Francois is a delightful group of bakers who are making one recipe a month from Francois Payard's book Chocolate Epiphany. This month it was my turn to pick the recipe.

The first time I picked a recipe for this group, I chose chocolate macarons. I had an idea the recipe wasn't one of those you throw together at the last minute to thrill guests who drop in unannounced. While the recipe didn't disappoint (you can read about my first experiences with macarons here), this time around I wanted something a little easier. This recipe definitely delivered on that goal.

Although the recipe calls for three kinds of nuts, you could mix it up and use different nuts based on what you have on hand, or even substitute chopped dried cherries (or even prunes, very French) or cocoa nibs for the nuts.

Because I was contributing goodies to a bake sale, I doubled the recipe and made one loaf, 12 cupcakes and 24 mini-cupcakes. The minis almost didn't make it to the bake sale, they were so delicious warm out of the oven. The loaf went to work with me the next day, and I took extra glaze so my coworkers could moisten up the cake. My loaf was a little dry, even though I pulled it out at 51 minutes, the low end of the range. I liked the texture of the cupcakes and minis far more than I did the loaf, and I would stick with cupcakes and minis the next time I make it. Here are a few pointers to help you get the perfect chocolate nut loaf cake:
  • I doubled the recipe across the board and made it in one mixing bowl. Occasionally, I'll double by making two separate batches, but doubling worked just fine.
  • I sprayed the bottom of the loaf pan with cooking spray before putting the parchment in it. That keeps it in position until you pour in the batter.
  • I have a beater blade that I read about on Dorie Greenspan's blog a year or two ago. It makes a huge difference when you're creaming butter and sugar, and it made it easier to beat the almond paste and sugar together for this recipe. If you're interested, you can find it here. They come in different sizes, so make sure you get the right one for your mixer.
  • I don't generally have whole milk, so I combine 1% or skim with heavy cream (which I usually do have on hand). I poured two tablespoons of heavy cream in the measuring cup, and added milk to make 1/2 cup.
  • My hazelnuts were mostly skinned, but some had skins clinging to them. Since the cake is so profoundly chocolate, I didn't worry too much about having perfectly skinned hazelnuts. The skins can be bitter, but they weren't detectable in this cake.
  • Don't let your butter cool too much before using it. Mine did, and I had small chunks of butter in the batter. When they melted, some of the muffins practically boiled in butter. How can this be a bad thing?!? It reminded me of the chocolate canneles, one of my favorite recipes this group has made.
  • I substituted white whole wheat flour for 1/4 of the flour. I could tell there was whole wheat flour based on the texture, but I was looking for it. Because of the nuts and almond meal, I really don't think anyone else noticed.
  • My loaf was done in 51 minutes, my cupcakes at 17 minutes and my minis at 10 minutes.
  • Rather than glazing the cupcakes and minis, I dipped them upside down in the bowl of glaze. I poured the glaze over the loaf, which I had flipped over (so the flat bottom became the top).
We loved this one, and even though my loaf turned out a little crumbly, the cupcakes were perfect, even without the glaze. Check out what the other CwF bakers can find them here.

Chocolate Cake
Printer friendly recipe-cake and glaze
Francois says: Loaf cakes are a staple in French home kitchens. This version is a little more elaborate than a plain chocolate loaf, since it contains a variety of nuts, which add texture to the cake, and two types of chocolate and almond paste for an extra-rich taste. For all these reasons,  this particular loaf makes a great dessert, too; sprinkle chopped toasted nuts and dried fruits over the warm glaze, and serve with Creme Anglaise or vanilla ice cream.

Printer friendly recipe-cake
Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan
1 1/4 cups (135 grams) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (37 grams) Dutch-processed cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon (3 grams) baking powder
3 1/2 ounces (105 grams) almond paste
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (125 grams) sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup (112 grams) whole milk
1/4 cup (52 grams) semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup (60 grams) chopped toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup (45 grams) chopped toasted almonds
1/3 cup (45 grams) toasted pistachios
1 1/4 cups (20 tablespoons, 270 grams) unsalted butter, melted

Make the cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with parchment paper, spray the pan and paper with vegetable cooking spray, and set aside. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder together over a bowl or piece of waxed paper. Set aside.

Place the almond paste and sugar in the bowl of  an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on medium speed until the sugar is incorporated into the almond paste. Mix in the eggs one at a time until they are all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure that everything gets mixed in and that lumps don't form.

Stop the mixer, and switch to the whisk attachment. Whip the mixture on medium speed for about 8 minutes, until it is light and fluffy, then gradually mix in the milk. Add the dry ingredients to the batter, and mix until smooth. Scrape the bowl again. Mix in the chocolate chips, hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios until incorporated, then mix in the butter.

Pour the butter into the prepared pan, and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean and the sides slightly pull back from the edges of the pan. Remove from the oven, and let the cake cool to room temperature in the pan, then unmold it over a wire cooling rack and let it cool completely. If you unmold it too rapidly, it will break. You can make the cake 3-4 days ahead, keeping it very well wrapped. Glaze it only when you are ready to serve it.

Chocolate Glaze (make enough to cover a 9-inch cake)
Francois says: Glazing cakes gives them the beautiful, shiny finish you see in pastry shops. A glaze is a loose ganache, made by melting chocolate with hot cream and adding a little corn syrup for shine. In order for the glaze to cover the cake smoothly, it should feel warm to the touch, close to body temperature. If needed, and particularly if the chocolate is not fully melted, fill a medium pot one-third full with water and bring it to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and, ensuring that the bowl containing the glaze doesn't touch the water, place it over the pot. Mix until the glaze is smooth and reaches the desired temperature.

Glaze is best used immediately, but you can keep it, covered and refrigerated, for two to three days. Reheat it as directed above, adding a teaspoon of light corn syrup to regain some of the shine that will have been lost in the refrigeration process.

Printer friendly recipe-glaze
8 ounces (250 grams) 61% or 72% chocolate, chopped
1 tablespoon (12 grams) light corn syrup
1 cup (250 grams) heavy cream

Place the chocolate and corn syrup in a medium bowl.

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, and whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Strain the mixture into a bowl. Use immediately.

Glazing a cake
Line a baking sheet with wax paper, and place a wire cooling rack on top of the paper. Place the cake to be glazed (make sure it has been chilled) on the rack, and pour the glaze over its top. Use a spatula to even out the glaze and help it run down the sides of the cake. Let it cool at room temperature, and serve within a few hours to make sure that the glaze retains its shine.


Peggy said...

Oh wow - yours is beautiful just as I knew it would be. Mine did not rise much - not sure why. And it was a tad bit dry. I did not glaze the entire thing though. I liked it plain. it was a great pick - thanks.

Julie said...

I love the way this looks with the chocolate glaze! Wishing I'd glazed mine after all. Thanks for hosting this month! Great choice.

Torviewtoronto said...

this looks delicious and looks wonderful

cindy said...

All my favorite flavors wrapped up in one delicious bite! I love minis. So fun to share.

Susan said...

Great pick, Leslie. I am trying to get my post of tonight. :) I liked this one. Yours looks great and I love the idea of doing minis!

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