Toasted Hazelnut Loaf Cake
MAKES 1 (9 BY 5-INCH/23 BY 12CM) CAKE
In the United States, loaf cakes and quick breads are quite moist and rich affairs. In Germany, they tend to be drier and lighter; in sum, a little more restrained. In this classic Nusskuchen
, hazelnuts are toasted until fragrant, and then pulsed finely before being folded into a simple cake batter plumped up with a bit of milk or brandy. You can take the basic recipe further by folding in chopped chocolate or grated lemon peel. The chocolate gives the cake more heft and makes for a great autumn weekend cake, while the lemon pairs nicely with the roasted hazelnuts for a more delicately flavored cake. Either way, slices of Nusskuchen
are wonderful eaten with a hot cup of coffee or tea.
The cake keeps well for a few days wrapped tightly in plastic wrap. But if it does get stale, you may be interested to know that an acquaintance of my assistant on this book, Maja Welker, once told her that her family used to repurpose stale loaf cakes like this one by placing slices of them on buttered rye bread at snack time. Ever curious, Maja tried this unusual snack and reported back that it is indeed delicious, if a little unorthodox. What we still haven’t figured out is whether this is a regional oddity or simply a familial one. In any case, it speaks to the resourcefulness of most Germans, who are loath to waste any food.
18 tablespoons/250g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the pan
2 cups/200g whole hazelnuts, toasted, skinned, and finely ground
1 cup/200g granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2⁄3 cups, scooped and leveled, minus 1 tablespoon/200g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons whole milk or brandy
5 1⁄4 ounces/150g bittersweet chocolate (minimum 50% cacao), chopped (optional)
Grated peel of 1 organic lemon (optional)
Confectioners’ sugar (optional), for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Butter a 9 by 5-inch/23 by 12cm loaf pan. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in the oven, until the nuts are toasted and fragrant. Remove the pan from the oven and let the nuts cool completely before rubbing them gently with a clean dishcloth (this will remove most of their skins). Place the cooled hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the nuts are ground to a very fine meal. Take care not to overprocess by pulsing after they are finely ground, or you will end up with hazelnut paste.
Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the flat beater attachment and beat until creamy and fluffy; beat in the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until each one is incorporated into the batter. Slowly add the ground hazelnuts and beat until combined.
Sift the flour and baking powder together, and then, with the mixer running at medium speed, gradually add the flour to the butter and sugar. Finally, beat in the milk or brandy and fold in the chocolate or grated lemon peel. Scrape the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.
Place the pan on a rack to cool for a few minutes before unmolding. Let the cake cool completely. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar before slicing and serving. Wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, the cake will keep at room temperature for at least 3 days and up to 5.
Copyright © 2016 by Luisa Weiss. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.