Blackberry & Apple Loaf Cake

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Autumn is here. I tend to forget how quickly summer can end, how the chill in the air appears overnight and the nights start to draw in. The weather is wetter this year, but the same change comes, the trees are turning shades of orange and gold, which spells time for a slightly heartier cake that warms you on cooler days.

IMG_5185tThis is that cake. A wonderful nutty cake with warm fruit and a crumble topping. It’s basically two puddings combined into a joyous concoction that will warm your soul. There had to be some self-control to stop us demolishing the entire thing in an afternoon. IMG_5192t
I’ve rarely used hazelnuts in a cake before, almonds are usually the recommended nut of choice. After this, I will be making more cakes with hazelnuts in because, seriously, wow! Forget hazelnuts and chocolate in your cake, hazelnuts with fruit is where it’s at. This is destined to become a staple cake, one that I make again and again throughout the autumn and winter.  Continue reading

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Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake – recipe

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As promised, the epically long recipe for the Pancaken. Enjoy!

From The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, by Deb Perelman

Crepes:

125g unsalted butter (will also be used for pastry cream)

550ml milk (Deb suggests whole, I used semi-skimmed, I’m sure both are fine)

6 large eggs

190g plain flour

pinch of salt

100g caster sugar

sunflower oil/melted butter for brushing pan.

Hazelnut Pastry Cream:

190g hazelnuts (for decorative purposes as well)

120g icing sugar

2 tsp hazelnut liqueur, such as Frangelico (I used Amaretto…)

pinch of salt

785ml whole milk

90g caster sugar

5 large egg yolks

5 tbsp cornflour

Butter reserved from crepes

Candied Hazelnuts:

130g caster sugar

2 tbsp water

pinch of flaky or fine sea salt

hazelnuts reserved from pastry cream

Chocolate Draping:

170g dark chocolate chips, or finely chopped chocolate (70% cocoa solids)

90ml double cream

1tbsp Frangelico or similar (or Amaretto!)

1. CREPES: In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Once melted, reduce heat. The butter will melt, then foam (I may have not noticed this when I panicked about my butter going foamy), then turn clear golden, and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir the butter frequently – don’t take your eyes off it, the time between when the butter begins to brown and when it burns is less than a minute. Once brown, remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Leave to cool to a lukewarm temperature.

2. In a blender, combine the milk, eggs, flour, salt, sugar and 6tbsp of your cooled brown butter. Cover the finished mixture with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for an hour, or up to 2 days.

3. HAZELNUTS: Preheat your oven to 180C/Gas 4. Spread the hazelnuts out on a baking sheet, and toast them for 10 mins, rolling them around once or twice so that they toast evenly. Let them cool, then with dry hands, roll a few together between your palms until the skins come off – there might still be bits of skin left on, but that’s fine.

4. PASTRY CREAM: In a food processor, grind 150g of the toasted hazelnuts (set the other 40g aside for decorating/being complicit in thumb burning later), icing sugar, liqueur and salt together. Keep running the mixer until the powder begins to come together in damp-looking crumbs that combine in small clumps, then stop (otherwise you get hazelnut butter).

5. In a saucepan, combine the hazelnut paste, milk and sugar over a medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer, stirring a bit so it doesn’t scorch. In a bowl, whisk together the yolks and cornflour until smooth. Stream a small spoonful of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk bowl while whisking. Repeat this a few times, and by the time you’ve done 5 or 6 additions you’ll find that the egg yolk bowl is hot – this is how you know you’ve added enough. Now go in reverse, slowly pouring the warm egg yolk mixture back into the hot milk in the saucepan, whisking the whole time, until the two are combined. Return the saucepan to the stove and, continuing to whisk, bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 mins. The mixture should thicken upon boiling, to a loose pudding consistency. Remove from the heat, and stir in the reserved 3 tbsp of browned butter from the crepe batter. Transfer it to a bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap against the top of the custard (to prevent skin formation), and chill the pastry cream until fully cold, which could take a couple of hours. If you’re pressed for time, set the bowl of custard in a half-full bowl of ice water, and it will chill faster.

6. CREPES: Preheat a medium frying pan over a medium-high heat. Once it’s heated, brush the pan lightly with melted butter or oil. Pour about 3 tbsp of batter into the pan (I used a medium-sized serving spoon, and it seemed about the right amount), swirling it until it evenly coats the bottom, and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is golden, and the top is set – about 2 mins. Carefully flip, and cook on the other side for about 5-10 seconds. The first couple are likely to turn out badly, but after the second you should be fine (my first one was rubbish, so I ate it for breakfast). Transfer the crepes to a paper-towel covered plate to cool (it’s okay to stack them, promise). There should be enough batter to make about 19 23cm crepes, and you only need 16 to stack, so you’ve got room for errors.

7. CREPES ASSEMBLE: Lay the first crepe on your cake stand/plate. Spread with 50ml pastry cream. Lay the next crepe on top, and repeat until you get to the last one, which will act as the cake’s lid, and is for chocolate, not pastry cream.  Chill cake until ready for chocolate draping

8. CANDY HAZELNUTS: (**burn warning**) Spread out a piece of baking parchment on your counter, and have ready a small set of tongs or large tweezers. In a small, heavy saucepan, cook the sugar and water together over a high heat until the sugar melts and begins to turn a pale-beige colour, about 3-5 mins. Add a pinch of salt and the hazelnuts, rolling around to coat them. The caramel will cook a shade darker whilst you do this, to a light copper colour. Once it has, remove from heat, and then remove the hazelnuts one by one with the tongs, spreading them out on the parchment so they don’t touch. Whilst doing this, do NOT spill boiling caramel on to your thumb. At your own peril. Leave them to cool, either on the side or in the fridge.

9. CHOCOLATE: Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat cream and liqueur to a simmer in a small saucepan and pour over the chocolate. Let it sit for a minute, then stir until smooth. Remove cake from fridge, pour chocolate mixture over the top. Decorate the top with candied hazelnuts. Set the cake in the fridge until needed.

Well, I told you it was long. But if you dare attempt it, good luck! And don’t burn yourself.

Later this week: Apricot Crunchies!

Hazelnut Crepe Cake (or, The Ultimate Challenge)

THE PANCAKEN

THE PANCAKEN

Okay, so last week when I hilariously joked that this week would be: Hazelnut Crepe Cake – The Ultimate Challenge, I did not truly understand that by Tuesday evening, it would no longer be a joke, but perhaps one of the truest things I have ever written (more true than other things I have said, like, “I love cake!” or “I will only watch Eurovision if Kaspar Juul is presenting it”).

CHALLENGE 1: Grind hazelnuts

I don’t have a food processor. I chop things, or whisk them, and if they need a food processor, I just don’t make them. Simple. Hazelnuts, it is well known, can be chopped, but certainly not whisked (when whole). So, I took a brief trip back to my parents’ house to use their food processor. I would like to point out right now, that this crepe cake has been a two DAY challenge, and that grinding the hazelnuts took a reasonable portion of an afternoon (as well as going on a necessary shopping trip where I stocked up on eggs and washing-up liquid).

CHALLENGE 2: Make candied hazelnuts

Burn #1

Burn #1

Day 1 started to take a turn for the worse when I managed to burn a large portion of my thumb whilst transferring boiling sugar coated hazelnuts from a saucepan on to a tray. Being me, and having very little idea how long it would be before the caramel/boiling sugar hardened, I decided it would be best to, 1. lick boiling sugar off my thumb, therefore also burning my tongue and removing skin, and 2. continue putting hazelnuts onto the tray instead of running my thumb under freezing cold water. Because of these two events, the evening then proceeded into what I would like to call the “paranoid thumb infection” part of the evening, where I became increasingly clumsy, panic-texted my Mum and Rachel asking for burns advice, and started to worry that everything was going to go wrong. Yes I am easily stressed. Some clumsy things I did: 1. Got caramel all over my counter; 2. Left kettle cleaner in my kettle so long that the heating element turned a copper-colour; 3. Burnt my other thumb whilst melting butter… which leads me on to….

CHALLENGE 3: making crepe batter

Burn #2

Burn #2

Deb, of Smitten Kitchen (where this recipe comes from, if you ever want to attempt it after reading this) likes browned butter. I have never browned butter before. But, I did successfully make it go brown (without burning it = -1 clumsy point), but then I got very confused as it started to go all foamy (not in recipe) and I tried to take a picture of it, made my camera angry by holding down the flash whilst it tried to pop the flash up, and then in my panic, stirred it so vigorously that I managed to flick some onto my unburned thumb (+2 clumsy points). I can say, however, with much joy, that making the rest of the crepe batter went smoothly, and I decided it was probably best if I left it at that for the day, lest I screw up the all-important hazelnut pastry cream.

DAY 2 

CHALLENGE 4: making said all-important hazelnut ‘creme patissiere’ 

Things improved dramatically after I had some sleep, and felt calmer after I woke to find that my thumb had started to show signs of healing. I genuinely thought that the pastry cream would be the most difficult part, but perhaps, because I was paying attention and no longer behaving like an idiot and burning myself all the time, it actually worked without a hitch (apart from when I forgot to stir butter in and then it went weird and oily until I heated it back up again, then it was fine).

CHALLENGE 5: make 16+ crepes

I got up at 8am and made 12 crepes before I went to work on Tuesday morning. 10 for cake, 2 for breakfast (I knew I had enough batter, therefore entirely justified). I got home in the afternoon, and proceeded to make another 8 or so. It was just one giant stack of pancakes. Did I mention that things were going a lot better by this point?

EVERYTHING STOPPED BEING A CHALLENGE

The evening went off without a hitch (until Oli broke a full bottle of beer on my kitchen floor at least…), and many pancakes were made, with sausages and butternut squash, and egg and lots of other fillings. I compiled the cake, layering pancakes with hazelnut pastry cream, and then making the chocolate ganache for the top, and finally topping it with those bloody candied hazelnuts that burnt me (it’s fine. I’m not bitter). Everyone was incredibly happy with the crepe cake (or Pancaken as I like to call it), so it was definitely worth the many hours it took to make. I also received two marriage proposals from my friends based entirely on my baking abilities, and in a rather bizarre game of “Shag, Marry, Kill”, the Pancaken won “Marry” against George Clooney and Brad Pitt. That’s definitely saying something.

Pancaken quickly became a social media focus

Pancaken quickly became a social media focus

So, there you go, worth it if you’ve got several hours to spare. I’m not sure how desperate I am to make that ever again, but, Pancaken, it was certainly an experience.

I’ll post the recipe next week. It’s about 4 pages long in the book, so understand my current reluctance to type the entire thing out.