Saturday, 15 September 2012
I've always been a great fan of chocolate and nuts together. When I was a child we always got a big box of Black Magic Chocolates given to us every Christmas time. Next to the caramel ones, the chocolate covered nuts were a real favourite with everyone . . . with each of us vying to try to get our dibs in first. Usually though my mom got there before any of us. My dad got the cherries, my mom the nuts . . . and we children were left to squabble over the caramels. Nobody wanted the coffee flavoured ones. Rank does have it's privileges . . .
This is a cake that my Todd will eat, and quite happily so. The cake itself is not chocolate . . . the chocolate comes in the form of chopped bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped and mixed into the crumble topping.
It's a crumb cake . . . a cake in which you create a buttery, floury crumble . . . and then divide . . . with some of the crumbs being set aside for the topping, and the remaining being beaten together with leavening and eggs . . . and milk or buttermilk . . . to make a lovely batter. The batter is spread into a pan and the remaining crumbs are then scattered over top . . . once baked you end up with a lovely moist cake with a delicious buttery and crumbly topping.
The cake itself is a delicious cake . . . almost caramel flavoured, with a wonderfully delicate, yet moist crumb. I expect it gets this aspect of it's scrumminess from the soft light brown Muscovado sugar. Of course, you could use ordinary light brown sugar, but I favour the Muscovado, as it is less refined. It is a well known fact that brown sugar helps make cakes moist . . . but then of course, the buttermilk in this lovely cake doesn't hurt either . . . another well known ingredient which figures greatly in the kingdom of moist cakedom!
That crumbly topping is rich with finely chopped toasted hazelnuts and bittersweet chocolate. Some people shy away from using hazelnuts, or spend more money to get them already skinned. This is something which is really very easy to do yourself though . . . so why pay more??
Just pop them onto a baking tray and toast them in a hot oven for about 8 minutes or so. Take them out and pile them into a clean tea towel. Close the tea towel around them and then rub them vigorously , , , the skins rub off like magic.
You can just scoop off the skinless hazelnuts, and shake the towel out the door into the garden. The skins will be carried off in the wind . . . a treat for the winged creatures which inhabit your trees and bushes. (Don't worry if all of the skins don't come off . . . there will always be some stubborn ones that don't cooperate!)
This delicious moist cake with it's moreish nutty chocolate crumb topping is most delightful served up when still slightly warm from the oven . . . so you get just a tiny bit of ooze from the chocolate in the crumble . . . fabulous with a hot bevvie . . . or an ice cold glass of milk . . .
The best part though . . . is that it tastes even better the next day . . . somehow becoming magically moister and more flavourful for having sat overnight . . .
It's perfect wrapped and packed into lunch boxes . . . or even in a picnic basket for an early autumnal repast in the countryside . . .
Why does everything always taste better when eaten on top of a blanket, beneath gilding leaves all spackeled with sunlight???
I guess that's just one of life's great mysteries . . .
*Hazelnut and Chocolate Crumb Cake*
makes one 9 inch square cake
Moist and delicious cake covered with a crumb topping chock full of chopped toasted hazelnuts and chocolate. Perfect for Elevensies, or Brunch!
200g of plain flour (2 cups, unbleached flour)
200g soft light brown muscovado sugar (1 cup packed)
96g of granulated sugar (1/2 cup)
115g of butter, cut into bits (1/2 cup)
3/4 tsp salt
85g of chopped toasted hazelnuts (3/4 cup)
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
250ml of buttermilk (1 cup)
1 large free range egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 9 inch square baking tin and lightly dust with flour, shaking out an excess.
Sift the flour into a bowl. Whisk in both sugars and the salt. Drop in the butter. Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your finger tips until you have a mixture resembling coarse meal. Remove 125g for the topping (3/4 cup) and set aside in medium sized bowl. Beat together the milk, egg and vanilla. Stir the soda into flour mixture remaining in the large bowl and then stir in the wet ingredients, mixing only to combine. Spread this batter into the prepared baking tin. Stir the chopped chocolate and nuts into the topping crumbs, mixing it in well. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over top of the batter in the pan.
Bake for about 45 minutes in the heated oven, until the cake is well risen and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool completely in the pan, on a wire rack. cut into squares to serve.
This will keep well for several days.