Using our own homegrown hazelnuts, so much pleasure was derived from this relatively simple but delicious cake. I am not at all sure if it would taste the same using shop- bought imported nuts, but it would probably work quite well. If you do not have your own hazelnuts, then go and plant a couple of these straightaway!. We do nothing to ours other than take out some of the older, too tall, wands each autumn, and thin out a bit some of the new emerging growth. No feeding and no spraying! Just the squirrels to deal with. Each September my husband always underestimates how big our crop is and orders a sack of cobnuts from Kent, at HUGE expense. He has a morbid fear of running out of nuts. Always, these commercially produced nuts never have the same intense flavour as our own, albeit smaller ones. Hazelnuts come in two forms, the cobnut, bred from Corylus Avellana, which is rounder and protrudes from the husk, and the Filbert, bred from Corylus Maxima which is longer, and whose husk completely envelopes the Nut, extending some way beyond it. We grow both, and there is no discernible difference in taste. The nuts illustrated here are from a filbert.
Before starting this recipe, set aside a little time for shelling and carefully roasting the nuts. You must absolutely concentrate when they are in the oven as they can catch and ruin within seconds!
Now, preheat the oven to 180C , then grease and line the base of a loose-bottomed flan tin of 20cm
4oz shelled hazelnuts, roasted until pale golden and then ground in a food processor
2oz ground almonds
5oz good quality cooking chocolate of at least 70% cocoa solids
4oz unsalted butter
6oz icing sugar
Break the chocolate into pieces and put in a bowl with the butter and melt in a bain-Marie or in a low oven
Separate the eggs putting the whites in one bowl and the yolks in another. Whisk the whites together until you get stiff peaks.
Then add the icing sugar to the egg yolks and carefully beat them together until pale and creamy.
Add the melted butter and chocolate to the mixture and beat well until thoroughly amalgamated.
Slake the mixture with a tablespoon of the whisked egg whites, then carefully fold in all the ground nuts.
Very gently but thoroughly fold the mixture into the whisked egg whites using a large metal spoon.
Pour into the prepared lined tin, give a couple of sharp taps on the work surface to level, and then bake in the pre-heated oven for about 25 minutes, or until no longer runny in the centre. Take out, leave to cool and serve at room temperature with a dollop of Creme Fraiche.
This recipe really has evolved from one given to us years ago by a lovely French au-pair, although hers had no nuts. I was amused to see a nearly identical one on Gino de Campos television programme the other day, although he used all ground almonds with the addition of some chopped pistachios. Clearly this is a recipe which you can really customise!