It feels like ages since I posted although it is actually only a few days. I always think that the transition between the old year and the new makes time feel stretched, especially when combined with a return to work after a break. I know it is all a matter of perception, but Christmas feels like eons ago now!
We are still eating our way through goodies stored in the freezer from before Christmas (when will I learn not to make so much?). That, combined with the feeling of post-Christmas blobbiness, has meant that I have been pretty unmotivated to bake this week. I have been very naughty and handed over much of the cooking to my husband for a few days, which is no bad thing since he would happily eat a plate of vegetables at every meal and that’s just what I need after all that rich Christmas food………
With the return to school next week however, it is time to look towards portioned puds for lunches and quick desserts.
I have been experimenting recently with ground hazelnuts in baking as an alternative to almonds and because I love the depth of flavour and nutty texture that they bring. Going gluten free definitely opened my eyes to a whole world of ingredients that I wouldn’t have considered before I was forced to step outside of my comfort zone. Hazelnuts are one of those ingredients.
Ground hazelnuts can be quite difficult to get hold of, so I just buy the raw, skinned variety and grind them down in a food processor. Doing this yourself means that you can grind them as coarse or as fine as you wish. Be careful not to over-process or you will end up with hazelnut butter…………….. On the other hand, that too is a delicious result, even if not quite what you want for baking.
This week I used ground hazelnuts in a tray bake. I really fancied something chocolate-orange in flavour, but didn’t want to go too sweet or for chocolate to be the predominant flavour. So I used just enough chocolate in the mix to be able to taste it in the background, but to still allow the orange to shine through and the hazelnuts to work their magic. I didn’t add any orange zest (not sure why), and if I made it again I would probably throw some in to gain a greater intensity of orange.
The cake tastes amazingly wholesome. Very nutty, so it feels filling and full of goodness. Not over sweet – I find using brown sugar always tempers the sugariness and adds more of a caramel edge. And subtle notes of chocolate set against a fresh orange backdrop. We’ve eaten it warm and cold……. both are delicious and work really well with a dash of custard if you want to make it more of a winter pud.
This month, Kat over at The Baking Explorer is hosting the January Treat Petite Challenge, the theme being ‘free from’, which is pretty lucky for me! Kat runs the monthly challenge with Stuart at Cakeyboi and following all the gluttony of Christmas, they have decided it’s a good time to lighten the diet a bit. I am not sure gluten free constitutes a ‘lighter’ diet, but it is certainly ‘free from’ and this cake definitely feels much more wholesome than some I have made recently.
If you’ve not tried baking with hazelnuts before, give it a go……………
Hazelnut & Chocolate-Orange Cake
melted dark chocolate to drizzle for decoration
- Base-line a 20 cm / 8 inch square baking tin with baking paper.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180 C / 350 F / Gas 4.
- Weigh and mix the flour, xanthan gum, salt, baking powder and hazelnuts in a bowl, making sure that any lumps are broken down.
- Break the chocolate into pieces in a glass bowl and melt with 40g of the butter either over a saucepan of gently simmering water or in a microwave on medium setting (30 second bursts) stirring frequently. Set aside.
- Cream the remaining butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy.
- Beat in the vanilla and orange extracts.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined.
- Beat in the melted chocolate.
- Beat in the milk and soured cream.
- Gently fold in the dry ingredients until just combined (do not over-mix).
- Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until the cake is golden brown, the centre springs back to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool for about 10 minutes in the tin, before turning onto a wire rack to cool.
- Decorate with melted chocolate drizzled over cut slices.