I took a little hiatus from blogging. Perhaps you noticed? Yes, July was a month of fun. I went to Hawaii, lounged in the sun, and sipped cocktails on the beach. Just kidding. In reality, I spent the first two weeks of the month either horribly ill (hello, hospital) or horribly fatigued as a result of being horribly ill. No sun for me...or eating, for that matter. Anyway, the next week was spent trying to unbury myself from the pile of work that accumulated while I was sick. My sister came for a visit last week -- the one real bright spot in the month -- but then this week I sustained a debilitating injury whilst baking a batch of cupcakes. (I pinched a nerve while attempting to catch the bottle of Guinness that was plummeting toward my kitchen floor. I failed, but the story will be an excellent addition to my new book, The Perils of Stouts and Lagers.)
Now, about this cake. This was the first of my Daring Bakers' challenges and I'd like to be all raves about it, but I can't because the recipe was ridiculously poorly written. Sorry, Carol Walter, I don't know who you are and I don't own your book, but if the recipe for this challenge was copied exactly, you need a new editor and a new day job. And if not, well, someone did a bad job and it reflects on poor Carol. I'll throw a bone in Carol's direction, though, and say that the praline frosting here is delicious. Light, creamy, and full of flavor. Four stars for that. Two and three-quarters stars for the overall cake. It was good, but not so good that I'm contemplating my next opportunity to make it.
Fine. Three stars overall, but only because of the frosting.
[Per the Daring Bakers' rules, I made the recipe according to the challenge-chooser's instructions. However, the recipe you see below is my version -- rewritten for clarity and minus extraneous steps.]
Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream
Adapted from a recipe from Great Cakes by Carol Walter
Yields one 10" cake
1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons dark rum or Grand Marnier
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup cake flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
7 egg yolks
1 cup sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
5 egg whites
1/4 cup warm, clarified butter (100 – 110 degrees)
1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
2/3 cup sugar
4 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup praline paste
2 tablespoons dark rum
2/3 cup thick apricot preserves
1 tablespoon water
6 ounces good semisweet or bittersweet chocolate
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 tablespoon dark rum or Grand Marnier
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
To Make the Sugar Syrup:
In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add the liqueur. Cool slightly before using on the cake. Can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.
To Make the Filbert Genoise:
Preheat to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 10” X 2” inch round cake pan.
Using a food processor, process nuts, cake flour, and cornstarch for about 30 seconds. Then, pulse the mixture about 10 times to get a fine, powdery mixture. You’ll know the nuts are ready when they begin to gather together around the sides of the bowl. While you want to make sure there aren’t any large pieces, don’t over-process. Set aside.
Put the yolks in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until thick and light in color, about 3-4 minutes. Slowly add 3/4 cup of sugar, one tablespoon at a time (this step should take about 3 minutes). When finished, the mixture should be ribbony. Blend in the vanilla and grated lemon rind. Transfer to a separate bowl and set aside. Wash and thoroughly dry the mixer bowl.
Place egg whites in the clean mixer bowl and beat with the whisk attachment on medium speed until soft peaks form. Increase the speed to medium-high and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar over 15-20 seconds. Continue to beat for another 30 seconds. Add the yolk mixture to the whites and whisk for 1 minute.
Working quickly and excluding any large chunks, sprinkle the processed nuts into the egg mixture 2 tablespoons at a time, folding carefully for about 40 folds. When all but about 2 tablespoons of nuts remain, quickly and steadily pour the warm butter over the batter. Add in the final 2 tablespoons of nuts and fold the batter to incorporate, about 13 folds.
Transfer the batter into the prepared pan. (If collected butter remains at the bottom of the bowl, do not add it to the batter.) Tap the pan on the counter to remove air bubbles and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. You’ll know the cake is done when it is springy to the touch and it separates itself from the side of the pan. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 5 minutes before inverting on a wire rack to cool completely.
[If not using the cake right away, wrap thoroughly in plastic wrap, then in a Ziploc bag, and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If freezing, wrap in foil and then place in the bag; use within 2-3 months.]
To Make the Praline Paste:
Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper and lightly butter.
Put the sugar in a heavy 10" skillet. Heat on low flame for 10-20 minutes until the sugar melts around the edges. Swirl the pan if necessary to prevent the melted sugar from burning, but do not stir. Brush the sides of the pan with water to remove sugar crystals.
When the sugar is completely melted and caramel in color, remove from heat. Stir in the nuts with a wooden spoon and separate the clusters. Return to low heat and stir to coat the nuts on all sides. When the mixture starts to bubble, remove from heat and pour evenly onto the parchment-lined sheet. As it cools, it will harden into brittle.
Break the cooled brittle into pieces and place in a food processor. Process for several minutes to make a paste. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place. Do not refrigerate.
To Make the Praline Buttercream:
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a electric mixer and beat with the whisk attachment until the whites are foamy and they begin to thicken (just before the soft peak stage). Set the bowl over a saucepan filled with about 2 inches of simmering water, making sure the bowl is not touching the water. Whisk in the sugar 2 tablespoon at a time until the whites are warm (about 120 degrees) and the sugar is dissolved. The mixture should look thick and like whipped marshmallows.
Return bowl to the mixer stand and beat with the whisk attachment on medium-high speed until the mixture is a thick, cool meringue, about 5-7 minutes. Do not overbeat.
With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter, a few pieces at a time, beating well after each addition. If the frosting appears to separate or is very liquid after all the butter is added, continue to beat on high speed until it is smooth and creamy. Add the liqueur and vanilla and mix for 30-45 seconds longer, until thick and creamy.
Refrigerate 10-15 minutes before proceeding.
Add 1/3 cup praline paste to the buttercream and whip briefly on medium-low speed to combine. Blend in the rum.
[Buttercream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 6 months. If freezing, store in plastic containers and thaw in the refrigerator overnight or at room temperature for several hours.]
To Make the Apricot Glaze:
In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the water and preserves to a slow boil and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the saucepan, add water as needed. Remove from heat and press the mixture through a mesh strainer, discarding any remnants.
To Make the Ganache Glaze:
Break the chocolate into 1-inch pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until finely chopped and set aside.
In a saucepan, heat the cream and corn syrup on low until the mixture reaches a gentle boil. Carefully pour in the chocolate. After allowing the mixture to sit for 1 minute, slowly stir the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate is melted and incorporated into the cream. Blend in the vanilla and rum or Grand Marnier. If the surface seems oily, add 1/2 - 1 teaspoon hot water. The glaze will thicken, but should still be pourable. If it doesn’t thicken, refrigerate for about 5 minutes. Use immediately.
Divide the cake into 3 layers and place the first layer top side down on a 10" cardboard disk. Using a pastry brush, moisten the layer with 3-4 tablespoons of warm sugar syrup. Spread on a 1/2 inch thick layer of buttercream, leaving a 1/4 inch border around the edge of the cake. Place the middle layer over the first, brush with sugar syrup, and spread with buttercream.
Moisten the cut side of the third layer with additional sugar syrup and place cut side down on the cake. Gently press the sides of the cake to align the layers. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before proceeding.
Brush the top and sides of the cake with warm apricot glaze. Chill while you prepare the ganache.
Pour the ganache onto the cake’s center. Move a large spatula over the top of the ganache about 4 times to get a smooth and mirror-like appearance. The ganache should cover the top and run down the sides of the cake. When the cake is coated, lift one side of the rack and bang it once on the counter to help spread the ganache evenly and break any air bubbles. (Work fast before the ganache begins to set.) Patch any bare spots on the sides with a smaller spatula, but do not touch the top of the cake after the “bang." Let the cake stand at least 15 minutes to set after glazing.
Leftover cake can be covered and refrigerated for up to 5 days.