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Fast Food My Way: Chocolate Hazelnut Brownie Cake

This is an intensely rich flourless chocolate cake. It's easy to put together, and tastes like the chewiest, densest brownies ever. I made a couple of adjustments to the technique, but the cake itself is a winner, one that I'll definitely come back to again.

Pépin tells the cook to line a tart pan or cake pan with foil and then to butter the foil. This sounds like a good idea, but it actually means more work, in my experience. Getting the foil nice and smooth is a pain in the neck, and the cake batter has enough butter in it that it's not going to stick to the pan anyway. Instead of messing about with foil, I simply buttered the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan and then dusted it with unsweetened cocoa powder. The cake came away from the pan easily. Either method will work, so if you're happy with foil, don't let me deter you. But you don't have to do that way. You can also bake the cake in an 8-by-8-inch square dish for more conventional brownies.

I used a very dark bittersweet chocolate with 70% cocoa solids. In a recipe like this, it's the chocolate that makes it, so don't scrimp on quality. Use the best chocolate you can find. Pépin says you can use bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. I prefer the intensity of bittersweet, but if you want a lighter flavor, semisweet is the way to go.

In Fast Food My Way , the cake is served with Grand Marnier-flavored whipped cream. For a simpler dessert, you could serve it with vanilla ice cream. It's also delicious all by itself.

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Yield: 1 eight or nine inch cake, about 8 servings

5 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus about 2 Tbsp for buttering the pan
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
6 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Garnish, optional:
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 Tbsp Grand Marnier
1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
Mint leaves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter an 8 or 9-inch springform, tart, or cake pan with the 2 Tbsp butter. Dust with the unsweetened cocoa powder, then tap the pan upside down over the sink to remove the excess.

(Alternatively, you can line the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil and butter with about 1 Tbsp of butter.)

Scatter the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast for 5 to 6 minutes, or until they are lightly browned and fragrant. It's not necessary to remove the skins. Cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a plastic bag and crush into very small pieces with a rolling pin or the bottom of a heavy skillet.

Break the chocolate into small pieces and place it in a microwaveable bowl with the 5 Tbsp of butter. Microwave for 1 minute on high, then leave undisturbed in the microwave for about 5 minutes. Stir, and if necessary, heat again for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir until smooth.

Put the sugars, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the nuts and melted chocolate mixture and fold in gently with a rubber spatula until well incorporated. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cake is just set but the center is still somewhat wet (a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake will come out with wet crumbs). Cool to room temperature on a rack (the cake sets as it cools).

For the garnish: Put all the ingredients except the mint in a mixing bowl and whip gently with a whisk or hand mixer until the cream holds firm peaks. Pile the cream on top of the cake, and garnish with mint.



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