Saturday, December 24, 2011

#97 - Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Praline Chocolate Crunch

For Christmas Eve, we were responsible for dessert. Since it's a big occasion - and most likely the last dessert of the Hungry Hundred - we decided to go big or go home.

And what could be bigger than this? A crazy-complex cake from Next Iron Chef runner-up Elizabeth Falkner.

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Praline Chocolate Crunch

From Elizabeth Falkner If you couldn't tell from the ingredients, this is a chocolate-hazelnut cake. You need chopped hazelnuts, hazelnut butter, hazelnut oil, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, and cocoa powder. This recipe has a hundred components, and a million steps, so instead of stepping you through it, we're just going to let the pictures do the talking. We knew this cake was gonna be crazy. But it was also crazy good. All the layers in the cake - the sponge cake, the praline mousse, the nut ganache, and the chocolate glaze - are all delicious.

But the best part, by far, was the praline chocolate crunch. We could eat that by itself forever. It was crispy and crunchy, sweet and salty, hazelnuty and chocolatey. It was really good. If you don't have the patience or energy to make this ridiculous dessert, just make the crunch. You'll like it. We promise.

Praline Chocolate Crunch
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups blanched hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1 tsp hazelnut oil (or vegetable oil)
  • 4 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 4 oz high-quality milk chocolate
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 3/4 cup puffed rice cereal
  1. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Stir the sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase the heat, and cook without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan until amber in color, about 7-8 minutes.
  4. Stir in the hazelnuts.
  5. Pour the mixture onto one of the prepared sheets, separating the nuts.
  6. Let cool completely.
  7. Transfer candied nuts to a food processor.
  8. Add the hazelnut oil and puree until smooth to make the praline paste.
  9. Combine both chocolates and 3 Tbs of the praline paste in a medium metal bowl, reserving the remaining praline paste for later.
  10. Set the bowl over a small saucepan of simmering water.
  11. Stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
  12. Remove bowl from heat and stir in the salt and then the cereal.
  13. Spread the mixture out in a thin layer on the second prepared baking sheet.
  14. Chill until set, about 30 minutes.

Cocoa Sponge Cake
  • Unsalted butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar, divided
  • 2 tbs corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup brandy or orange liqueur
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Line a 17x11x1-inch sheet pan with parchment paper and butter the paper.
  3. Sift flour and cocoa powder into a medium bowl and set aside.
  4. Separate 4 eggs, placing the yolks in a large bowl and the white in a medium bowl.
  5. Using an electric mixer, beat the yolks with 1/2 cup sugar on medium speed until thick and light yellow, about 3 minutes.
  6. Beat in the other 4 whole eggs, one at a time, blending well between each addition.
  7. Using clean, dry beaters, beat the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the corn syrup until slightly thickened and frothy, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the egg white mixture to the egg yolk mixture and beat to blend.
  9. Add the flour-cocoa mixture, and fold just to blend.
  10. Spread out evenly on the prepared sheet pan.
  11. Bake about 15 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
  12. Let cool completely.
  13. Invert the cooked cake onto a large cutting board and peel off the parchment paper.
  14. Brush cake all over with brandy.

Nut Ganache
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut butter
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.
  2. Puree the hot cream, hazelnut butter, and salt in a food processor.
  3. Let cool to room temperature.
  4. With the food processor running, add the butter, 1 Tbs at a time, pureeing until smooth between each addition.

Praline Mousse
  • 3 1/2 oz dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 cup hazelnut praline paste (reserved from praline chocolate crunch)
  • 5 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature, cubed
  • 1 3/4 cup chilled heavy cream, divided
  1. Combine chocolate, praline paste, and butter in a medium bowl.
  2. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup cream to a boil.
  3. Pour heated cream over the chocolate mixture.
  4. Let stand for 1 minute, and then stir until melted and smooth.
  5. Beat the remaining 1 cup chilled cream until soft peaks form.
  6. Fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture.

Chocolate Glaze
  • 9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 1/2 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 Tbs corn syrup
  1. Combine chocolate and butter in a medium bowl.
  2. Bring the cream and corn syrup to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often.
  3. Pour the heated mixture over the chocolate.
  4. Let it stand for 1 minute, and then stir until melted and smooth.
  5. Let cool to room temperature, about 1 hour

Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Praline Chocolate Crunch
  • Cocoa Sponge Cake
  • Nut Ganache
  • Praline Mousse
  • Chocolate Glaze
  • Praline Chocolate Crunch
  • 1/4 cup roasted hazelnuts
  1. Spread the nut ganache over the cake and chill in freezer until set, about 15 minutes.
  2. Spread the praline mousse over ganache and chill in freezer until set, about 15 minutes.
  3. Cut the cake crosswise into thirds, and stack the layers on top of each other.
  4. Trim the edges, and then spread the chocolate glaze over the top and sides of the cake.
  5. Freeze until set, about 1 hour.
  6. Place in refrigerator and chill overnight.
  7. Let cake stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.
  8. Break up praline chocolate crunch into large shards and arrange on top of the cake.
  9. Garnish with hazelnuts.

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