venetian chocolate walnut cake

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I believe with my whole heart in the act of cooking; in its smells, in its sounds, in its observable progress on the fire. – Marcella Hazan

Here’s a simple, rustic cake, right at home presented on a plain old cutting board, dolled up with nothing more than a lavish dusting of cocoa (powdered sugar would do just as well).

The basis of this recipe comes from Marcella Hazan’s masterpiece, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, a book I tote around with me like a cherished friend. And now I realize that it is just that.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

I bought my copy at the Strand Bookstore in New York City, just about twenty years ago when I was teaching myself to cook, and I still have it. On those days when I feel slightly uncentered and overwhelmed, Marcella’s words and recipes help me feel grounded again.

I only have to read the recipe title for Roast Chicken with Two Lemons (a version of that chicken appeared here as Marry Me Roast Chicken) to be reminded that no matter how discouraging a day seems, a person can always replenish the soul by making something simple and delicious to eat.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Marcella’s recipe uses almonds, but I was craving walnuts and needed to make a dent in what seems to be a stockpile of them in my freezer (I must have been a squirrel in another lifetime). I also added a bit of chocolate (just because).

I love this cake, and I hope you will, too. It’s light, moist, rich, not too sweet…making it one of a few desserts that can be savored along with the last drops of red wine – or better yet, a glass of nocino - after dinner.

venetian chocolate walnut cake

Yield: one 8 inch cake

Marcella writes in the headnote to the original recipe that almonds are “ by a wide margin the most favored nut in Italian cakes, particularly in the Veneto...” but I think walnuts are a wonderful substitute.

Ingredients

  1. 1 ¾ cups shelled walnuts
  2. 1 cup sugar
  3. 3 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
  4. Grated zest of one lemon or orange
  5. 8 egg whites
  6. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  7. ½ cup all-purpose flour or brown rice flour
  8. 1 tablespoon nocino (Italian walnut liqueur) or brandy
  9. Unsweetened cocoa powder and/or softly whipped cream for serving

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat the sides of an 8-inch springform pan with olive oil or softened butter and line the bottom with a piece of parchment.
  2. Put the walnuts and sugar in a food processor and grind until fine crumbs form; add the chocolate and zest and pulse a few times to chop the chocolate into small chips.
  3. Whip the egg whites and salt in a mixer with the whisk attachment until they form stiff peaks.
  4. Sift the flour over the egg whites and fold it in gently. Add the walnut mixture in 2 or 3 additions and fold it in carefully (the volume will decrease slightly); stir in the nocino or brandy.
  5. Transfer the batter to the pan. Bake on the middle oven rack 30 – 35 minutes, until the cake is puffed and a toothpick inserted in the middle emerges without crumbs but with a little melted chocolate.
  6. Cool in the pan 10 minutes before releasing the sides of the pan; invert onto a rack, remove the parchment paper. Turn the cake right side up and cool completely.
  7. Sift cocoa powder over the cake before slicing and serving, with a side of whipped cream of you like.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/03/venetian-chocolate-walnut-cake/

chocolate madeleines

chocolate-madeleines

So, you’re in the mood for chocolate (just in case you haven’t noticed: I am) but not sure whether you want to indulge in cake or cookies? Chocolate madeleines are a happy cross between the two; with a thin, crisp crust on the outside and a moist, melting chocolate crumb on the inside.

The method is pretty basic, but in order to achieve the characteristic domed, scalloped shape of these little French cakes you need to chill the batter for an hour in the baking pan – and yes, to make this recipe you will need a madeleine pan.

Madeleines are delicious at room temperature, but especially good slightly warm from the oven.

chocolate-madeleines-recipe

chocolate madeleines

Yield: 2 dozen madeleines

Ingredients

  1. 1 tablespoon melted butter
  2. 10 tablespoons butter
  3. 6 ounces dark or bittersweet chocolate; chopped
  4. 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  5. ½ cup all-purpose flour
  6. ½ cup cocoa powder
  7. ¼ teaspoon salt
  8. 6 egg whites

Instructions

  1. Brush a madeleine baking pan with the melted butter.
  2. Put remaining butter and the chocolate in the top of a double boiler or in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (be sure the water doesn't touch the bowl). Heat until chocolate and butter are almost melted; remove from heat and stir together until smooth.
  3. Sift sugar, flour, cocoa and salt into a bowl.
  4. Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer or by hand until frothy. Stir in flour mixture until combined; add chocolate mixture and mix until blended.
  5. Portion batter into pan; chill in the refrigerator one hour. If your pan makes only 12 at a time, chill remaining batter in bowl and bake in batches.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Bake about 12 minutes, or until madeleines are springy to touch. Cool in pan 1 minute; unmold madeleines onto a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/chocolate-madeleines/

cookie kisses: chocolate hazelnut baci

chocolate-hazelnut-baci-cookies-recipe

I think the first time I tasted the perfect-for-each-other combination of chocolate and hazelnuts was at my grandmother’s house. It was probably around the holiday season, where I’d find pretty little boxes of Italian sweets like torrone and bowls of multicolored foil milk chocolates to explore.

I unwrapped what looked to me like a Hershey’s chocolate kiss and popped it into my mouth, only to be surprised that the crunchy nut under the chocolate shell wasn’t a peanut – as in an M & M – and the creamy nougat was unlike the inside of my favorite 3 Musketeers candy bar.

That was my introduction to Baci, the Italian chocolate kiss made by Perugina., and I fell right then and there. I learned that Baci were a special treat, and hard to find if it wasn’t Christmas or Valentine’s day. I had to grow up before I discovered Nutella was what European kids had on their sandwiches instead of peanut butter and jelly -really?! By then I was ready and waiting for anything with the flavor combo of chocolate and hazelnuts, also known as gianduja.

chocolate-meringue-kisses-recipe chocolate-hazelnut-baci-cookies-recipe

I have to confess that these days I find Nutella is a bit too sweet, and not as deep, dark and chocolately as I want. It must be that this 90 percent dark chocolate I’ve grown to like has changed my tolerance level; it has so little sugar that all you taste is the roasted complex notes of pure chocolate.

You can find the combination just about everywhere now – even Jif is marketing a version. I like to make homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread - it doesn’t much resemble the commercially made kind. It’s a bit rustic with its tiny bits of hazelnuts, but so rich in flavor it’s like tasting the essence of the ingredients.

chocolate-hazelnut-baci

I love looking at the food blog What Katie Ate, and her post on Chocolate Ganache Meringue Kisses inspired me to make baci, remembering my first Italian kiss.

chocolate-hazelnut-baci-meringue-kiss-recipe

cookie kisses: chocolate hazelnut baci

Yield: about 1 dozen baci

Ingredients

  1. ½ cup granulated sugar
  2. 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  3. 2 egg whites
  4. 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  5. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  6. 1 cup homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread or prepared spread such as Nutella

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees and arrange an oven rack in the middle of oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Mix together the sugar and cocoa in a bowl.
  3. Whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute.
  4. Gradually sprinkle the sugar mixture into the egg whites at medium-high speed, then continue to beat until the peaks are stiff and glossy; 2 – 3 minutes.
  5. Scoop and drop the meringue in small blobs onto the baking sheets 1 inch apart, using (1-1/2 –inch) cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons.
  6. Bake about 1 hour, or until the cookies are no longer tacky, but feel dry and firm to the touch. If necessary, lower the oven temperature to keep them from browning.
  7. Turn off the oven, prop the door open and cool the cookies for at least 30 minutes. Peel the cookies off the paper.
  8. Spread one cookie with some chocolate hazelnut spread and sandwich with another; repeat until all the cookies are matched. Any odd cookies are the baker’s treat.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/02/cookie-kisses-chocolate-hazelnut-baci/