The Best Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts, Rosemary, and Boozy Raisins You've Ever Had
Plus: Chicken Salad Sandwiches, A New Table, and Luisa Weiss on Lunch Therapy.
Greetings from New Orleans!
We arrived here last night around six and already I’m feeling stuffed from fried chicken gizzards, shrimp and grits (last night’s dinner), and almond croissants. I was going to include that first meal in this post, but instead I’m saving it for next week’s epic “A Week in New Orleans” newsletter so you can have all of the restaurants in one place.
So no restaurant this week, but I’m making up for it with a banger of a recipe: Nigel Slater’s Hazelnut Chocolate Cake with Sultanas and Rosemary (his title sounds a bit more inviting than mine). I was motivated to make this on Friday when my friend Jonathan was coming over and I didn’t want to pull out the same bag of tricks. It’s a remarkable recipe because you don’t think the flavors are going to go together (rosemary and chocolate? plus golden raisins?) but they do in a magical way that felt like what elves might eat at a bakery in a forest. Wait, aren’t those Keebler elves? Scratch the elves part. Just imagine a bakery in a forest and you’ll get it what I’m talking about. It’s a great winter chocolate cake.
The Recipe: Chocolate Cake with Hazelnuts, Rosemary, and Boozy Raisins
This recipe involves lots of little tasks — toasting hazelnuts, grinding hazelnuts, infusing Sherry into sultanas (I did it in the microwave!), melting chocolate (also did that in the microwave), chopping rosemary into sugar, separating eggs, whipping egg whites — but it’s a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and then all of those little tasks add up to an extraordinary whole.
Like all of the best baking recipes, this one uses weight measures to be more precise. I’ll convert them into cups for you to make it easier, but if you want to get exact results, click the link to the original recipe and follow the weights.
Adapted from a recipe by Nigel Slater
10 1/2 tablespoons butter, room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan (about a tablespoon)
1 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dry Sherry (I used Cognac and it worked fine; Brandy or rum would work nicely too)
1 3/4 cups hazelnuts
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves (stems removed)
2/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for rosemary sugar
1 1/4 cups dark chocolate, chopped (I used Scharffen Berger)
6 large eggs, separated (room temperature)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform cake pan with the softened butter, lay in a circle of parchment, and butter that too. (Alternatively, you can use cooking spray. I just like the taste of butter.)
In a microwave safe dish, combine the golden raisins and booze. Microwave on high for 2 minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the raisins are plump. (Note: some say it’s dangerous to put booze in the microwave, but I didn’t have any issues. Just keep an eye on it.) If you don’t have a microwave, just let the raisins soak in the booze for two hours. Sorry that I keep calling it booze.
On a cookie sheet, toast the hazelnuts in the oven until fragrant and toasty brown (your kitchen will start to smell amazing); about 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and, with paper towels, rub the hazelnuts so the skins come off. (I was lazy about this and left some skins on and it was fine; though I bet it would’ve been more elegant without). Set aside 1/4 cup of hazelnuts for the topping, and when the rest are cooled, blitz them in the food processor into a fine crumbs. (Don't go too far or you’ll get hazelnut butter.) Meanwhile, whisk together the flour and cocoa.
Using a knife (or a small food processor), chop the fresh rosemary into the 2 tablespoons of sugar to make rosemary sugar.
In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the 2/3rds cup of sugar and the 10 1/2 tablespoons butter together for a few minutes until light and fluffy. While that’s happening, melt the dark chocolate either in the microwave (how I did it, in 30 second bursts, stirring each time, just until the chocolate was just melted) or over a pot of simmering water. Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar one at a time, until fully incorporated, then mix in the melted chocolate, scraping down the sides of the bowl to make sure everything’s incorporated.
Whisk the egg whites by hand until almost stiff. Fold the ground hazelnuts into the cake batter, the drained golden raisins, the flour and cocoa, and finally the beaten egg whites, being sure not to deflate them as you fold. Scrape the mixture into the cake pan and top with the remaining hazelnuts and all of the rosemary sugar.
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until the top is firm and the cake is slightly cracked. Cool completely in the pan, then carefully remove the sides, flip on to a plate, lift off the parchment, and flip on to a cake stand. Serve with barely sweetened whipped cream.
The Rest: Chicken Salad Sandwiches, A New Table, Luisa Weiss on Lunch Therapy.
I made a roast chicken last week (remember?) and for lunch the next day, I whipped up a mayo-rich chicken salad that filled us up until dinner.
There actually wasn’t much meat left on the chicken, so I shredded what was there (giving a few bites to Winston) and then cut up celery, pickled red onions, and mixed that in with the chicken along with a big dollop of mayo, a smaller dollop of mustard, and some golden raisins just to bulk things up (I’m really into golden raisins this week). Salt and pepper and that was it.
A terrific lunch and a great way to use up roast chicken, if I do say so myself.
Hey, guess what? After ten years with my completely scarred Ikea tulip table…
I finally pronounced it dead and ordered a new marble-topped one from World Market.
It arrives next week! The only question is how do I get the old one out of my kitchen and the new one in with Craig heading to New York, then Boston, for work? I’ll have to hire a personal trainer to bulk me up for the job.
Now for some exciting news: guess who my patient is this week on Lunch Therapy? One of my old school food blogging pals, Luisa Weiss of The Wednesday Chef!
We had such a great talk about the old days of food blogging, how she’s always maintained an emotional voice with her food writing, why German food has a bad rap, how she hopes to address that, what drew her back to Berlin, what kind of fish sticks she feeds her children, and lots more. You can listen to the whole thing here:
And, as always, if you enjoy it, please, please, please leave a nice review. It helps so much.
Here’s just two links for this week:
An elderly driver crashed into my favorite L.A. wine bar, Bar Covell, and injured two pedestrians (Eater LA).
That’s all for this week, folks!
I’m off to find lunch in New Orleans. If you want to see where I wind up, be sure to follow along on Instagram!
Until next time….