It’s Belleau Kitchen Random Recipe challenge time again and for this month’s challenge the magic number is 18. So I chose the bottom shelf of books and counted 18 from the left. My random choice last month was a chef’s book of French recipes and so, for a complete change, this month’s random choice is a chef’s book of French recipes. (Not all of my books are cheffy French recipes, I promise).
This month’s book is Pierre Koffmann’s ‘La Tante Claire’ published in the early nineties. (M. Koffmann, incidentally, has fairly recently resurfaced in Knightsbridge.) On the random page – 21, as it happens – is the recipe for ‘Gâteau aux Noisettes’.
My first thought was that this would be a cake made with ground hazelnuts but it’s actually quite different. The finished dish is more like eating a French tart with a crisp base and a softer topping, filled with nuts. It makes a pleasing and easily-made dessert, although only if you really like hazelnuts. Although the gâteau isn’t large, it should easily feed 6 since there’s a limit to how many nuts you can eat, unless you’re the squirrel that lives at the bottom of my garden. It’s best served with a crème anglaise – M. Koffmann suggests a hazelnut crème anglaise.
I've made some very minor adjustments to the recipe in the light of experience.
150 g light brown sugar
120 g plain flour
65 g butter
120 ml sour cream
½ tsp baking powder
100 g skinned hazelnuts, lightly toasted
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Chop the hazelnuts into halves – you don’t need to be too precise about this. Butter a 19 cm round cake tin – the tin needs to be about 3 cm deep.
Mix together the sugar and flour and then rub in the butter until the mix feels uniformly sandy. (Incidentally, I'm coming round to thinking that rubbing in butter is just about the least interesting job you can do in the kitchen, other than cleaning the oven. I found that listening to the latest Decemberists album helped.).
Place half of the mixture into the prepared cake tin and spread it out evenly. Whisk together the sour cream, baking powder and the egg and then stir this thoroughly into the remaining half of the pastry mixture. Pour this into the cake tin over the base that you’ve already made, making sure that it’s spread evenly.
Sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the gâteau and bake in the oven for 35 – 40 minutes. After this time, the top should be set but still moist. Allow the gâteau to cool before removing from the tin.