Happy Birthday JAMMF! (Hazelnut Torte)
"Happy Birthday," I said, softly. "Taking stock?" He let the hand fall on his chest, and turned his head to look at me, smiling.
"Aye, something of the sort. Though I suppose I've a few hours left. I was born at half-six; I willna have lived a full half-century until suppertime."
I laughed and rolled onto my side, kicking the blanket off. The air was still delightfully cool, but it wouldn't last long.
"Do you expect to disintegrate much further before supper?" I asked, teasing.
"Oh, I dinna suppose anything is likely to fall off by then," he said, consideringly. "As to the workings...aye, well..." He arched his back, stretching, and sank back with a gratified groan as my hand settled on him.
"It all seems to be in perfect working order," I assured him. I gave a brief, experimental tug, making him yelp slightly. "Not loose at all."
The Fiery Cross (Chapter 58 - Happy Birthday to You)
Happy Birthday, you red-heided Adonis!
Glad to hear everything is still fully operational. Your legions of admires expect nothing less, even at the ripe-old age of 291.
No pressure though, really.
When I decided to bake our favourite protagonist a cake for his big day, I started by listing a few of the things he loves:
- Brandy (a finer nose and palate would be hard to find)
- Butter (especially when Claire's churning it)
- Nuts (show me a man who doesn't -- eunuchs don't count)
Following my thought process along (proceed at your own risk), I remembered the crude hickory nut flour cake that Claire baked in in Drums of Autumn, just after they started their life on The Ridge.
I had intended to use pecans, which are a type of hickory, but somewhere along the line I concluded that a big occasion like this called for something beyond the ordinary...and when it comes to butter, browning it fills that bill. Rich and nutty, brown butter takes pretty much everything from good to mind-blowing.
And since the French call this magical substance beurre noisette, or hazelnut butter, before I even knew what was happening, I was out buying hazelnuts instead of pecans.
It's always best in the kitchen to go with the flow and ride the current of inspiration...
"This is a morning my father never saw," Jamie said, still so softly that I heard it as much through the walls of his chest, as with my ears. "The world and each day in it is a gift, mo chridhe -- no matter what tomorrow may be."
I sighed deeply and turned by head, to rest my cheek against his chest. He reached over gently and wiped my nose with a fold of his shirt.
"And as for taking stock," he added practically, "I've all my teeth, none of my parts are missing, and my cock still stands up by itself in the morning. It could be worse."
The Fiery Cross (Chapter 58 - Happy Birthday to You)
Hazelnut Torte with Brandy-Brown Butter Glaze
A torte is a rich, dense cake made from a mixture of wheat and nut flours. Lighter than Claire's hickory nut cake, but more substantial (and far more delicious!) than a Betty Crocker special.
For the Hazelnut Torte:
- Hazelnuts, shelled - 1¾ Cups
- All-Purpose Flour - 1½ Cups
- Baking Powder - 1 tsp
- Salt - ½ tsp
- Milk, room temperature - 1 Cup
- Eggs - 3 large
- Orange Zest, finely grated - 2 tsp
- Butter, softened - 1/3 Cup
- Sugar - 1 Cup
For the Brandy-Brown Butter Sauce:
- Butter - ¼ Cup
- Sugar - ½ Cup
- Brandy - ¼ Cup
For the Garnish:
- Whipped Cream
Move the rack to the centre position and preheat the oven to 350F.
Roast the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet until just fragrant and golden, about 8-10 minutes. Immediately wrap the hazelnuts in a clean dishtowel and shake and rub to remove their skins. Discard the skins and cool the nuts completely.
Butter and flour a 9-10 inch springform pan.
Set aside 12 whole hazelnuts for the garnish. Pulse the remainder in a food processor or coffee grinder until (not quite) a powder. Some small pieces will remain. Stop before you get hazelnut butter.
Combine the ground hazelnuts, flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Lightly whisk together the eggs, milk and orange zest in a separate bowl and set aside. In a stand mixer or in a bowl with a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium to high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required.
On slow speed, incorporate the dry mix in 3 additions, alternating with ? of the milk/egg mixture. Scrape the bowl when both are added, and beat for 2 minutes on high.
Scrape the batter into the cake pan, and smooth the top with a spatula or spoon dipped in water. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. The top should be lightly browned and just spring back to a light touch.
Make the glaze while the cake bakes: Melt the butter over medium heat. Continue to cook, watching it carefully. First it will foam in the pan as the milk solids are separating from the butterfat, and the water is evaporating. Next, the foam subsides and the milk solids begin to brown. The butter also gives off a characteristic nutty aroma at this point.
As the butter turns amber-brown (watch it closely - it turns from browned to burnt VERY quickly), take the pan off the heat and add the sugar and brandy. Reduce the heat to low, return the pan to the heat and cook very gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.
Cool the cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then use a skewer to poke dozens of holes in the top of the cake. VERY SLOWLY, pour the glaze over the cake, stopping occasionally to allow it to absorb. Cool completely.
Carefully remove the side ring of the springform (there may be a bit of glaze spillage). Garnish with whipped cream and reserved hazelnuts and serve.
The torte will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for a week, or in the freezer for longer storage.
- If you use a coffee grinder to chop the nuts, work in small batches for the most even results.
- No hazelnuts? Use pecans or walnuts instead.
- To avoid the brandy, substitute it with 2 tablespoons orange juice and 2 tablespoons water