Fabulous finale

Delicious cake with hazelnut semifreddo sure to impress patio diners

July 09, 2008|By Amy Scattergood and Donna Deane | Amy Scattergood and Donna Deane,Los Angeles Times

For a gorgeous finale to a casual meal out on the patio - under the lingering heat and lengthening rays of the sun - offer a slice of frozen flourless cake layered with a luscious hazelnut semifreddo and the golden pixie dust of crushed homemade praline. To save time, you can buy the praline, too, but the candy takes minutes to make and yields the kind of sultry, caramel flavor that's worth the effort.

This simple terrine looks more complicated than it is; the entire confection can be made ahead of time. Unlike some frozen desserts, you don't have to temper it: Just unmold the cake (encased in plastic wrap for an easy exit) and cut a slice. Add a sprig of mint and a few halved kumquats. And make sure to unveil this fancy-looking dessert in front of an audience with a twirl of the apron and a little patio flourish. Sure, all you did was pull it from the freezer, but you don't have to point this out.

Amy Scattergood and Donna Deane write for the Los Angeles Times.

Chocolate Cake With Hazelnut Semifreddo

Serves 10

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/4 cup butter, plus extra for buttering the pan

4 egg yolks

1 1/2 cups sugar (divided use)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla (divided use)

7 egg whites (divided use)

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup cocoa, sifted

3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts

1 cup whipping cream

1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the chocolate and butter in a metal bowl set over a pan of simmering water and heat until melted and just combined, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool until just warm to the touch but still melted.

While the chocolate is cooling, beat the egg yolks until light and fluffy. Slowly drizzle 1/4 cup sugar into the eggs and continue to beat until fluffy and airy. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla until combined.

Separately, beat 4 egg whites with the salt to soft peaks. Drizzle 1/4 cup sugar into the whites and continue to beat to stiff peaks. Set aside.

Fold the whipped egg whites gently into the whipped yolks, then fold in the melted chocolate and cocoa.

Spread the batter into a 15-inch by 10-inch baking pan which has been buttered, lined with parchment paper and buttered again. Bake the cake for 10 to 12 minutes, until set. Turn the cake out onto a rack to cool.

Place the cooled cake on a cutting board and cut 3 rectangles from the cake, each the dimensions of the 9-inch loaf pan (these rectangles will form layers in the final dessert). Set aside.

Make the hazelnut praline: In a small saucepan, combine 1/2 cup sugar with 2 tablespoons water. Heat to boiling (dissolving the sugar), then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the syrup turns golden brown, several minutes.

Stir in the toasted hazelnuts, then pour out onto a lightly buttered baking sheet and allow to cool. Break the pralines into pieces and coarsely process in a food processor. You should have 1 1/2 cups crushed praline. Set aside.

Make the semifreddo: Whip the cream to stiff peaks, then fold in the amaretto liqueur and remaining vanilla. Separately, whip the remaining 3 egg whites. Gradually beat in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg whites into the whipped cream, along with 1 cup of the crushed praline.

Assemble the cake: Line the loaf pan with plastic wrap. Place 1 layer of the cake snugly into the bottom of the pan. Evenly spread 1/3 of the semifreddo base over the top of the cake, and top with a generous tablespoon of the crushed pralines. Repeat with the remaining layers, for a total of 3 layers. Sprinkle the remaining praline evenly over the top of the cake. Freeze, wrapped in plastic, until ready to serve.

To unmold the cake, dip the base of the frozen loaf pan quickly in a bowl of hot water to loosen the cake. Remove the cake (still wrapped in plastic) from the mold. Gently unwrap the cake. The cake can be served whole on a serving platter garnished with mint or kumquats, or can be sliced.

Per serving: 433 calories, 7 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 29 grams fat, 13 grams saturated fat, 127 milligrams cholesterol, 81 milligrams sodium

Analysis provided by the Los Angeles Times.

ONLINE

Watch a video demonstration of how to make Chocolate Cake With Hazelnut Semifreddo at baltimoresun.com/cooking101

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