Bak­ing weather

Hazel­nuts – and a kitchen equipped for bak­ing – pro­vide a wel­come dis­trac­tion from the change­able weather. This cake is a rem­edy for all au­tum­nal an­guish, and an es­sen­tial cook’s weapon – as a pud­ding, or a meal in it­self

The Guardian - Cook - - King Of Puddings - Jeremy Lee Makes 1 cake Jeremy Lee is the chef­pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis restau­rant in Lon­don; @jere­myleeqv

A day spent in­doors has the at­trac­tion of there be­ing no wrong cloth­ing

... and the prom­ise of cake ...

One perk that au­tumn de­liv­ers with great panache is an ex­cuse to stay in­doors. Out­side of late, with each pass­ing day, the tem­per­a­ture cools and – let’s face it – the wildly change­able weather we en­joy on th­ese tem­per­ate isles in­tro­duces con­sid­er­able wardrobe is­sues; rain, wind, sun, grey clouds and blue skies be­devil one’s choice of what to wear (par­tic­u­larly if you are of the bi­cy­cling per­sua­sion).

Be­ing as I am of that very per­sua­sion, wheel­ing into town is like a mad game in which the penalty is the re­moval of an ar­ti­cle of cloth­ing at every set of lights – or, worse, that I re­gret not putting on that sou’wester as the blue skies van­ish and a shower of rain ap­pears from nowhere.

Apolo­gies! Enough blether about the weather. My point is but this: a day spent in­doors has the at­trac­tion of there be­ing no wrong choice of cloth­ing ... and the prom­ise of cake. In­deed, far re­moved from the world out­side, the op­por­tu­nity to bake a cake is rea­son enough to choose to stay in. Who needs bikes?

Grow­ing up on the east coast of Scot­land, there were many days when bak­ing in­doors with my mother was by far the more pleas­ant op­tion while the el­e­ments raged with­out. I have fond mem­o­ries of her sit­ting in our kitchen next to a large cloth heaped with hazel­nuts in front of her, hazel­nuts that had just been roasted in the oven un­til their flaky thin skins loos­ened and could be re­moved if the cor­ners of the cloth were gath­ered, twisted, and then rubbed briskly.

I loved the smell of roast hazel­nuts then and love it still. Once upon a time, that smell her­alded Mum mak­ing pra­line, that con­fec­tion of al­monds, hazel­nuts and caramel that makes for one of the holi­est of trini­ties. It is de­li­cious in cakes and ice-creams; it is de­li­cious also in a hazel­nut frangi­pane des­tined for a tart a la bourdaloue (all for an­other time); and it is de­li­cious here in a very good cake.

Today’s recipe is an­other take on the wal­nut cake of this col­umn’s yore. I have eaten this cake with choco­late sauce, with cream and with ice-cream, and with fruit sauces and com­potes, and al­ways en­joyed it im­mensely.

This cake can also be en­joyed served just as na­ture in­tended, un­fussed. A cake as suited to elevenses as it is to a brew in the af­ter­noon or to a pud­ding af­ter din­ner is an es­sen­tial weapon for this cook.

As hazel­nuts can vary dra­mat­i­cally in qual­ity seek out the best ones. As they are har­vested in late sum­mer and early au­tumn, now is a good time to scour the shops (this is less a com­mand, and more a prompt!).

Hazel­nut cake

350g shelled hazel­nuts

5 whole eggs, sep­a­rated

200g caster sugar, plus 1 tbsp 100g un­salted but­ter, gen­tly melted and kept just warm

The finely grated zest of 1 lemon

1 Pre­heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas 3½. Line a 22cm di­am­e­ter cake tin, 5cm high or there­abouts.

2 Put the hazel­nuts on a roast­ing tray in a sin­gle layer. Trans­fer it to the oven for 10-15 min­utes, or un­til the pa­per­like skin cracks and dark­ens, and the rich scent of toasted hazel­nuts fills the kitchen.

3 Have a wide, clean cloth laid out on a large sur­face and tip the roast hazel­nuts into a heap upon it. Gather up the cor­ners of the cloth, then twist the cloth un­til tight. Rub briskly to re­move the skins. Open the cloth and rub away any stub­bornly re­main­ing flakes on the hazel­nuts.

4 Grind the hazel­nuts in a pes­tle and mor­tar or a food pro­ces­sor un­til fine, with a lit­tle bite re­main­ing.

5 Put the egg whites into one large bowl, the yolks into an­other. Add 200g sugar to the yolks and beat th­ese with vigour un­til pale and vo­lu­mi­nous. Beat the egg whites with a clean whisk un­til they have stiff­ened and form peaks.

6 Add an­other 1 tbsp caster sugar to the whites and beat again. Fold one third of the egg whites into the egg yolks and sugar. Add in half the ground hazel­nuts. Con­tinue thus un­til all is in the bowl, then add in the melted but­ter and lemon zest for the fi­nal mix­ing, work­ing swiftly and deftly. De­cant the bat­ter into the lined cake tin.

7 Put the tin in the heated oven and bake for 30-35 min­utes. The cake should be done, but do check with the time-hon­oured in­ser­tion of a skewer to check for done­ness.

8 Put the cake on a wire rack to cool. The cake will keep a day or two in a sealed tin. How­ever, I have yet to see it sur­vive an af­ter­noon, so I can­not prom­ise as much.

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