My Sunday morning smelled intoxicating. Freshly ground coffee was brewing with a hint of cinnamon. Handfuls of hazelnuts were toasting in the oven. Both lovely in their own right, but what completed the trio and really put the scent in the “can someone bottle this now?”-category was the bowl of vanilla-infused browned butter sitting on the counter. A simple chunk of butter, melted until brown with half a vanilla pod in the pan, managed to somehow send wafts of nutty, buttery, sweet scent into the air. I get a smile on my face just thinking about it.
The smile gets even bigger when I think about the cake that happened when I added the ground nuts and brown butter to a bowlful of whipped egg whites along with a healthy dose of sugar. It is sweet and nutty, but those two words alone don’t do it justice. It is like the nuts and the butter threw a party when they ended up together, and you can just taste the fun they had. The hazelnut is as hazelnutty as I’ve ever tasted it, the butter as buttery and complex as any I’ve come across. I think I underbaked it a little, but with all that flavor encased in a crust with a little crackle on top and a light chew on the inside edges, this cake is a serious contender for Best Cake Ever. Or at least the best cake I’ve ever had coming out of my oven.
Not bad, for a Sunday morning.
Hazelnut brown butter cake
Adapted ever so slightly and converted to metric from a Suzanne Goin recipe found on SmittenKitchen
- 150 gr hazelnuts without skin
- 225 gr butter
- ½ vanilla pod
- 50 gr all-purpose flour
- 6 large egg whites
- 40 gr granulated sugar
- 250 gr powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Spread nuts on a baking sheets and toast for about 15 minutes until golden and fragrant.
Line a 24 CM cake pan with parchment paper or silicone foil.
Put the butter in a thick-bottomed saucepan. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the pan with the butter. Add the pod to the pan and warm over medium heat until the butter is brown. Stir regularly, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the solids to brown evenly. Pour butter into a bowl to stop the browning and set aside.
Grind the nuts with the powdered sugar in a food processor until finely ground. Put in a big bowl and mix in the flour.
Whip the egg whites with the granulated sugar until stiff. Gently fold in a third of the hazelnut-sugar mixture, then a third of the butter. Repeat until all nuts and butter have been mixed into the egg whites.
Pour batter into the cake pan and bake for about 50 minutes. Cool on a rack for about half an hour, then remove from pan to cool completely. Slice, eat and smile.