Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not Quite a Figgy Pudding

I'm done playing tourist for awhile, but still have lots of photos and stories to tell, but thought I would put in a fig cake recipe that I have been wanting to share for awhile. I had the perfect opportunity to add it to "Cream Puffs in Venice's" hosting of Sugar High Friday # 35 if only could keep up. Oh well, even if I don't end up in the list of offerings, I will at least have added this delightful cake to the blogosphere. This torte features a couple of my favorite foods, hazelnuts and fresh figs, two ingredients that weren't so readily available where I lived in the US, but have come to deeply appreciate their availability here in Europe. I can almost reconcile myself to the fact that pecans aren't available here when hazelnuts are. Living in Piedmont/Piemonte, Italy, with nearby Alba, home of Ferrero Rocher's famed Nutella , hazelnuts are readily available and an welcome addition to many of my baked treats. Although we are right on the border of the fig growing region, we still have had a good season this year, enough for tortes and fig jam too. I found this recipe a few years ago thumbing thru an Italian magazine and photographed the page as it wasn't mine, and now have forgotten which publication i got it out of. More than likely it was Cucina Italiana.
So make a great cuppa of your favorite brew and enjoy this light and nutty fig treat.
Torta di Fichi Neri (o Verdi) e Nocciole
(Black or Green Fig and Hazelnut Cake)
150 g butter, room temperature
120 g sugar, granulated
120 g pastry flour
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tsp Vanilla
pinch salt
120 g Hazelnuts, whole, very lightly toasted, then chopped fine*
8 whole fresh figs, green or black, (more if you like) washed and cut in half length wise

If you need to convert this to your measurement, try using Bron Marshall's very helpful
Cookery Unit Converter

Butter and flour a 26cm or 10" cake or spring form pan.
Use 40 grams of your chopped tasted hazelnuts to liberally sprinkle around the bottom and sides of the pan. I usually hand chop the nuts and use the finer crumbs for the pan and the coarser pieces for the cake later on. *My personal preference is a coarser chop so that the nut is recognizable later when you sprinkle it on top. They will toast more as they bake, so don't toast too far in the beginning.

In a medium to large mixing bowl, whip the butter with the sugar till lightened in color and texture. The whipping is what is going to make your cake rise without any other help from baking powder or soda.
Add the egg yolks and whole eggs and continue whipping till homogeneous and fluffy, being care not to over whip so that it starts to break down and separate. Add vanilla and a pinch of salt and blend. I add the flour to the butter/sugar/egg mixture by sifting it in through a large strainer, and gingerly hand mixing it with a whisk or rubber spatula, to insure a light cake.
Handle as little as possible and turn the batter into your prepared pan and smooth out. Place your cut side figs down in the batter in a ring, with the marrow part towards the middle of the cake. Sprinkle the rest of your chopped hazelnuts on top and bake in a preheated 160C or 300* oven till lightly brown and the middle is set. Cool before removing from the pan.
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