Yield 1 loaf cake (serves 10 to 12)
This super-moist, versatile chocolate loaf cake is slathered with rich Gianduja ganache and caramelized hazelnuts. It’s an elegant, incredibly delicious treat you’ll want to serve for any and all occasions, from picnics to birthdays.
For the chocolate loaf cake
For the Gianduja ganache
For the caramelized hazelnuts
Sift together the flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar until lighter in color. Pour the oil into the bowl while continuing to beat the egg mixture. Once all the oil is incorporated, reduce the speed and pour in the cream and the milk. Decrease the mixer’s speed to low, then mix in the flour mixture until incorporated. With a spatula, scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate any unmixed flour.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 80 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. (The authors specify 50 to 60 minutes, but my chocolate loaf cake took 80 minutes to fully set.) Transfer to a cooling rack. (You can prepare the cake up to a day in advance: let cool completely, then cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator or at room temperature until ready to serve.)
For the Gianduja ganache: Add the toasted hazelnuts to the bowl of a food processor and grind into a paste. First, the hazelnuts will be reduced to a powder, then the powder will clump up and then finally transform into a fluid paste. At this stage, add the powdered sugar and continue to process until the mixture forms a smooth, thick paste.
Transfer the hazelnut paste to a bowl, then add the chocolate. In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer, then pour it over the chocolate-hazelnut mixture. Let rest for a minute, then stir until all the chocolate has melted and the hazelnut paste incorporated into a thick, shiny ganache.
Scrape down the sides of the bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure the wrap touches the surface of the ganache. Refrigerate for about 2 hours, or overnight. (You can prepare the ganache up to 3 days in advance and keep it refrigerated, tightly covered, until ready to use.)
For the caramelized hazelnuts: Set a silicon baking mat or a parchment paper-lined baking sheet close to the stove. Put the sugar to a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and cook it over medium heat. The sugar will begin to melt and then turn lightly golden. Stir it so it is evenly colored and continue to cook until the sugar is deep golden and the edges show signs of bubbling (this won’t take long.) Add the toasted hazelnuts at this point and stir to coat the nuts in the caramel. Continue to cook for another minute, or until the nuts are fragrant and the caramel turns to a beautiful amber color. Turn the nuts out onto the silicon baking mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. You can use two forks to separate the nuts while the caramel is still soft. Let cool completely. When the caramelized hazelnuts are completely cool, store them in an airtight container until ready to use. (The caramelized hazelnuts will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to three days.)
Take the Gianduja ganache out of the refrigerator 30 minutes in advance. Using a hand mixer or a fork, lightly beat the ganache just to fluff it back up and make it easier to spread. Unmold the chocolate loaf cake and peel off the parchment paper. Transfer the cake to a serving board or plate. With the help of a small offset spatula, spread a thick layer of the ganache on top of the cake. Garnish with caramelized hazelnuts and a generous pinch of flaky sea salt. Slice and serve to your happy guests.
Store any leftover cake in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to three days. You can also store leftover Gianduja ganache in a glass jar and refrigerate for up to a week.
Recipe Credit: Shaheen Peerbhai and Jennie Levitt, Paris Picnic Club. Adapted with permission.
How to toast and peel hazelnuts: Place the hazelnuts on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, and bake at 350°F [170°C] for 15 minutes, giving the tray a good shake every five minutes. When the hazelnuts’ skin is shiny and crackled, remove from the oven and transfer to a clean dish towel. Close the towel up into a bundle and rub the hazelnuts against one another vigorously to remove the skin. Open the towel and pick up the peeled hazelnuts. Some bits of skin will remain and that’s ok, simply make sure to discard all the loose papery bits. Keep the peeled hazelnuts in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use.
Recipe by Food Nouveau at http://foodnouveau.com/recipes/desserts/chocolate/chocolate-loaf-cake-gianduja-ganache/