Is that my excuse? Is that a good one? You decide. Here is my story and my recipe.
After I made my mother-in-law's birthday cake I had acquired two things. One was a love of cake made with browned butter. The other was an excess of hazelnut praline paste. Ever have hazelnut praline paste? Think of non-chocolate Nutella. It's just that addictive. I considered making another cake out of those two elements, a completely different cake from the one I made previously. I squeezed my brains until I came up with a way to do it.
I decided to make a variation on my Bourbon Orange Pound Cake (which is itself a variation on Julia Child's vanilla pound cake). I would sub out some of the sugar with the praline paste and brown the butter in the recipe.
I did this successfully. I mixed up the batter. I stuck it in the oven at 350. The instructions say to bake 55-65 minutes. I decided to set the minimum at 60 minutes. I doubted 60 minutes would be enough time, because that darned oven always overbakes everything, but I decided it was better to be safe than sorry.
My buzzer went off at 60 minutes. I pulled the cake out of the oven. I smelled burning. Sure enough my cake had too-dark brown crispy edges. My cake was burned - not terribly burned, but definitely a bit singed.
Since it had yet to become a briquet, I decided it was soft enough to salvage. I served it with the rest of dessert at Easter dinner.
The cake was dry. It was dry dry dry dry dry. The texture seemed to mask the hazelnut flavor. I didn't get a whole lot of compliments from those who ate it at Easter dinner. The best compliment I got was from Mom who said it was a good cake to have with the cup of tea. Of course she thinks of tea. The cake was DRY.
I brought the copious leftovers to work. I told the first person to try a slice to make sure he had coffee. He did say it was dry. That didn't stop too many people from eating it. Oddly enough, I tried another slice later that day and didn't think it was so bad. It seemed to have areas that weren't as dry as others. It actually tasted like brown butter and hazelnuts.
So the next time I make this cake I know not to bake it for quite so long. In fact, I might even start checking it at 50 minutes and not 55, which was what I considered the minimum. I might also experiment with adding more butter. I would think that in the process of browning, some of the liquid in the butter evaporated. My other brown butter cake used 3 sticks. Maybe I should try that the next time as well.
Here is the recipe as I orginally made it. Consider my warnings and play with the ingredients and cooking times as you see fit.
Hazelnut Brown Butter Pound Cake
- 2 sticks butter
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 3 eggs, whisked to combine
- ¼ cup hazelnut praline paste
- 3 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup milk
- 2 Tbl Frangelico
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
Heat butter over low heat until it becomes foamy. Allow foam to subside and cook until butter turns a deep amber color and smells nutty. Scrape all of it into a bowl set over an ice bath and chill until set, but still soft.
In a mixer, cream butter until soft. Stream in the sugar and continue beating on medium speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs just a little (about a tablespoon) at a time, incorporating well after each addition. Mix at medium speed until all eggs are mixed in and mixture is pale and gaining more volume. Beat in hazelnut paste.
Add flour and buttermilk alternately, ending with the flour. When it is well mixed, gently stir in vanilla and Frangelico.
Pour mixture into pan and bake for 55-65 minutes (CHECK IT AT 55). Use the toothpick test to test for doneness. When baked cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and then remove from pan.