If you enjoyed my latest post about the Langhe and Monferrato region and you are thinking of planning a visit, I propose you a simple and quick food exercise to train your palate to one of the most genuine flavors of the cooking tradition of this area: the hazelnut!
Be aware that I am not talking about any hazelnut but the so-called “round and gentle” hazelnut of Piedmont. It is a local product known world wide for its unique organoleptic properties, which make it the best in the world, according to all the most famous experts in world agronomy. The production of this specific hazelnut is not very big and the demand for this amazing product unfortunately exceeds the offer due to the small scale of territory on which it is grown. But that’s okay, isn’t it? Isn’t it better to preserve quality than surrender to large-scale production that could compromise quality?
The round and gentle hazelnut is used in many recipes in the Langhe and Monferrato area, mainly desserts anc chocolate, although there also are experimentations in salty gastronomy. Try spreading some grain hazelnuts on a fresh or creamy cheese such as Robiola di Roccaverano or with a plain Stracchino, it will enrich the taste of it and will give you an extraordinary gastronomic experience.
Some growers are also experimenting the production of a hazelnut oil and, are still in need of understanding exactly how to use it. For now it is used to enrich the flavor of a salad, or as a final dressing for an excellent risotto, maybe with mixed cheeses.
So let’s move on to our food exercise.
When you visit the Langhe and Monferrato you will hardly find a restaurant, a wine bar, a grocery store or a trattoria that does not supply a Hazelnut Cake among its desserts. As we are talking about a recipe arising from the local food and wine tradition, everyone has his/her own interpretation of it by enriching it with more ingredients or changing its proportions with different results every time: softer, compact, thicker, thinner … it will be a great success in any case.
The traditional recipe may or may not include wheat flour. To help all those suffering from celiac disease, many recipes nowadays do not include it, and the result is even better as the cake will be softer and moister. Here is the version of the hazelnut cake proposed by my mom.
200 grams of toasted and finely chopped hazelnuts but leave a few grains
200 grams of sugar
A pinch of salt
Separate the yolks from the whites and pour them into two separate bowls.
Whip the egg whites with sugar and a pinch of salt, once well mixed add the grind hazelnuts.
In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and, when ready, gently mix the egg whites with the egg, sugar and hazelnut mixture making gentle movements from the bottom to the top of the bowl.
Butter a round baking pan, sprinkle a little flour on the bottom and on the edges and bake at 180 ° C for about half an hour.
Present your cake on a white plate accompanied by a bottle of excellent Moscato d’Asti Dogc.