All of the recipes in my French cookbook are cryptic and brief, but this was the most perplexing of all. It calls for hazelnuts, and tells you to peel them, but that’s it. The cake has very little flour, so I assumed the hazelnuts should be ground, which is what I did. Otherwise you’d have a sort of hazelnut omelete! As it is, the cake is very nice. It doesn’t have any butter in it, so it’s quite light and simple, but it has a pleasant sponge-cake texture, and the subtle, unmistakable flavor of hazelnuts.
Here’s Sans Toi, from Cleo from 5 to 7.
1 cup hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup flour
2 T apricot jam
2 T sugar
1 T rum
6 T sugar
2 T water
1 T rum
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
If you have a toaster oven, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on the tray, and toast for about 5 minutes, till the skins are darkened and shrinking. If you don’t have a toaster oven, preheat the oven to 425, and pop the nuts in there (on a baking tray in a single layer) for about ten minutes. Wrap them in a clean dish towel, and set aside for about ten minutes. (I always forget they’re in there at this stage, and wipe my hands on the towel and send the nuts scattering all over the floor. Don’t do that!) Rub them in the cloth, and then in your hands, to remove most of the skins. Don’t worry about getting them completely clean. Discard the skins, and put the hazelnuts in a processor or blender. Blend until well ground.
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites till stiff.
In another large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the powdered sugar until they’re light, pale yellow, and pull away from the whisk in ribbons. Beat the flour in a little bit at a time, and then the hazelnuts. Fold in the egg whites.
Butter and flour a cake pan or bundt pan. Pour the batter in. Bake about half an hour, till the cake is puffed and golden, and springs back when you touch it lightly.
Let cool, turn out of the pan.
In a small pan over medium heat, combine the apricot jam, sugar and rum. When the sugar is melted, after a few minutes, drizzle the mixture over the cake so that it runs down the sides.
Melt the remaining sugar and water in the same pan over medium heat. Cook till the sugar melts and turns brown, and then add the rum. Drop a tiny bit in water…if it gets hard, you’ve gone too far, and you need to add a bit of warm water to soften it. It it just turns a little cloudy, but doesn’t harden at all…you’re perfect.
Take the pot off the heat, stir in the toasted chopped hazelnuts, and spoon evenly over the cake, letting some drop off the edges. Let the caramel cool before you eat it.