It's a while since I've cooked properly, even before the oppressive heat of this summer the I've been struggling to find the enthusiasm or energy to really get stuck into new recipes. This might be somewhat age related - I've reached a point where I need to think far more carefully about cholesterol and sugar intake, as has D. The need to be sensible isn't always the best spur for imagination, it's also means baking cakes is a bad idea unless there's a proper crowd of people to eat it.
Last night I did have a proper crowd though - 8 of us from a food family, with my youngest sister who is a tremendous baker, so something special was called for.
The whole night sent me back to the cookbooks, and was a stark reminder of how long it's been since I really thought about a whole meal and how it should work. Because it was really hot when I started planning this I'd already settled on a collection of salads and dips, some decent bread (which I could buy, because I had to be at work in the day) plenty of fruit and cheese (family loves cheese) and initially the plan was for Diana Henry's super boozy chocolate and px Ice cream, but the weather cooled and it felt out of balance with the other things I was leaning towards.
Maybe I just really wanted to bake a cake. After some searching (I do love a good rummage through cookbooks) I found the Nusstorte Von Hammerstein (glazed hazelnut torte) in Luisa Weiss' 'Classic German Baking'. The name alone was irrisistable, and after Vienna and Zurich I find this kind of baking more appealing than ever.
Something else appealing about this one is that it's better made at least a day in advance (apparently it's essential), and keeps well. It's a torte that takes a little time to make but it's worth the effort because it's beautifully light.
Toast, cool, and finely grind 275g of hazelnuts. They need to be properly cool before they're ground or you get a paste. Mix 70g of plain flour through the ground nuts.
Line the bottom of a 23cm springform tin and butter it's sides. Set oven to 180°C. Separate 7 eggs.
Mix 170g of unsalted butter with 270g of caster sugar until light and fluffy (this torte is a lot easier to make if you have a stand mixer), add the yolks one at a time mixing all the time. When all the yolks are in whip the mixture for another 7 minutes, then beat in 30 mills of lemon juice and half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Add the hazelnut and flour mix, beat until just combined.
In a separate bowl whip the egg whites until large bubbles form, add quarterbof a spoon of salt, then continue beating until you have stiff peaks. Fold one third of the egg whites into the yolk mix to lighten it, then fold in the 2nd third, and the last third until no trace of egg white is left.
Put the batter in the tin, and bake for 50-55 mins or until it's golden brown and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin on a rack for half an hour, then remove from the tin and leave to cool completely.
Heat 150g of jam (raspberry/red current, or something else with some acidity to it - I used some quite tart apricot jam I had) to loosen it. Cut the torte in half horizontally, spread the jam in the middle, and put the top back on. Make a glaze with 200g of icing sugar lemon juice and rum (the Rum is optional) and spread it over the torte. Decorate with a few hazelnuts, and spend the next 24 hours wondering what it will be like (or a little longer, you can make it a good 3 days before you want it).