If you have a food intolerance, life can get a bit boring food wise. It isn't just that you are limited in what you can have, it is that people get good at making one thing that meets your needs and you get to have it over and over and over.
I'm lucky enough not to have any real food issues but I seem to be surrounded by people with them. At a recent dinner 11 of the 14 people there had special dietary requirements. So while I can eat everything, I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about new and delicious things I can make for my friends who have limitations.
When it comes to gluten free baking I started, like everyone it seems, with a flourless orange and poppyseed cake. Now there is nothing wrong with orange and poppyseed cake, mine is actually pretty damn delicious, but I realised that more often that not it is the only gluten free option in cafes and so my friends had it a lot. Since then I've been experimenting with a range of flavours and particularly with different nuts to replace the seemingly ubiquitous almonds.
This cake is great. Rich, moist, packed with flavour. You certainly don't feel like you are missing out on anything with it and I'm yet to meet anyone who doesn't love it. It is best the day after it has been made after it has spent a night in the refrigerator really developing that dessert like texture.
I've got two options for toppings with this recipe because S and I can't decide which is best. Topping one involves sprinkling grated chocolate over the top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. It melts and forms a super chocolate layer. However it isn't that aesthetically pleasing.
Topping two is a simple dusting of icing sugar before serving which looks great but doesn't add a lot to the flavour.
Tips: Place a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the oven to add some moisture. This helps prevent cracks, although mine does often crack a little. If you don't like orange you can leave the zest out but it does add a lovely complexity to the flavour. When you take it out of the oven it will slowly drop in size, but that is what creates the great texture so don't worry when it happens.
Flourless chocolate, hazelnut ricotta cake
250g caster sugar (divided into 150g and 100g)
1 tsp vanilla paste
zest 1/2 an orange
4 eggs separated
1/3 warm milk
240g hazelnut meal
either 20g grated dark chocolate or icing sugar to decorate
Preheat a fan forced oven to 160oC. Grease and line a 20cm baking tin.
Cream the butter, 150g of the sugar, vanilla and zest till light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.
In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa and milk to form a thick paste. Add to the butter mixture (note make sure your milk is only warm as it will help dissolve the cocoa but not too hot so that it melts the butter).
Add the hazelnut meal and mix well, then fold through the ricotta until all combined.
In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then beat in the remaining 100g of caster sugar until thick, glossy and hard peaks.
Fold the egg whites through the cake batter a third at a time. I do this by hand with a spatula carefully lifting and folding the mix so that you don't knock too much air out of the egg white.
Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and bake for 40-45 minutes until springy to touch. It may still look slightly wobbly in the tin but if the centre bounces back at the touch it is ready.
If you are using the chocolate, sprinkle over straight away so that it melts on the hot cake.
Allow to cool completely in its tin before transferring to a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
Serve cold from the fridge, dusted with icing sugar of using that option and with a good dollop of whipped cream.