Saturday, January 23, 2010

Le Progrès

Le Progrès
A Julia Child Almond Hazelnut cake, with basically no starch.

"Ye shall no more give the people flour to make cake, but the tale of the cakes, which they did make heretofore, ye shall lay upon them; ye shall not diminish ought thereof."

For Christ Church / Trinity Reformed Winter Feast

Unlike most cakes, which use flour to hold the spices and any nuts or fruit, this one uses sweetened meringue to suspend almonds and hazelnuts. The filling is a maple butter cream, with ground almond brittle, and the frosting is Nutella.

The cake took a very long time to make, though if I had had a bigger cookie sheet, or if I had made the butter cream it would have gone much faster. I didn't get to taste the final product (though I heard it was delicious) but I did get to try all the parts, each of which was very nutty, very layered, and absolutely delicious. If you need something fast, this isn't the cake to make. But if you have time, and want something light, nutty, and with a delicious layered flavor, make this one. And it's fun to make a cake with basically no starch.

Cake Prep:

Almonds, blanched for a minute, ready for pealing.

Peeled almonds

Almond peels.

To peel the almonds, you squeeze the blanched almonds, and the the pop out of their skin.  Sometimes a little violently.

Dried almonds.

Ground almonds on the left, hazelnuts on the right.

A baking sheet, with a circle drawn out as a boundary for the cake.


Whipping up the meringue.

After whipping to hard peaks, I folded in the nuts,

spread it out in an eight inch circle on a baking sheet,

And baked it at 250 for about 50 minutes.  (I made three of these layers.  Because I don't have large enough cookie trays, I had to bake two, and then the third separately.)

A finished layer, cooling.

When you bake meringue at a low temperature for an extended period of time like this, it is very light airy, but chewy, with a little crunch.  A perfect method for showing off the flavor of the nuts.  The flavor is distinctly nutty, but light and layered.  (And of course, there's loads of sugar in the meringue, so it's also very sweet.)


The filling (between the three layers of baked meringue) was a maple butter cream, with ground almond brittle in it.  To make the almond brittle, add toasted almonds to hot caramel, and then let it harden.  The butter cream is Crème Anglaise with three sticks of butter melted into it.  Other than burning the caramel the first time, and nearly burning the almonds this was straight forward.  The frosting is Nutella with a little of the extra butter cream mixed in to make it spreadable.  The sides were covered with chopped almonds.

Crème Anglaise

In conclusion, I'd definitely make this cake again.  But, I need to set aside plenty of time for baking.  Also, I was confused about how many nuts were needed, and the cake would have been much easier if I had had them all ready when I made the meringue, that way I could have made the almond brittle and the butter cream on the stove top while the meringues were in the oven.

I'd post a recipe, but 1) I think it's copyrighted, and 2) it is about three pages long.  It's the last cake from the cake section in Volume 2 of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

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