The cream topping is a Grappa-Mascarpone Cream and is simply delicious, however with these cakes good old cool whip will work too. Grappa is an Italian grape based brandy made from the left over grape skins after wine making. Italians typically drink grappa after a heavy meal to help with digestion and they will even add it to their espresso. Grappa like wine is only as good as the grapes it is made from and I will say it does not smell very appetizing in the bottle. However, in the cream it give it just the right edge it is good. See you learn something new everyday and for those of you wondering no I didn't do shots of this straight from the bottle, I swear!). So lets start with the Grappa Cream and again you can skip this and use your own favorite whipped cream topping.
Here are the players:
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 3/4 c Mascarpone
- 1 teaspoon grappa
This is super simple so I only really got to take one picture of the cream in progress.
First whip that cream with the sugar until it forms soft peaks. Next in another bowl gently
with a rubber spatula mix the mascarpone just to loosen it up and be gentle this stuff is rich and mixes very easily. Add in the grappa to the mascarpone and then fold in the whipped cream and sugar mixture. Mmmm doesn't it look delicious!
Thats it ! Your done. Try to keep your fingers out of it and put it in a covered container to chill until you are ready to serve. I like easy:)
So now onto the star of the show the Hazelnut Baby Loaves
Here are the players
Now I must say here in this picture you see the "de-skinned hazelnuts" If you can find hazelnuts already de-skinned, buy umm. I unfortunately could only find the ones with the skin on, but fortunately Julia tells us just how to remedy that. If you are lucky enough to have de-skinned hazelnuts then skip this next step.
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts peeled
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 2/3 cup flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 cup creme fraiche (you can substitute heavy cream here)
- 1 stick butter (no substitute use the real thing, this is the good fat in your diet my friends) make sure it is at room temp
- 2 large eggs also at room temp
- A smal amount of melted butter for greasing the pans and you will need 8 mini loaf pans which you can get the foil ones right at the grocery store at 5 to a pack.
So lets get to skinning those nuts! That didn't come out right but you know what I mean.
Bring about 2 cups of water to boil on the stove. Once boiling add 3 tablespoons baking soda (not powder) and this is an interesting effect if fizzes all over the place including my clean stovetop:(
Throw in the nuts and boil for about 3 to 5 minutes until you see the water turn blackish
See that spatter on the side of the pan, I probably should have used a bigger pan because that stuff was all over my cooktop too:(
So do a little test when you think they are ready, take one out and plop (don't you love that official culinary term) it in a bowl of cold water, like so.
Rub gently and that skin should just slide right off. It is the baking soda bath that makes them ready to jump right out of their skin!
See how pretty they are bare naked;)
So next go ahead and melt about 2 tablespoons of butter and take a pastry brush and brush it all over the mini loaf pans. Then dust each pan with a little flour, just tap out the excess, they are ready to be filled.
Look at umm all lined up so pretty:)
So next grab them naked hazelnuts and put them in a food processor (I have a very little one) with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Now if you do not have a food processor you can use a chopper (like my handy dandy pampered chef chopper) of any kind. You need them finely ground but you need to be careful not to overdo it or you will have hazelnut butter.
See finely ground in my little Cuisinart Mini Prep (now that don't make this little guy anymore but they have similar ones)
So take your finely ground naked hazelnuts (I just like saying naked hazelnuts I'll try to resist I promise)
mix them in a bowl with the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside.
In another bowl mix together the creme fraiche (or heavy cream) and the almond extract together until blended. Now in yet another bowl (ok I never said you wouldn't have dishes to do right) with your mixer beat on medium high the butter and the remaining sugar until light fluffy and pale about 3-5 minutes with a standing mixer or 6-8 with a handheld mixer.
See creamy, pale and ready!
Next fold in the dry ingredients alternating with the cream (split it into 3 dry additions and two cream additions) The batter will be thick!
Now hold yourself back try not to eat it straight out of the bowl cause trust me you will want to:)
Divide the wonderful smelling and tasting batter among the prepared pans filling them about half way to two thirds of the way full. Tap the pans against the counter to settle the batter. Place the pans on a cookie sheet and back for about 30 minutes. Insert toothpick in center of cake to test for doneness..
As soon as they are done baking turn them immediately out onto a rack flip them right side up and let them cool.
Aren't they beautiful!
Serve these babies sliced and plop some of that awesome cream on top it is wonderful. Enjoy!