Yuzu and Hazelnut Torte

On occasion, life unloads a truckload of lemons on you and it sucks.  Trying to get a decent shot of this spectacular cake in all its glory was just such an exercise in total suckage.

Total photography fail.

But on the upside … a TOTAL TORTE SUCCESS.

Plenty of citrus goodness here but no lemons.  The inspiration for this cake was my extreme need to make yuzu curd.  Yes, again.  I really love yuzu curd.  Who doesn’t love yuzu curd?  Never tasted yuzu?  Get out there, get some juice.  Make the curd.  It will be your favourite.  Guaranteed.  So divine it deserves its own temple.

This time I wanted to make an dessert torte and use the curd as the central theme around which the cake’s flavours and textures would revolve.  I had a few very fruitful exchanges with  a like-minded friend of mine, Markus.  Markus is a very talented pastry chef, who undoubtedly only humours me because of our shared fascination for, and love of fine chocolate.  I’m very fortunate to have him to bounce ideas around with, even during late night sessions on Facebook.

The idea of a hazelnut dacquoise layer was Markus’ suggestion … a lovely light, chewy, nutty meringue.  Perfect.  Brilliant.   As was the insistence of a chocolate note, although frankly, there was always going to be chocolate, wasn’t there?  I mean, hello fellow cacao-bloods … 😀  After much deliberation on my part, a smooth ganache seemed the best way to go.  Lucky, because that turned out to be rather an inspired thought.  A little nougatine crunch stayed on theme and has a little extra surprise zing from the yuzu zest.

I’m really proud of this one.  All the elements are perfect and the sum is so much greater than the individual parts.

I’d actually pay money for this, if it were sold in a patisserie.   Wow.  Yeah.

Which probably gives you some idea of my distress at not having a full on view of the cake in its uncut glory.  The photos just don’t do this cake any kind of justice.  The best views that show the wonderful colour and texture of the ganache, the fluffiness of the yuzu crème, and chewy, slightly crunchy lightness of the dacquoise are the photos I managed to take AFTER we had cut the cake.  Better lighting the next day.  Today.  Duh.  But that’s OK.  You get to see the texture of all the layers this way.  That’s a good thing.

Next time I make this I am pulling out all stops to get a great photo because it deserves it.    If the gods smile upon me, I shall update this post with a killer pic.  In the meantime, I’ve got me one killer cake to eat.  Plus I had so much fun making this.  It was utter bliss.  Woohoo!

I used Valrhona Araguani couverture for the ganache.  It’s smooth, nutty flavour notes are a great contrast to the tang of the yuzu crème and a good match for the hazelnut dacquoise.  Stays on theme, you might say.  Use any really good smooth nutty flavoured couverture of at least 64% – 72%.  Nothing too astringent, or fruity, or overly bitter.  This is a lovely shiny delicious ganache.  It doesn’t set hard, just thick enough to give a textural contrast to the yuzu crème.

You can prepare the yuzu curd in advance and store it, covered, in the refrigerator.  Warning: put it at the back of the fridge, behind everything, or you’ll be tempted to eat it all before you make the cake!  Seriously.  It’s THAT good.

The nougatine can also be prepared in advance and stored, in an airtight container, at room temperature.  You’re better off hiding this somewhere so you will not be tempted to eat it all 😀

I made the dacquoise the day before so all I had to do on the day was make the crème and the ganache and assemble the torte.  It keeps well, airtight, on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator or in a cool, dry spot at room temperature (if storing for less than 24 hours).

I resisted the temptation to crush up some of the nougatine and have a layer of nougatine crunch between the ganache and yuzu crème layers.  I am so glad I did.  There’s always the temptation to think that more is more.  Not here.  It might sound more funky or clever, but it really isn’t.  The finished torte has a lot of textural and flavour variation across the layers without that added layer between the ganache and crème – you can appreciate them better with a little of the nougatine on top and on the side.

Although not intentional, this torte is also gluten and wheat free.  How fabulous is that?

You can scale this recipe up to make several cakes or a number of individual cakes.

Makes 1 x 20cm torte (serves 8 – 10)

Hazelnut Dacquoise
125 grams hazelnuts
125 grams icing sugar
110 grams egg whites, at room temperature
30 grams sugar

Nougatine Crunch
50 grams hazelnuts
100 grams sugar
50 grams liquid glucose
1 teaspoon ground yuzu powder* or 3 teaspoons fresh yuzu zest (optional)

*Yuzu powder is just dried yuzu zest ground up into a coarse powder.  It is sold in Japanese grocery shops.  Make sure to buy only the plain one, not spiced for savoury dishes.  It might contain glucose.

Yuzu Curd Crème
1 recipe Yuzu Curd (prepared in advance)
300 millilitres double cream
4 grams gold strength gelatine leaves (2 leaves)

Araguani Ganache
160 grams Valrhona Araguani couverture
pinch Fleur de Sel de Guérande
200 millilitres pure cream (45% fat)
85 millilitres milk
40 grams unsalted butter, cubed and softened

To make the dacquoise
Preheat oven to 180°C.  Line a baking tray with baking paper or a silpat sheet.  Line a 20cm ring with baking paper.  Set aside.

Roast hazelnuts on a lined tray for about 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and place in a clean tea towel and rub vigorously to remove as much of the skins as possible,  It won’t all come off and that is perfectly fine.  In fact, it provides some colour and contrast.  Set the hazelnuts to cool slightly.  When cooled, grind them in a food processor until fine.

Raise the oven temperature to 200°C.

Sift together the ground hazelnuts and icing sugar to remove any lumps.  Place in a bowl.  There will be some small pieces of hazelnut left.  That is OK.  Just add them to the nut mixture.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add the sugar and continue to whisk until you achieve stiff peaks.  Gently fold the nut and sugar mixture into the egg whites.  Pipe or pour the mixture into the baking ring.  If piping use a large, plain tip.  Smooth the top with an offset spatula if pouring the mixture into the ring.

Bake at 200°C for about 8 – 10 minutes until risen slightly and starting to colour.  The top will form a thin crisp layer.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.  The dacquoise will sink slightly as it cools but not much.  It should be fairly level.

To make the nougatine
Preheat oven to 180°C.  Lightly roast the hazelnuts until golden, for about 8 minutes.  Remove from the oven and rub off the skins, as per the instructions above.  When cooled, chop coarsely in a food processor or with a sharp knife.

Line a tray with a silpat sheet or non-stick baking paper.  Set aside.  Have the hazelnuts and yuzu powder, if using, ready as you prepare the caramel.

Place the sugar and glucose in a heavy-based saucepan, over a low heat.  This is a dry caramel, so don’t be tempted to stir the sugar vigorously.  As the sugar melts, just move the sugar and glucose gently over the base of the pan, to prevent it sticking and burning.  I use a small heat-proof silicon spatula as the sugar is less prone to sticking to the spatula.  Keep a watch over it as the sugar melts and starts to bubble.  It will take a while to melt completely and colour, but when it does start to colour it will do so quickly.  Cook until a golden amber colour.

At this point, remove from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts and yuzu powder, all at once.  Pour on to the lined tray.  Spread the nougatine out and flatten it with an offset spatula or flat blade knife.  Work quickly as the nougatine will set and harden very fast.  Set aside to cool.  It should be really shiny.  You can spread it out quite thinly although I’ve left it a little bit thicker here, just because I’m not using it for layering, and it is less fragile.  I break it up into pieces, when cold, to use as decoration and chop some for decoration.  I pulverised it to decorate the top of the cake as a border over the ganache, but it would also be lovely if chopped more coarsely.  I used a few broken pieces for decoration.  Leftovers … well, they’re just delicious *shuffles off to sneak a piece* 🙂

Nougatine Crunch ~ with hazelnut and yuzu zest

To make the yuzu curd crème and assemble
Place the hazelnut dacquoise on a serving plate.  Place the 20cm baking ring you used to make the dacquoise around the dacquoise disk.  I line the baking ring with a strip of clear acetate.  This prevents the filling from sticking to the ring and makes removal of the ring very easy.  Much better for presentation if making this for a special occasion.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yuzu curd and cream until thickened and light.  Soak the gelatine leaves in a little cold water until softened.  Squeeze out excess moisture from the gelatine and place in a small heat-proof bowl, over simmering water.  Stir until completely melted.  Remove from the heat and let cool but not set.  Scoop a couple of tablespoons of the curd cream into the gelatine and mix well.  Add this to the curd crème and whisk in lightly.  Pour the curd crème into the lined mould over the dacquoise.  Smooth the top until level.  Cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator to set.

Yuzu Curd – sunshine in a jar

To make the ganache
Chop the couverture into small, even-sized pieces and place into a glass bowl.  I prefer to use glass or Pyrex bowls for this as they help the ganache keep its temper for longer.  Add the fleur de sel, if using.

Place the cream and milk into a saucepan and bring just to the boil.  Remove from the heat and pour evenly over the couverture.  Let it sit for a few minutes.  Gently stir the ganache, starting from the middle.  Just move the chocolate around gently until completely melted and the ganache is smooth.  You do not want to agitate the ganache and create bubbles as this will ruin the finished look of the ganache layer.

When smooth, add the cubes of butter in two batches and stir until melted and smooth.  If you see any bubbles, tap the bowl on the bench a couple of times.  Let the ganache cool until room temperature.

Pour the ganache over the curd crème layer ensuring a smooth level top.  Cover again and refrigerate until the ganache sets.

When set, sprinkle some of the finely chopped or pulverised nougatine around the edge of the ganache layer, and decorate with a few pieces of nougatine on top, if desired.

Serve each slice with a piece or two of nougatine … or three … 🙂