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Hazelnut Cake (Torta di Nocciola)

Hazelnut Cake (Torta di Nocciola)
The simple cake, which is traditional in Italys Piedmont, is made with only the whites of the eggs and contains no butter; thus the pure flavor of the hazelnuts comes through. It is delicious served with glasses of Moscato dAsti, a lightly sparkling dessert wine that boasts a lovely floral aroma.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups hazelnuts
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 8 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan with 3-inch sides. Dust the pan with flour and tap out the excess.

In a food processor, combine the nuts with 1/2 cup of the sugar and process to chop finely. Add the flour and pulse to blend. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, using an electric mixer set on low speed, beat together the egg whites and salt until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually beat in the remaining 3/4 cup sugar until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and beat until stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes more.

Using a rubber spatula, fold about one-third of the egg whites into the hazelnut mixture to lighten it. Gradually fold in the remaining whites just until no white streaks remain. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Release and remove the pan sides and slide the cake off the base onto the rack. Let cool completely before serving. Serves 8.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Savoring Series, Savoring Italy, by Michele Scicolone (Time-Life Books, 1999).