Another Pierre Hermé recipe, you say? Sure! Why the heck not! I love the man and its no secret! This recipe comes from Desserts by Pierre Hermé (page 173), another favorite book I reach for often when looking to bake something sweet, delectable and beautiful to look at.
"Like so many of Pierre' loaf cakes, this one's a fooler. It looks like a plain, grandmotherly chocolate loaf, but when you cut into it, you discover it's moist, dense, completely chocolaty, and chockful of chewables: chunks of bittersweet chocolate and lots of large pieces of almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. With a base of almond paste and a finish of melted butter, it's a good keeper--you could nibble on this from Monday to Friday. In fact, you'll find that a day under wraps will give the flavors a chance to blend." Dorie Greenspan
"When I wanted to create a chocolate loaf cake, I wanted a vrai chocolate cake, a true chocolate cake made with true chocolate, not just cocoa powder. I put the large pieces of chocolate into the batter to underscore the cake's deep chocolate flavor." Pierre Hermé
Pierre Hermé Chocolate Nut Loaf
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
7 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon double acting baking powder
2/3 cup sugar
5 ounces almond paste
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup whole milk
1/2 cup hazelnuts, toasted, skinned and coarsely chopped
1/3 blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup skinned pistachios, coarsely chopped
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably Valrhona Manjari), cut into small chunks
1 stick plus 5 tablespoons (6 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1-Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare an insulating layer for the cake by stacking two baking sheets, one on top of the other, or use an insulated (air cushioned) baking sheet. Butter a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and set aside.
2-Sift together the flour, cocoa and baking powder and set this mixture aside.
3-Put the sugar and almond paste in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium speed until the almond paste breaks up and blends with the sugar; the mixture will look sandy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for about two minutes after each addition. Replace the paddle with the whisk attachment, increase the mixer speed to high, and beat for 8 to 10 minutes until the ingredients have formed an emulsion--the batter will look like mayonnaise and the whisk will leave tracks as it spins.
4-Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the milk, mixing until combined, then add the sifted dry ingredients. Continue beating on low until the mixture is homogeneous.
5-Working with a large rubber spatula, fold in the hazelnuts, followed by the almonds, pistachios, and chocolate. Gently fold in the melted butter.
6-Turn the batter into the prepared pan and level to top. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a slender knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. (The cake will crack as it bakes. If you want to help it crack more evenly than it might by chance, wait until the cake just starts to develop a crust, at about the 20 minute mark, then run a pastry scraper dipped in melted butter lengthwise down the center of the cake.) Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool on a rack for 10 minutes before unmolding. Invert the cake so that it's right side up and cool to room temperature on the rack. The cake can be served now, although it's best to wrap in a double thickness of plastic wrap and allow it to "ripen" for a day before cutting it into very thin slices and serving.
*Keeping: Wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature, the cake will remain moist for at least 5 days; wrapped airtight, it will keep in the freezer for a month.