I once read a cookbook by a French pastry chef where he narrated how he made up new desserts in his dreams.
I don’t make up new recipes in my dreams, at least as far as I know. But during spells of insomnia, when I lie awake for hours until I start getting hungry, my brain naturally turns to food (better than worrying about deadlines) and I think of salads and cakes. Such is the story behind this recipe too. I thought of it during a long sleepless night in September and it was also the only thing that I accomplished the next day, sleep-deprived as I was. But the cake turned out so well, the day was surely not to be considered wasted.
Plums and hazelnuts are a very sound autumnal combination, of course, and this cake with the full-bodied flavors of whole-wheat and honey, would be good even if you skipped roasting the nuts and browning the butter. But taking the time to add these (simple enough) steps, will elevate the cake from everyday to sublime. The first cake we ate with the kids when they came home from school, but I also later served it as a dessert at a dinner party – it’s fancy enough for that. And if plum season is over where you live, know that it’s great with apples, too.
Plum and hazelnut brown butter cake
75 g (½ cup) hazelnuts
120 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour
75 g (½ cup) all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
120 g (½ cup) butter
160 g (½ cup) honey
125 ml (½ cup) yogurt
450 g (1 pound) plums , halved, stones removed, or apples, peeled, cored and cut into eights
1 tbsp cane sugar
Roast the hazelnuts in a heavy pan, watching them closely and shaking the pan often, until they’re golden and smell delicious. Wrap them in a tea-towel and rub vigorously to remove most of the skins (it does not matter if you don’t remove all). Grind the nuts in a hand held grinder (or a food processor – but in that case stop in time to avoid creating a nut butter).
In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients: ground hazelnuts, whole wheat and all-purpose flours, baking powder and cinnamon.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 F).
To make brown butter, cook the butter in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan, until nutty brown and smelling delicious. Stir often to encourage an even browning. Pour the butter into a large mixing bowl and let cool slightly. Add honey and stir to dissolve. Let cool to warm room temperature and whisk in the eggs (one by one) and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the batter into a buttered and floured baking pan (I used my much used tarte tatin dish of 24 cm (9,5 inches) in diameter, but a springform pan would also work). Arrange the plums on top, cut side up. Sprinkle with one tablespoon cane sugar. Bake until the top is golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean, about 35 – 40 minutes.