First time around these little cakes were an excellent wee case study on the art of perseverance. To summarise I managed to wreck two batches of ganache, accidentally make hazelnut butter as well as accidentally melting my cream up with melted chocolate that was too hot. Too much chocolate had been invested to give up so I kept on keeping on until I ended up with six actually pretty good looking baci cakes.
It is also the sign of a good baker (slash any reasonably intelligent anyone) to learn from one's mistakes so come round two I smashed these beauts out of the park.
I am really gutted I had to decorate V 2.0 of these wee cakes as I was running out the door Monday morning because they looked wonderfully everything that my originals were not. The ganache was so glossy in comparison with their grainy predecessors. Alas but when you have to get your ass out the door by 7am on a Monday morning, an extensive prop-involving cake photo shoot is really just not on the agenda. Hopefully you can deal with mainly pictures my OG cakes and a measly single picture of their superiors.
Want to avoid a ganache disaster? For those of you (like me) who sometimes just seem to have bad days with chocolate this is an almost fool proof method. Take some chocolate. Put it in a food processor. Blitz the crap out of it until it is is pretty much small pieces and dust. Place chocolate in a heat proof bowl. Take cream. Pop it in a mug. Microwave the mug until the cream is too hot to dip your finger into but also not boiling. If you accidentally boiled the cream and it didn't spill all over the microwave just let it sit for a couple of minutes to cool down. Pour hot but not too hot cream over the chocolate crumbs. Wait. Wait for a minute. With a spatula slowly stir the chocolate. Too quickly and the chocolate will be a dick and go grainy. Slowly stir it until all the cream is gone and it is smooth and glossy AF. Leave it. Do not touch it after this point. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. If you're having a bad chocolate day it is in your best interests to just not fiddle. It is hard I know. You can do it. Leave it to sit at room temperature for a couple of hours until firm but pipable. You can give it a quick stir up right before you pop it in a piping bag but other than that just leave as is.
This recipe calls for roasted hazelnuts. I happen to have a bag of pre roasted chopped hazelnuts which was handy because I hate the faff of roasting and rubbing off the skins. If you have whole raw hazelnuts you can roast them on a tray with baking paper at 180C for 5-10 minutes so that they smell wonderful and roasted. Then transfer them to a clean tea towel, fold it over and rub the hazelnuts between it pulling the skins off as you do so. Take the naked nuts and pop them in a food processor and grind to a sandy consistency. If you are povo (aren't we all?) you can half and half the hazelnuts with ground almond. You could go 100% almond but then you miss out on that tasty AF chocolate hazelnut combo. Up to you...
Actually I was going to write a wee note about the chocolate used in the cakes (rather than on them). I figure there is little point wasting really good dark chocolate on the batter for these cakes. Use a reasonable dark chocolate but don't fret if you didn't have to increase your credit card limit to purchase it. Dark cooking chocolate will suffice, save the good stuff for the ganache. I have added a few spoonfuls of cocoa into this recipe to help richen the flavour and darken the colour so she'll be right. You're welcome.
Chocolate Hazelnut Baci Cakes
Wildly adapted from Treats From Little and Friday by Kim Evans
Makes 6 Texan sized cakes or 8 wee loaves
160g dark cooking chocolate (middle of the road stuff will do)
200g ground hazelnut (see above for how-tos and how to sub in ground almond)
3 large eggs, separated
115g salted butter (because frankly who buys the spennier stuff at the supermarket?)
140g caster sugar (5/8ths of a cup...) or brown sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla (Shhh.. I used Hansells Vanilla essence... don't tell anyone it wasn't real vanilla)
30g dark cocoa (3 tablespoons)
30ml espresso (or very very strong black coffee - hey you could use instant - no judgement)
Appropriate tins, butter to grease and lots small pieces of baking paper
For the ganache
200g good quality dark chocolate
1/2 cup cream
Flowers, more chopped nuts, freeze dried fruit to decorate
This is kind of a long process. I would advise having lots of household chores to keep you occupied between steps so you are not tempted to rush and make a mess of everything like I did the first time around.
Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius on bake.
In a bain-marie (a heat proof bowl over a saucepan with a small amount of simmering water in it), melt the chocolate (the 160g portion) so that it becomes smooth and runny. Remove from heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
Next make your ganache by heating your cream in a heat proof bowl in the microwave. Heat it until it is hot but not so hot that you can't stick your finger in it. Chop up your chocolate (the 200g portion) finely (or whack it in the food processor) then tip it into the cream and swirl the cream around so that it covers the chocolate. Leave to sit for a minute before gently stirring through until the ganache is glossy; at this point leave it alone and walk away so that it doesn't split.
Cream together your butter and sugar until creamy and the sugar granules have pretty much dissolved. Mix in your vanilla and then your egg yolks one by one until fluffy and voluminous. Add in the cooled chocolate and mix until everything is brown and still fluffy. Scrape down the sides to get it all in.
Gently mix in your ground hazelnuts and espresso until combined nicely all the way through.
Take a fresh and clean bowl and whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Take a third of the egg white and dump it into the chocolate mix. Mix this round roughly to help loosen up the batter. Take the next third and fold it in gently. Take the final third and fold that lot in as well. You should end up with a nice and airy mixture. It is ok if there are still visible egg lumps. They'll sort themselves out in the oven. It is better to under mix then over mix.
Grease up either your Texan muffin pans or your mini loaf tin tray with plenty of butter. Don't be stingy. Next cut out squares that will cover the base of each cavity. A bit of overlap up the sides is encouraged. Divide the batter up between each cavity. These don't rise very much so fill them up until a few millimetres below the top.
Bake the Texan sized cakes for 20-25 minutes until a skewer only just comes out cleanish. Bake the loaves for 16-18 minutes until a skewer also comes out just cleanish. Leave to cool for 15 minutes before tipping out. You can run a knife around the edge of each cake or you can bang the tray firmly on the bench then place a cooling rack over top and flip out in one foul sweep. With any luck all that butter you used should allow them to slip right out.
Leave to fully cool before icing.
Transfer your lovely ganache into a piping bag and place nice big dollops on top of each cake. Sprinkle over some excess chopped nuts, a dusting of colourful freeze dried fruit pieces and a wee flower for luck.
Serve up to all your friends!