Chestnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache, Naturally Gluten-Free

I love chestnut-flavored desserts (a Korean bakery in Honolulu makes the best chestnut balls/cookies that I used to love back when I ate gluten) and was totally thrilled when I accidentally stumbled on a bag of cooked chestnuts at a specialty food store.  Finding chestnuts is really the hardest part of this recipe; it’s a shame they aren’t more popular in the U.S.

But if you’re not able to find chestnuts, feel free to substitute another nut flour; the book that served as the inspiration for this recipe has several variations using almond, walnut, and even coconut flour.  I also want to note that although I made this into a rather decadent layered cake, the cake would be equally amazing plain with just a dollop of whipped cream.

In fact, if you went through the trouble of tracking down chestnuts, it’s nice to allow the chestnut flavor to take center stage, rather than playing second fiddle to the chocolate.  If you go that route, it would make an amazing breakfast cake.  Or feel free to just do the top layer of ganache and skip the whipped filling.  I’m pretty sure you’ll love it anyway you make it.

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Chestnut Cake with Chocolate Ganache

Ingredients:

* 6 extra large eggs, separated
* 2/3 cups sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
* 1 2/3 cup ground chestnuts
* butter, for greasing pan
* rice flour, for dusting pan

Ganache Topping:
* 2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup heavy cream

Ganache Filling (Optional):
* 2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
* 1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:

Prepare the whipped ganache filling, if using, by putting 2/3 cups chocolate chips into a large bow. Put 1/2 cup of heavy cream in a microwave-safe glass or mug and microwave until it just begins to simmer; watch carefully to make sure the cream doesn't boil over. Pour over the chocolate chips and let stand for a couple minutes and then stir until the mixture is smooth. Allow the mixture to come to room temperature, about 2 hours (you can speed this up by putting it in the fridge after it has cooled slightly). Using an electric mixer, whisk on high for several minutes until light and fluffy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch" springform or cake pan and generously dust with rice flour. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until creamy. Add the chestnut flour and mix well.

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the lemon juice until firm and creamy. Add about 1/4 of the egg white mixture to the hazelnut mixture and thoroughly combine to lighten. Carefully fold in the remaining egg whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the cake begins to shrink from the rim of the pan, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and let cool.

If making a layer cake, cut the cake horizontally into two layers. Spread with the bottom layer with whipped ganache filling and the place the other cake layer on top.

Prepare the ganache by putting 2/3 cup chocolate chips in a medium bowl. Put 1/2 cup heavy cream in a microwavable-safe glass or mug and microwave until it just begins to simmer; watch carefully to make sure the cream doesn't boil over. Pour the cream over the chocolate chips and let stand for a couple minutes. Stir until smooth, let cool slightly. Spread the ganache over the top and sides of the cake and let the cake cool, allowing the glaze to harden.

Borju Porkolt- Hungarian Veal Paprika Stew

After a number of complicated, multi-step recipes, this veal stew was a total breeze and a welcome change of pace.  Nothing complicated or fancy going on here- just a simple combination of veal, vegetables and spices simmered until tender.

In fact, the hardest thing about this stew was deciding what to put in it.  Some people use green peppers and tomatoes while others omit one or both.  I had both on hand so I decided to use them both and it was a nice way to lighten a predominantly meat stew.  Serve with rice, noodles, or Hungarian dumplings.

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Veal Paprika Stew

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

* 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
* 2 medium onions, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 2 pounds veal shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
* 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
* 2 Tablespoons paprika
* 1 teaspoon cayenne
* 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes in their juice, pureed in a blender or food processor
* approximately 1 1/2 cups beef broth
* salt and pepper
* sour cream, for garnish (optional)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to brown.  Add the veal and cook until the meat is browned.

Add the bell peppers, paprika and cayenne and stir until combined. Add the pureed tomatoes and just enough beef broth to cover the meat.  Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, until the meat is tender, about one hour.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Place in individual serving bowls and top with sour cream, if desired.

Toasted Hazelnut Fudge Cake with Mocha Glaze, Naturally Gluten-Free

As I sat down to do this write up and compared my notes to the original recipe, I realized that I unintentionally made several major changes.  In a rush to beat sundown, I suppose I wasn’t paying very close attention and my mind read pounds as cups.  Oops.

I have no idea what this dessert would have been like had I stayed true to the original recipe (except that it would have a whole lot more butter and sugar) but I was pretty pleased with how my version turned out.  It’s a three-layered rich and fudgy flourless cake, although the mocha glaze binds the cake together, making the layers almost indistinguishable but allowing the mocha flavor to permeate the entire cake.

I made the cake in a 12-inch by 17-inch baking sheet, but if I were to do it again, I’d make it in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan instead;  I think it’d be nice to have a thicker cake, although I’ll warn you that a little sliver packs a big punch, flavor-wise and probably calorie-wise as well.  I wrote the recipe below with the change.

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Roasted Hazelnut Fudge Cake with Mocha Glaze

Ingredients:

Cake:
* 3/4 cup hazelnuts, plus extra for garnish
* 1-1/3 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
* 8 Tablespoons butter (1 stick)
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 6 egg whites
* pinch of salt
* butter, for greasing pan
* rice flour, for flouring pan

Mocha Filling:
* 1/2 cup sugar
* 1/4 cup very strong coffee
* 2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
* 6 Tablespoons butter
* 6 egg yolks

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a a baking sheet. Bake until they begin to smell fragrant, and their skins are brown and split, about 7-10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Rub the nuts in a clean kitchen towel; the skins will come off (a small amount of skin remaining on the nuts is normal. I also like to leave a couple with skins on for garnish). Using a blender or food processor grind the nuts into hazelnut flour. Increase oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Prepare the cake by softening 1 1/3 cups of chocolate chips in a double boiler and allow to cool slightly. Using an electric mixer, whip the stick of butter with the 1/2 cup of sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in the melted chocolate and hazelnut flour and stir thoroughly to combine.

Using clean beaters, whip the egg whites with a punch of salt until very stiff. Add about a quarter of the egg white to the chocolate hazelnut mixture to lighten and mix well. Gently but thoroughly fold in the remaining egg whites.

Thoroughly butter a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan and generously dust with rice flour. Pour in the mixture and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.

Meanwhile make the mocha glaze by combining 1/2 cup of sugar and coffee in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until syrupy. Let cool slightly. Mix in 2/3 cup of chocolate chips and and 6 Tablespoons of butter and stir until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. While stirring, add the egg yolks in one at a time. Keep stirring until the filling thickens. Let cool.

Cut the cake into 3 pieces of equal size (9-inch by 4 1/3-inch). Place bottom layer on a piece of wax paper and slather with some mocha glaze. Place another piece of the torte on top and place more glaze on top. Top with the final piece of torte and spread the remaining glaze over the top and sides of the torte. Sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

Gomba Leves- Hungarian Mushroom Soup

This Hungarian mushroom soup is smoky, creamy and, oddly enough, meaty; even though the soup is vegetarian the mushrooms add a definite meatiness to the soup.  Although you start with a whole pound of mushrooms, they cook down a significant amount so if you’d like plenty of leftovers I suggest doubling the recipe.

When I was reading about Hungarian food online, people stressed again and again how much better Hungarian paprika is than the standard stuff you’d find in your supermarket spice aisle.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to find any, but the soup was great even without it.  I also recommend adding a bit of smoked paprika if you have it on hand; it definitely added another level of flavor.  If you’d like to add some heat, add cayenne to taste.

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Hungarian Mushroom Soup

Yield: 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main meal

Ingredients:

* 1 Tablespoon butter
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 1 pound button mushrooms
* 2 Tablespoons roughly chopped fresh dill, plus extra for garnish
* 2 teaspoons paprika
* 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
* 1 teaspoon lemon juice
* 1 cup beef, chicken, or vegetable broth
* 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
* 1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature, plus extra for garnish
* 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
* 2 Tablespoons water
* salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until the onions begin to brown. Add the mushrooms, dill and paprika. Stir well, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the lemon juice and mix well.

Add the broth, cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low. Add the milk and stir well. Whisk in the sour cream and heat gently until soup is hot. Make a cornstarch slurry with the cornstarch and water, making sure there are no lumps. Add to the soup and stir well. Continue to cook over low heat for a couple minutes, until the soup has thickened slightly.

Salt and pepper to taste. Pour into individual bowls and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh dill, if desired.