The Butter Is Brown, but Not the Cake: Hazelnut Brown Butter Torte with Bittersweet Chocolate

I have been meaning to try Karen Hatfield's Hazelnut Brown Butter Tart with Bittersweet Chocolate since I saw the recipe in the Los Angeles Times last fall, accompanying an article titled, "Five favorites from L.A.'s best bakers."

This torte is very easy to make. You sift together powdered sugar, almond flour, cake flour, and salt; add egg whites; and mix in hazelnut oil and browned butter. You pour the batter into a buttered and parchment-lined pan, and sprinkle the top with toasted chopped hazelnuts, bittersweet chocolate (I used dark chocolate chips), and sugar (I used coarse sugar).
You bake the torte until it puffed and browned on top. I was seriously misled by the photo the L.A. Times included with the recipe. I was expecting the torte to be chocolate colored -- even though I know that's not rational, since there isn't any chocolate in the batter except for what's sprinkled on top. My torte was golden colored on top, and pale inside.

This torte was absolutely divine. The cake has a very tight crumb and is super soft and moist. My favorite parts were the crunchy hazelnuts and the layer of sugar on top. The entire top surface of the torte was covered in coarse sugar, and it turned into a wonderful crunchy coating in the oven. As for the chocolate, I think the torte would be fine without it. The browned butter adds a nice nutiness, and the flavor profile overall was a little sweet -- but the sweetness is lovely. I served this torte at a dinner where I also served a Fyrstekake Almond Tart, and the tasters were evenly split on which they preferred. My preference between the two was for the the brown butter torte.

I loved this torte so much that I made it again about a week later, and I found the perfect companion recipe to make at the same time: Hazelnut Gâteau Breton. This torte requires seven egg whites, and the Brittany cake requires seven egg yolks. When I took both to the office, this torte was more popular than the Brittany cake. I think both are fantastic, but I give the edge to this torte, which is truly special.

Recipe: "Hazelnut Brown Butter Tart with Bittersweet Chocolate" by Karen Hatfield, printed in the September 21, 2103 Los Angeles Times.

Previous Post:"Stoked to Have Yolks: Hazelnut Gâteau Breton," September 21, 2012.


Louise said…
That doesn't look anything like the LA Times photo, but I'm glad you loved the cake. I've had that on my "to bake" list too. It seems like a Fall recipe. I'll have to get some hazelnut oil on my next trip to the Mennonite store. Maybe, like you suggest, I'll skip the chocolate and add some roasted pears or apples. Much as I love chocolate, there are other things that shine in desserts too.