Finally, I've finished reading cover to cover the first of my Christmas cookbooks. My kids gave me lots of them and it's going to take me a while to get through them all. I began with A Platter of Figs by David Tanis, published in 2008. Tanis has worked with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in several capacities over the last 25 years. Right now, he spends half the year in Paris, where he writes and hosts a private dining club, and half the year in San Francisco, where he continues chef duties at Chez Panisse in collaboration with long-time colleague Jean-Pierre Moullé.
There are 24 menus in A Platter of Figs, six for each season. How best to explain David's attitude towards cooking? "Simple cooking meant to illuminate nature’s perfect simplicity" was a quote I read someplace. There are no long lists of ingredients, just simple recipes and fabulous flavors.
This hazelnut sponge cake was lovely. The hazelnuts are not ground finely, so there is a flavor-filled chewiness with each bite. I served it with a coffee-flavored sweetened whipped cream, but kept thinking I'd have loved some caramelized fruit with it. Maybe pears. But I contained myself and kept it simple.
Hazelnut Sponge Cake
From A Platter of Figs by David Tanis
1 pound shelled hazelnuts
8 large eggs, separated, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons cake flour, matzo meal or dry bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 400. Roast the hazelnuts on a baking sheet for 10 minutes until the skins blister and hazelnuts are toasted. Place them in a tea towel and rub them together to remove skins. When they are cool, coarsely chop them in a food processor.
Line a 10 inch spring form pan with a circle of parchment or butter and flour the pan. Set aside. Lower oven heat to 350.
Beat the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Add the zest, lemon juice, flour, salt and hazelnuts and mix well.
Beat the whites until stiff. Add 1/3 of them to the batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining whites.
Bake the cake in the 350 oven for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 325 and bake an additional 25 to 30 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
Cool completely on a rack before unmolding.
Serve with fresh fruit and slightly sweetened whipped cream or just some lightly sweetened coffee flavored whipped cream, which is what I did.