Growing up in Italy, I was not used to seeing shelled nuts sold in stores: you had to buy in bulk and flex your muscles while maneuvering a nutcracker. Cracking the nuts was half the pleasure of eating them, especially around the Christmas table. At the end of an endless meal, the tablecloth strewn with mandarin peels and nut shells, we would keep on eating both out of inertia.
While I still possess a nutcracker, I haven’t used it in years. Even when buying in bulk, everything is already shelled, making nuts convenient to use at the drop of a hat, whether adding them to a salad, a stir-fry or a cheese platter.
Over the recent Passover holiday, when leavened goods cannot be eaten, I made a simple flourless walnut cake. Inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, this cake comes together in a jiffy, it is beyond moist and, served with whipped cream, sinful. But eaten with a cup of tea, or with coffee first thing in the morning, it’s even better.
4 Eggs, white and yolk separated
1 C unrefined sugar (220 g)
3 1/2 C walnut halves or pieces (350 g)
zest of one lemon
Pinch of salt
- Process the walnuts in a food processor until they are a fine crumbs consistency.
- Whip the yolks and the sugar in a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until pale and fluffy (it can also be done by hand).Transfer the yolk mixture to a large bowl and add the walnuts, zest and salt. Mix well.
- Whip the egg whites on high-speed until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula, gently fold them in to the walnut mixture in three separate additions, until well incorporated.
- Pour the batter in a 9”/20 cm springform pan lined with parchment, well greased with either butter or pan spray.
- Bake at 375F/190C for about 40 minutes. A toothpick inserted in the center should still have a few crumbs attached. Let the cake cool for a few minutes before releasing from the pan.