Nutella and Clotted Cream Tart

I confess I’ve been quite distracted lately. Oh the stresses of a house move! Piles of cookbooks, scattered on the carpet, and a disconcerting realisation of just how much bakeware I own. Driving hours down motorways, finding a parking spot in a maze of “permit-holder only” streets. Knowing I won’t be getting my own until reams of paperwork have been filled, signed and stamped.

This is one of the last things I baked before the move.

A sheet of vanilla-scented shortcrust pastry, forgotten in the freezer. A jar of nutella, sneaky spoonfuls taken out. Clotted cream, left behind from scone-making. Toasted hazelnuts, waiting in a glass jar.

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Let’s say this was a success story in the use of leftover ingredients again.

The tart is a riff on a bakewell tart, but nutella takes the place of jam, and I’ve made a vanilla scented sponge using clotted cream in the place of butter. Fact: clotted cream is a fab butter substitute, and no softening required! Next time I think I would add ground hazelnuts to the cake batter for even more hazelnutty flavour, and drizzle some melted chocolate over the top.

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Nutella and Clotted Cream Tart

  • shortcrust pastry to line 25cm tart tin
  • 2 tbsp nutella
  • 120g clotted cream
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 125g self raising flour
  • hazelnuts, to decorate

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line the tart tin with shortcrust pastry and bake for around 20 minutes until lightly coloured. Spread the base of the tart with nutella and set to one side.

Beat the clotted cream, sugar, eggs, vanilla and flour together into a smooth batter. Spoon over the nutella and smooth the surface. Decorate the top with hazelnuts. Bake for 25 minutes or until the top is springy. Leave to cool and serve warm or cold.

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Lots of goodbyes this week and adieus to friends, family, faithful running routes, local cats and the garden! I’ll be back.

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Hazelnut Butter and Milk Chocolate Cookies

Imagine those delicious chocolate pralines, the ones that always disappear first in any luxury chocolate selection box. Then imagine them transformed into a crispy, chewy, nutty cookie, generously studded with moreish, melting chunks of milky chocolate.

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As well as a lot of chocolate, there’s quite a cookie theme going on this month. These were inspired by the peanut butter cookies I made last year. I had a big stash of hazelnuts left over from 2014, so I got out my mini-blender, and blasted a bag of roasted nuts into a nut butter, ready to make into something to nibble on.

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The batter for the cookie dough was quick and easy to make. I mixed it up after dinner, then popped the mixing bowl in the fridge to rest overnight. The next day, I scooped out the dough, and hey presto! Freshly baked cookies.

I mixed in milk chocolate chips, but you could easily go with dark chocolate, or even more hazelnuts to ramp up the nutty flavours even more.

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Hazelnut Butter and Milk Chocolate Cookies

Adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

Makes 10-12 cookies

  • 110g lightly salted butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 90g light brown sugar
  • 120g hazelnut butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 170g plain flour
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 100g milk chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 170˚C.

Beat the butters and sugars together, then add the egg and vanilla extract. Finally beat in the flours, bicarbonate of soda, and the chocolate chips.

Use an ice-cream scoop to transfer balls of cookie dough onto 2-3 baking trays. Keep plenty of space between each cookie as they will spread! Bake in the oven for approximately 12 minutes. Leave to cool before transferring onto a cooling rack.

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Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

Gently crackly, with nuggets of fiery ginger to settle the post-indulgence stomach, and a sprinkling of hazelnuts, for their warming golden flavour notes.

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These hazelnut and ginger brownies are warmly indulgent, yet full of bright flavours. Perfect for this time of year. Whatever some people say about January resolutions, and diets, I think chocolate should have no part in that. Eat plenty, and counteract those post-Christmas blues.

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January a sad month? Nah. Let’s make it Chocolate Month instead?

Hazelnut and Crystallised Ginger Brownies

  • 100g butter
  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 heaped tbsp cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 heaped tbsp flour
  • handful crystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces
  • handful of toasted hazelnuts, chopped roughly

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bain-marie until totally melted and liquid. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, mix in the sugar and eggs, followed by the cocoa powder and flour. Then add the ginger and hazelnuts. Bake in a lined square tin for around 25 minutes until the top is just set. Leave to cool down, then cut into squares.

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Triple Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

This is just a quickie post, with a phone picture too, but they were so tasty I couldn’t miss them off the blog. I made them as a way of using up some spare ingredients from the Nutella Torrone, but it’s easily tasty enough to be worth making even if you don’t happen to have the ingredients handy anyway!

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It’s a sticky, gooey sort of brownie, with that crispy sugary top, and is sure to go down well with everybody concerned, and you can play around with all the ingredient quantities too – the recipe is pretty flexible! It’s so easy that you can bung all the ingredients in one saucepan too, for minimal washing up. This brownie absolutely makes up for all the stress I had with the pâte sucrée of my previous post! Anyone else have those times too?

Triple Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownies

Makes 16 pieces

  • 100g butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 65g dark chocolate
  • 60g milk chocolate
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 80g plain flour
  • 20g ground almonds
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 100g roasted skinned hazelnuts, chopped roughly
  • 100g nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
  • 50g milk chocolate, chopped into pieces
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped into pieces

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Line a brownie tin with baking paper.

Put into a saucepan the butter, sugar, 65g dark chocolate, 60g milk chocolate, and golden syrup. Heat gently until all melted together. Set aside to cool.

When cooled, stir into the chocolate mixture 2 eggs, and then follow with flour, ground almonds, baking powder and cocoa powder. Then stir into this brownie mixture most of the chopped nuts and chocolate, reserving some for sprinkling on top. Pour the brownie mixture into the baking tin and smooth.

Next dollop spoonfuls of chocolate hazelnut spread over the surface of the brownie and use a knife to gently swirl into the mixture. Finish off with a sprinkling of chocolate and finely chopped hazelnuts. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until no longer wobbly, and leave to cool completely before cutting into pieces.

Nutella Torrone

I’m on a bit of a downer this week. It comes of post-holiday blues, and too much time spent on Facebook. Oh Facebook, how great you make everybody’s lives look. Also despite the startlingly warm Autumn we’ve been having, the clocks have turned back and it is horribly dark in the evenings. Urgh. Winter is Coming.

So I tried to create a taste of warmer climes – Italian torrone.

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Torrone comes in two forms, the hard, chewy nougat you get in the UK, and the softer, truffley version. I tried some when I was in Naples, it’s sweet and rich and you can only eat tiny pieces before starting to feel sick. I used a recipe from Italian blog Dolci a go go with the aid of Google Translate.

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I found making the torrone was a bit faffy. Nothing particularly hard – just lots of melting of chocolate, and sticking the whole lot in the fridge to set. You know when you make something, and you’ve had fun making it, but you probably won’t ever bother making it again? Yeah, I think this goes into that category. However, I do reckon it could go down very well as an edible Christmas gift, especially if you use the torrone as a vehicle for dried and candied fruit, nuts and chocolate pieces.  Think of it as a fancy Italian fridge cake!

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Nutella Torrone

Adapted from Dolci a go go

  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 200g white chocolate
  • 400g nutella
  • 250g whole hazelnuts

Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Spread the hazelnuts out in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast until lightly browned and fragrant, tossing them occasionally to make sure they toast evenly. Allow the hazelnuts to cool.

Melt 150g dark chocolate. Using a brush, cover the inside of a non-stick loaf tin with the melted chocolate, pop in the fridge to set, and then brush another layer on until all the chocolate is used up. This forms a chocolate shell around the torrone.

Then melt the white chocolate, and mix together with the nutella and toasted hazelnuts. Allow to cool slightly so when you add it to the tin, it doesn’t melt the dark chocolate shell. Fill the tin with the nutella cream, and tap to level out. Return to the fridge overnight to set completely.

Melt the remaining 50g dark chocolate and pour over the set nutella cream to form the dark chocolate base of the torrone. Return to the fridge to set completely.

Turn the tin upside down, and firmly tap to release the torrone. It should slide out without any problems. Cut into thin slices with a hot sharp knife.

Hazelnut Praline Dacquoise

There comes an untameable desire to bake things weird, wonderful and off the wall whenever I have leftover half-used ingredients in the fridge. As you can imagine, some of the results are horrifically bad. Luckily, this minature hazelnut praline dacquoise was not!

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I had half a bowl of leftover hazelnut praline buttercream from Pierre Hermé’s Pietra Macarons. I’d also lately acquired Christophe Felder’s neon pink tome Patisserie. Combining his hazelnut dacquoise recipe with the remaining buttercream seemed only natural.

P1030993As I had a relatively small quantity of buttercream leftover, I divided the dacquoise recipe by three. The method was incredibly similar to the french meringue method of making macarons, but given that macarons are essentially a form of ground nuts suspended within a meringue this is not all that surprising. When I think about it, this dacquoise was actually lot more straightfoward than making macarons – no sifting, no delicate piping, sheet slamming or resting required!

The divided quantity made just enough mixture to cover one baking sheet. After all the cutting and trimming, I was left with a very small rectangle of cake! Mary Berry makes a similar cake where circles of dacquoise are piped instead of a rectangle. I imagine this would result in fewer offcuts, but perhaps a less elegantly structured cake too, unless you are lucky enough to be in possession of a pastry ring!

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It’s not the prettiest of desserts, but cut into small squares, with a dusting of icing sugar, it makes a very elegant petit-four. The dacquoise tastes deliciously nutty, and not too sweet. I’ve spotted the dacquoise formed into bite-size fingers on Tartlette’s blog, which is an inspirational idea to keep in mind for the future. I’m certainly sure I will try my hand at making more recipes from Felder’s book. There’s plenty inside to tantalise, and feed my obsession with French sweets.

Pierre Hermé Pietra Macarons

After a short break from macaron-making, you know it was time for them to make a reappearance on my blog again!

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Macarons take time to master, but after a number of attempts, you do get a good feel for what works and what doesn’t. Yet the real game-changer with macarons is how good the filling is. That’s what elevates a macaron to true deliciousness.

I had baked an array of hazelnut macaron shells which were happily awaiting some filling in the freezer. They had been in hibernation a couple of weeks before I fancied pairing them up with some praline buttercream. This is not strictly speaking an exact reincarnation of Pierre Hermé’s Pietra Macarons as I didn’t have enough ground hazelnuts for either the shells or the praline. Everything else pretty much is.

As always with a French patisserie recipe, there was much scope for error.

The issues came, as always, when it came to combining all the ingredients together. The recipe stated to delicately stir the meringue together with the beaten butter. Maybe I hadn’t whipped everything enough, or I mixed the ingredients together too firmly. Either way, the buttercream curdled. It became evident I hadn’t ground the praline finely enough either.

I had a think back to when I made Pierre Hermé’s salted caramel macarons. Again, the buttercream had split. It hadn’t incorporated a meringue, but certainly the buttercream had been fixed by vigorous chilling and whipping. What harm could it do if I tried it here?

I scraped out the buttercream from the macaron shells, dumped it all into the mixing bowl, and chilled it for about 10 minutes. Then I got out the beaters, and whipped the crap out of the buttercream. Yay, it seemed to have done the trick! The texture also changed, becoming less moussy, and more sturdy.

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The buttercream doesn’t look completely cohesive, but it compares favourably to the pictures in the book, which also feature a fairly lumpy bumpy filling.

I think the hazelnut flavour in these macarons is rather delicate. I wonder if this is partly because I used a reduced quantity of hazelnuts. Next time I make these, I’ll try and use the full amount. I’ll also grind the praline to a finer consistency, and perhaps I’ll have better luck with folding the meringue in!

On another note, I’m very pleased with how the photos are coming along with the new camera. I’ve been taking pics quite late in the evening, so there’s been a bit of a rush to catch the daylight before it goes. Bloglovin’ is also confounding me at the moment – none of the blog images are appearing on the Bloglovin’ feed. If anybody has any inkling why this might be, advice would be much appreciated! 

Hazelnut Macarons

Sometimes I fancy that I’ve read a lot that the literary world has to offer. Then I realise that the majority of what I read consistitues “fluffy fiction.” So when I spotted lists of “Books One Must Read” I had a striking curiosity to see how many of them I could tick off.

Disappointing results. On the Guardian’s 1000 novels everyone must read, I have read a grand total of….

52.

Oh well.

So books aside, I’ve been on a macaron kick again. This time it’s the turn of one of my favourites – hazelnut.

The shells are made from ground hazelnuts, and the filling is a glorious nutty ganache. Ground hazelnuts are quite difficult to source in the UK. I usually pick up a packet when I am in France – they are a staple of the baking aisle there. Otherwise, it’s fairly straightforward to make your own ground hazelnuts by processing them in a food processor and then working through a sieve to get rid of the coarse pieces.

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I keep meaning to pluck up the courage to try Pierre Hermé’s recipe for praline macarons (my absolute favourite) and finally get over my fear of Italian meringue. This year will be the year!
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Hazelnut Macarons

Adapted from The Ottolenghi Cookbook

For the macarons:

  • 110g icing sugar
  • 60g ground hazelnuts
  • 60g egg white
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 20g roasted chopped hazelnuts

For the filling:

  • 50g double cream
  • 50g white chocolate, chopped finely
  • 25g hazelnut paste

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 160˚C.

For the macarons, sift the icing sugar and ground hazelnuts together in a bowl and set to one side.

Beat the egg white with the caster sugar with a handheld whisk until it forms a thick meringue. Fold the meringue into the ground hazelnut/icing sugar mixture in 3 lots, making sure there aren’t any streaks of meringue left in the mixture.

Put the macaron mixture into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle. Dot macaron mixture into the corners of the baking paper to fix it into place on the trays, then pipe little circles on the baking paper, leaving enough space for the macarons to spread. Sprinkle the shells with

Chocolate, Cocoa Nib and Hazelnut Macarons

Yup, it’s macarons on the brain again! C’est parfait!

Once again, I am working from my trusty Ottolenghi recipe – replacing ground almonds with hazelnuts, sprinkling caramelised cocoa nibs on the tops of the macarons, and filling them with rich chocolatey ganache. It might have been spiked slightly with a splash of vodka, but that part was entirely unintentional.

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The hazelnut flavour was present, but subtle. If I were to make these again (and if I didn’t have a bottomless pit of cocoa nibs to get through) I would sprinkle the macarons with chopped hazelnuts, and put a few chopped hazelnuts in with the ganache as well. Also experimented by sprinkling a couple of the macarons with cocoa powder instead of cocoa nibs, and I really liked the simple but pretty effect that produced.

I’ve realised that only one of my baking trays (the cheap Pyrex one with raised sides from Tesco) actually produces successful macarons, the other one (the posh even-heat-conducting from Lakeland) never does. Why is this?

The science behind good macarons still perplexes me, so I guess that this will have to remain a mystery for now. I’ve only ever made macarons using the French meringue method so far, but having come into possession of a sugar thermometer means I may pluck up the courage to try the Italian meringue soon.

Baci di Dama

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Baci di Dama, also known as Lady’s Kisses, are Italian hazelnut biscuits sandwiched together with a dollop of chocolate. I first saw them on David Lebovitz’s blog, and then a couple of months later, when an Italian friend introduced me to these delights. And with the newly replenished stock of hazelnuts in my baking cupboard, here finally was my opportunity to recreate these delights!

I can’t resist playing with a recipe. I had made some hazelnut butter, and wondered if that would make a good subtitute for part of the butter, and I wanted to reduce the butter content anyway. I decided to make a small batch following David Lebovitz’s recipe, and one batch reducing the butter content and replacing it with hazelnut paste.

The biscuits smelled wonderful as they were baking. All of the biscuits had a fantastic flavour, and short crumbly texture, which made for slightly messy eating! The hazelnut butter batch was slightly less cracked in appearance, and tasted just as great.