Sunday, December 18, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart and OhNuts!

A few weeks ago I got an email from the nice folks at OhNuts! asking me if I'd like to give their products a try and maybe make something and write about it. Now, I've been placing orders with them off and on for a while now and since I love them, I said "Sure!" They have the best prices and quality for hazelnut flour I'd been able to find anywhere online, so of course I asked for that. They also carry amazing pistachios and pecans, and are quite fast and reliable when it comes to shipping, so if its not too late for your holiday baking, I would definitely recommend them.

Hazelnut flour in hand, it took me all of 5 minutes to decide what to make. My coworker's birthday was going to be that Friday and as she can't have eggs, a chocolate hazelnut tart would make for the perfect treat...well, one of three, but I'll tell you more about the others later.

Hazelnut Chocolate Tart 2

Last year, during that glorious week between Christmas and New Years when stores discount everything and anything remotely seasonal, I got myself a cute oblong tart pan....and promptly forgot all about it. I dug the poor neglected thing out, made a really quick tart crust and caught up on holiday cards while it was cooling. These days between crazy long work hours and holiday related preparations, if I don't multitask I'll never sleep. I'm pretty sure that's true for all of you too.

Hazelnut Chocolate Tart

A quick honeyed and lightly spiced ganache got poured into the cooled crust and left on the counter to set overnight. I probably could have popped it into the fridge, but I wanted it to stay a bit on the softer side and there was time till the next day for it to set. In the morning, I slid it into an emptied Scrabble box (the only thing on hand that was the perfect shape for transport) and took it to work, where it most definitely did not disappoint. Despite someone bringing in donuts, and a giant cookie cake and various other sweets, the tart disappeared and not a single crumb remained.

Hazelnut Chocolate Tart 3

Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup hazelnut flour
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp cold water
8 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup honey
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 tsp of ground cardamom or 1 crushed cardamom pod

- In a large bowl, sift together the first two flours with salt, sugar and cocoa. Don't skip this step or you might end up with weird cocoa chunks.
- Use a fork to cut in the shortening until coarse meal texture then add in hazelnut flour and vanilla and stir a few times.
- Sprinkle 1/4 cup of cold water over and mix lightly. If your dough seems dry, add more water a Tablespoon at a time. Mine needed two more, but keep an eye on it. You want it to stick together but not get wet.
- Dump the mixture into the bottom and sides of your tart pan, or pie pan, and chill in the freezer for 20 minutes or so.
- Preheat the oven to 400F while the crust is cooling. Prick crust all over with a fork and bake for about 30 minutes. Check the tart at 20 min, you want it to look dry but not much darker then when you put it in.
- While the tart is cooling, put the chocolate in a medium bowl, and combine the rest of the ingredients in a small pot set over medium high heat.
- Stir the cream until the butter melts and the mixture just comes barely to a simmer, then pour it over the chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes. If you used a whole cardamom pod, pour the mixture in through a sieve to make sure the pod doesn't stay in there.
- Whisk the ganache until it's nice and smooth, pour it into the tart shell and either let it set on the counter overnight or in the fridge for an hour or so before decorating with a few berries and serving.
Note: The tart is pretty rich so a small slice goes a long way.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Leek and Butternut Squash Soup

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. I had plans to pop in and post a recipe or at least send some wishes closer to the holiday, but life and work intervened and I'd been crazy busy. I mean look, it's almost Christmas! Shame on me for abandoning you guys for so long, especially since I've been giving up sleep to squeeze in baking experiments. Before I jump into the sweets though, and I promise that I'll post one or two ideas for the upcoming holidays, I'll give you what I'd been eating all last week. You know what's good to have in the fridge when you're too busy to even order a pizza? A great big pot of soup.

Butternut Squash Soup 2

The wonderful thing about squash is that it can sit in the pantry for quite some time without a single complaint. You can forget all about it right up to the moment you find yourself in front of an empty fridge (to quote my dad "You can ride a bike in there!") looking for some scraps to throw together for dinner that will keep you from once again ordering Thai.

Butternut Squash Soup 3

The soup came together in just a little while and made enough to keep the delivery guy away for a few days. So here's my pre-sugar-coma contribution to myself and to you guys. It's healthy, it freezes well, and it's delicious. Oh, and there's no chocolate in it :D

Butternut Squash Soup

Leek and Butternut Squash Soup
by me, because who has time to search for recipes these days?

2 Tbsp olive oil or a small pat of butter
1 great big butternut squash, peeled and cubed
2 pretty leeks, white stalk sliced
1 plump onion, sliced
2 smallish potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cloves of garlic, minced
6 cups of your favorite stock, either veggie or chicken will work
a sprig of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste

- Pour the olive oil (or butter if that's what you have on hand) into a deep pot set over medium high heat, add your sliced leeks and onion and sautee until starting to soften. Add the garlic and cook until you can smell it, about a minute.
- Add the squash chunks, the potatoes, your stock and your sprig of thyme. I like to keep the thyme whole so that I can fish it out later, but if you don't mind either way, feel free to chop it up. Bring everything up to a low boil, cover and cook until both the squash and the potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.
- Take the pot off the heat and blend the contents to smithereens either with an immersion blender (my favorite tool) or in smaller batches in your blender. Return to pot and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve hot in a pretty bowl with an optional dollop or sour cream or drizzle of plain yogurt.