These beautiful organic hazelnuts were a present from Macedonia - brought back from my friend's mum's garden. What to make with them? Well, obviously, pralines...
I dug out Life's A Praline by Juliette Nothomb, another gift, this time from an event at Godiva and the very first recipe was for Gianduja, smooth creamy lingots noisettes. I don't know what any of that means, but the picture looked very tempting and the recipe seemed relatively easy. Preparing the hazelnuts, however, was quite time consuming, but the result was more than worth the effort. With Christmas coming up (less than 5 weeks away now), these could make a delicious, homemade gift.
Bake Time: 15 mins plus 1 hr cooling
250 g hazelnuts
180 g sugar
55 ml water
1 vanilla pod, scraped out
250 g dark chocolate
100 g milk chocolate for topping
(optional 1 tsp bicarb of soda)
Firstly, prepare the hazelnuts. Using a nutcracker, remove all the shells and place the kernels on a baking tray. Roast for about 15 mins in the oven at 150 C.
Once they have started to go brown, and the skin begins to crack, remove from the oven and place on a clean tea towel in a bowl. Allow to cool.
When cool, give them a massage inside the tea towel and the skins should flake off. Transfer them carefully to a clean bowl, making sure all the skins have rubbed off. If it's not happening, put them back in the oven for a few more minutes and repeat. You may need a bit of scraping action! Also, this will wreck your tea towel... this part is a real faff, and I have to say, I gave up. Instead I blanched the nuts in a bowl with some boiled water and a teaspoon of bicarb. I let this soak for about 10 minutes, then it was easy to scrape the rest of the skin off with a kitchen towel. Back in the oven to dry roast them again.
Once the skinned roasted hazelnuts have cooled, it's time to prepare the praline mixture.
Chop the hazelnuts in a food processor.
In a saucepan, place the water, sugar and vanilla and heat up to 120 C. If you don't have a thermometer, just bring it to the boil and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and mix in the chopped hazelnuts. Place this back on the heat and stirring constantly, let it boil until caramelized. It will happen very quickly and dry out so keep an eye on it.
(In the original recipe, the hazelnuts are caramelised whole and then whizzed up in a food processor. I guess this will give a different smoother texture.)
Set up a Bain-Marie and melt the chocolate. Fold in the hazelnut mixture and mix thoroughly. Spread the mixture over a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and allow to set in the fridge.
I then melted some extra milk chocolate and spread it over the top to give a smooth finish.
Once set, chop into small bitesize pieces. They are rich and luxurious, so you'll only need a small piece. Wrap the rest up as gifts...
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