Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Tart

I'm not sure if we are in the middle of autumn, or we have skipped it entirely and headed straight into winter. The weather has been so gloomy that my thoughts have definitely turned towards comfort food. This is a rich, dark chocolate tart, sweetened with hazelnut praline. I thought that it would be a lovely autumnal recipe and it's an idea that was floating around in my head for a while before I actually got around to try making it. If you're a Nutella fan, you'll love it (as Josh, my eldest, did). It'd be great though, for a special occasion or party - you only need a small slice as it's so rich, so it will serve loads.

It's funny though, as when I was researching the various elements I wanted to use for this, I then discovered that there was a similar tart on the Good Food website, albeit with a baked filling. This one is a creamy chocolate ganache, set overnight in the fridge. I also used pastry made with ground hazelnuts to up the 'nutty' flavour. Great minds think alike, though, eh? Anyway, here's what I did.

Chocolate and Hazelnut Praline Tart

Ingredients (makes one 9 inch tart)

Hazelnut Pastry
50g icing sugar
25g toasted, ground hazelnuts
75g chilled butter, diced
150g plain flour
1 small egg (under 53g weighed, in the shell)

Hazelnut Praline
85g blanched toasted hazelnuts
50g white caster sugar

Chocolate Ganache
250g 70% dark chocolate, broken into pieces
400ml single cream

An additional 50g or so of plain, dark chocolate (melted) to seal the pastry

First make the pastry. Sift the flour into a medium bowl. Add the ground hazelnuts and icing sugar and stir. (If you need to grind chopped nuts, as I did as they were the only ones other than whole I could find in the supermarket, whizz them in a food processor with some of the icing sugar - this will stop them tuning into an oily paste). Add the chilled butter, and rub into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Make a well in the centre and add about two thirds of the egg, gently bring the dough together, adding a little more egg if needed. The dough will be a very soft one, so don't panic. Wrap the dough in some cling film and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up (I left mine overnight, so took it out of the fridge about 5 - 10 minutes before rolling out. 

Preheat the oven to Fan 180 / Conventional 200 / Gas 6. Grease a 9 inch tart tin (or pastry ring). Roll out the pastry so that it is about 3mm thick and gently line the tin. Gently press the pastry into the base, but let the pastry overhang the sides of the tin.

Prick the base with a fork, then line with some baking parchment paper and weigh down with some baking beans. Chill in the fridge for 10 - 15 minutes. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes. The pastry that overhangs the side of the tin will appear to melt and fall away. Don't worry about this - it's because it is so soft - the pastry inside the tin should stay where it is. Remove the paper and the baking beans and continue baking for a further 10 minutes. The base should be dry and crisp and the top edges golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. The pastry should have shrunk away from the sides of the tin a little. Leave to cool.

To make the hazelnut praline, place the sugar in a clean pan and place over a medium heat. Watch it carefully, as it will burn quickly. Don't stir it either, as this will cause it to crystallise - just swirl the pan occasionally instead. Once it has melted and turned a golden amber colour, add the blanched, toasted hazelnuts, and mix to coat in the caramel. If it clumps together, just keep warming it over a gentle heat until it melts again. Carefully - it will be extremely hot - pour the mixture out onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper and allow to cool.

Once cooled, it will have hardened. Gently break into pieces. I then blitzed two thirds of the mix in a processor to give me big chunks of nut, and the remaining third, I whizzed until it was a finer mix. Set aside.

When the pastry shell has cooled, brush the inside with the melted dark chocolate. Allow to cool until set. This will form a seal and help to stop the pastry going soggy.

To make the filling, break up the chocolate and place in a bowl, with the cream, over a saucepan of barely simmering water. Don't let the bottom of the bowl touch the water, or the chocolate will burn. Melt it gently, stirring occasionally until it is well mixed with the cream. Remove from the heat.

To assemble the tart, sprinkle the large chunks of praline over the base of the chocolate lined pastry shell.

Gently pour over the ganache filling. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Then sprinkle over the finer praline. I put mine around the edge of the tart, but you could put a fine layer all over - the choice is yours.

Put back into the fridge until you need it. It will firm up, so I'd take it out of the fridge about 10 -15 minutes before you want to cut it. The pastry will cut a bit more cleanly then.

As this month's Alphabakes challenge letter is 'N', and this contains lots of lovely nuts, I'm going to send this over to Ros of The More than Occasional Baker, and Caroline, of Caroline Makes. This month, Ros is hosting, so the roundup will appear on her blog towards the end of the month.

Finally, in case you can only find hazelnuts in their skins - I tried two ways of blanching mine (getting the skins off). First, I tried boiling them for 3 minutes in 2 pints of boiling water to which I'd added a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda.You then drain them in a sieve and run them under some cold water - you can then rub the skins off. This was OK, but the nuts seemed, obviously I 'spose,  wet. So I tried baking them in a 160 Fan oven for 8 minutes, and then rubbing them in a textured tea towel to remove the skins. This was a bit more hard work, but the nuts had a lovely, toasted flavour.



Thursday, 18 October 2012

In search of my mojo ...

I hope that you don't think me rude by my absence over the last few weeks.

In the time since Sam's birthday, life seems to have been incredibly busy and I have had very little time to myself, never mind time to indulge in much baking. In the main, I've had to enjoy others doing it through Great British Bake Off, and while it's been great watching how things panned out (congratulations to John Whaite, this year's winner), it's been too long since I've been in the kitchen for a proper baking session. I'm hoping to rectify that this weekend, and I must admit my baking break has certainly given me some time to plan a few things, which I'm really looking forward to trying out.

Ready for baking
In the meantime, I did manage to try a few things inspired by GBBO, but just really didn't have time to do them justice or blog about them. I took a few snaps though, so thought you might like to see what I got up to. Unfortunately, most of them didn't quite go according to plan.

Fresh from the oven
The pictures above show some Custard Creams using the recipe from Jo Wheatley's book A Passion for Baking. This is the first recipe I've attempted from Jo's book, and have always wanted to try making custard creams. While I love the look of Jo's book, and there are lots of recipes I'm looking forward to trying, this one didn't really work for me. I was having an absolute nightmare baking session though, so can't rule out that it was my baking that went to pot. But while the biscuits baked up well and were lovely and golden, the filling felt a little too runny when I piped it, and the biscuits overall were a little too sweet for my taste. They seemed to get soft really quickly as well. It's difficult to know what to compare them to, though, as I'd never made them before. So I'm going to try some other recipes - if anyone can suggest a good one, please do!

Caramel cake - with some extremely naff feathering
They were the second recipe I attempted on that day though, the other being the Caramel Layer Cake from the latest GBBO book, Showstoppers. Again, this didn't quite work out for me. The main issues were the sponge layers were a little dry, and I think I over whipped the caramel glaze so that it ended up more like airy buttercream than the icing in the picture accompanying the recipe in the book.

Looking more like the book - but then I overwhipped it!
This made the feathering really difficult to achieve (and I botched it totally when I used melted chocolate that was a little too warm to have much control over. Hence the very splodgy effect above).

I really love the idea of this cake though, and will definitely try it again - the salted caramel glaze tasted heavenly - but I may just have a go at doing it my own way.

Melting the butter and sugar for the gingerbread before adding the flour and spices
The next time I managed some baking was a few weeks later, when I wanted to try out my silicone spoon mould from Lakeland. I've seen this used by a number of bloggers to make the perfect sized little biscuit for coffee, either in gingerbread or shortbread. I decided to make mine gingerbread, and inspired by the gingerbread episode on Bake Off, decided to use the recipe from 'Showstoppers'. The irony with this is that I've made gingerbread biscuits a number of times before, and they were great. This time, the dough felt really oily and greasy - so much that I was pretty sure that my baking mojo had deserted me completely and I'd botched up yet another recipe.

Looking rough but tasting heavenly
After filling the mould once, I really couldn't face rolling out any more of the sticky, greasy mass that was coagulating around my hands, so binned the rest. Stupid me.

I had overfilled the moulds slightly, so they rose above the edge. But once baked and left to cool, they little biscuits tasted heavenly. Even Ben, who doesn't normally like gingerbread, decided he wanted to finish the lot before I got a chance to take any pictures of them out of the mould. I was left with one to taste, which Sam promptly decided he was going to literally snatch out of my mouth. Oh well, Sam enjoyed it too and it kept him occupied, gnawing away happily, for the next 10 minutes or so. So you live and learn.

The highlight of the last few weeks though, was the Sourdough class I did with Elisabeth of Cardiff's One Mile Bakery. You may recall my previous post about my Sourdough exploits (read it here), and Dan Lepard's method is the one that worked best for me. However, I've always found that the best way to learn is to have someone who knows what they are doing show you - as you can then ask questions and get instant feedback. I came across One Mile Bakery searching for artisan bakers - and I'm so glad I did. Elisabeth runs her bakery by way of a subscription service, delivering her hand made bread, soups and preserves within one mile of her home. Sadly, I live outside the mile, so don't qualify for the subscription service, but I was pleased to find that she runs classes, and so signed up for the 'Introduction to Sourdough' class.

The product of our day's labour
A couple of weeks ago, along with another bread enthusiast, I spent a day with Elisabeth making four different kinds of sourdough - White, Seeded Rye, Raisin and Coriander Wholemeal, and Potato and Rosemary. We also found time to squeeze in some yeasted white French baguettes. I really enjoyed myself and picked up so many hints and tips about bread making. It was a fantastic day, and I'm hoping to do another of Elisabeth's classes on yeasted breads and preserves.

So that's what I've been up to. Hope you've had a good few weeks.

That ol' baking itch is definitely back, so I'll be hopefully posting something special in the next few days.