One of the things I miss greatly from my childhood is nuts in their shells. There were always walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds and Brazil nuts in my mother's kitchen, and as a family we would often sit together shelling nuts—for snacking on as well as preparing walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds for one of my mother's artisan cakes.
My mother's mogyorós torta (hazelnut torte) comprised featherlight layers of soft hazelnut chocolate cake filled with mocha cream. She would roast the hazelnuts in the oven, then pop them into a clean tea towel and rub her hands over them to peel away the skins. Then she would grind the nuts in a little hand grinder (which I still treasure) and combine the hazelnut meal with beaten egg whites, a little melted chocolate, and creamed butter and sugar. Sometimes she'd add just a little nip of rum or brandy. While the cake was baking, she would prepare a mocha filling, which was cooked in a method similar to that used in the recipe for her walnut torte here. I can still smell and taste that beautiful hazelnut torte and must bake it again soon, perhaps on the Easter weekend. The memories of mum's torte came flooding back when I tasted a decadent chocolate hazelnut tart at the EAT Festival in Merimbula recently.
Meet the chef...
Natasha Slade is the Manager of the Merimbula Lakeview Hotel and also a trained chef. We met at the EAT Festival during our visit to the Sapphire Coast. Natasha's droolworthy chocolate hazelnut tart caught my eye as we walked along the Lake foreshore at Fishpen during the Festival and I grabbed Peter by the arm and said, 'We HAVE to try some of that tart!'. Needless to say, Peter agreed. Can I tell you, that tart was even more delicious than we had expected and I felt compelled to ask Natasha (Tash) for the recipe. She very kindly said 'Yes' and even took a moment away from the busy marquee to smile beautifully for my camera. Thanks so much Tash, you are a legend! xox
DECADENT CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT TART
I've tweaked Natasha's recipe slightly with additions to make it easier for home cooks to reproduce the tart with ease. The ingredients and quantities remain the same.
For the pastry:
280g plain flour, sifted
120g icing sugar, sifted
50g cocoa powder, sifted
200g unsalted butter, softened, cubed
1 free range egg yolk
Grease a 25cm x 4cm deep (10" by 1.5") tart tin. To prepare the pastry base, combine the sifted flour, icing sugar and cocoa powder in a large stainless steel bowl. Make a well in the centre and place the butter and egg yolk into the well. Mix with a fork, working the flour into the butter and egg a little at a time. Then, using your fingertips gradually work in the rest of the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Work the pastry together by kneading it into a flat disc. Then cover it with cling wrap and rest it in the refrigerator for an hour or so.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board and lifting it onto the rolling pin, carefully place it into the greased tart tin. With clean hands, press the pastry into the base and and up the sides of the tin, smoothing it as you go. Cover the pastry with a sheet of baking paper, fill with pastry beads or rice, then blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and beads, and bake for a further five minutes. Allow to cool.
For the filling:
80g unsalted butter
180g brown or light muscovado sugar
3 free range eggs
2 tablespoons double cream
3 tablespoons Frangelico (plus a tipple for the cook!)
30g plain flour
100g dark couverture chocolate, chopped
20g dark couverture chocolate melted, to decorate
To prepare the filling, chop the hazelnuts (or process them in a food processor until chopped into quarters). Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until light and creamy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Fold in the cream, Frangelico and flour. Finally add the chopped chocolate and nuts. Spoon the mixture into the cooled pastry tart shell. Pop the tart tin onto a baking tray (in case any of the filling overflows during the baking), then bake for 45-55 minutes at 170 degrees C until cooked through (if you touch the centre very lightly, it should spring back a little). Allow to cool then drizzle with (or spoon over) the melted chocolate and serve with cream (or sour cream) and raspberries. Serves 12.
Note: The tart can be frozen in an airtight container, but my chef friend, Adam Moore, recommends that when you are ready to serve it, defrost it overnight in the refrigerator rather than in the microwave, as it will most likely not keep it shape if heated in the microwave.
Use fresh hazelnuts and free range eggs...
A tipple for the cook...
Spoon melted couverture over the top...
Deliciously decadent and, yes, droolworthy...
Food writing and recipe testing means making sacrifices for your wonderful readers, no? As soon as I had finished taking these photographs, Peter asked if we could cut the tart and taste it. Yes, it was Sunday morning and, yes, I admit we ate a slither each for breakfast. Of course, we went to the gym later that morning! My esteemed colleague, Mr Ian Parmenter, of Consuming Passions fame, kindly reminded me that we would need to run for an hour to work off a couple of bites of tart. Of course, he is right. This kind of decadence is an indulgence that should be reserved for special occasions. Just as well I don't bake like this every day, or Peter and I might need to spend all day every day at the gym! The PT would be happy to see us!
Tell me dear readers, have you ever eaten cake (or indeed tart) for breakfast? Do you believe that the cook should have the occasional tipple? And are nuts in their shells still available in your part of the world? Perhaps you forage for them. Do please share your stories!
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