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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake

  • May 12, 2022

If ever there were a cake to knock the socks off you chocolate lovers, this is it. Picture a light chocolate sponge cake, with a luscious mousse and chopped hazelnut filling, smothered in a decadent chocolate ganache.  We first tried it at Bàcaro, our favorite restaurant in the Cayman Islands where we spend a week each winter. After enjoying it twice in one week, I asked for the recipe and Head Chef Federico Destro generously gave it to me. It was written in metric measurements, but I’ve converted them into the cups more familiar to Americans. However, if you buy a kitchen scale, I recommend using the metric system measurements, since baking by weight is always more accurate than using cups.

Federico’s recipe says it makes 30 portions, but the portions at Bàcaro are much smaller than what I served at my recent dinner party. I cut mine into 24 portions, still a huge amount for most home cooks, but I froze half of the cake for later gratification. It freezes perfectly with the chocolate mousse inside, but wait until the day you serve it to pour on the ganache, otherwise you risk losing that lovely sheen and soft texture.

Make sure you sift the dry ingredients and have the eggs at room temperature before beating them with the sugar. Beat for the required 10 minutes to give them the volume necessary for the cake to rise, since it contains no other leavening.

Pour into a pan that’s been buttered and floured. I also lined the bottom with a piece of buttered parchment paper to help release the cake without sticking.

When it cooled, I cut the cake in half down the middle since half serves 12 people, and cutting it in half then makes it easier to cut it into horizontal layers. You’ll spread the mousse between the two layers.

In my experience, the mousse is the hardest part to make, since it uses Nutella, which is stiff and difficult to incorporate smoothly with the melted chocolate, egg whites and whipped cream.

Blend in just about a third of the egg whites with the melted chocolate and Nutella to get the mixture a little lighter. Keep whisking until it starts to loosen a bit.

Add another third of the egg whites after the initial egg whites have been whisked in. It will still be stiff, but a little easier to whisk.

By the time you add the last third of the egg whites and the whipped cream, it will become much lighter in color and texture.

Spread the mousse over the bottom layer of the cake and sprinkle with chopped hazelnuts.

Place the top layer of cake over the mousse, then drizzle some of the diluted espresso coffee over the cake. As you can see, I lined each section of the cake in the pan with plastic wrap, to make it easier to remove one section and leave the rest in the freezer. Place the cake in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours.

After removal from the freezer, carefully cut into 12 sections.

This is the messy part — pouring the ganache on top. The recipe below includes more of the ganache than Chef Destro recommended, partly due to the fact that I’m not a chocolatier and wasted a good bit of chocolate, and partly due to the fact that I’ll take any occasion to eat more dark chocolate!

Here’s the way it’s served at Bàcaro, and you can see how much smoother the outer coating is, when a real professional is pouring the chocolate!

Still, there were no complaints about my version either. Place the cakes in the refrigerator, but set aside about 1/4 cup of the ganache and refrigerate it too. When it starts to harden just ever so slightly, scoop a little out with a demitasse spoon to make a chocolate ball on top, and place a hazelnut on top of the chocolate. I also added a small sliver of gold leaf — totally optional, but don’t forget the whipped cream!

The recipe may seem daunting, but you can make it the day before a dinner party or event, and keep it refrigerated. One caveat though – they look really tempting to husbands grazing for a midday treat. You’ve been warned.

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Chocolate Hazelnut Cake
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • FOR THE SPONGE CAKE:
  • 10 eggs
  • 2 cups (300g) sugar
  • ¾ cup (50g) cocoa powder
  • ¾ cup (50g) corn starch
  • ½ cup (50g) all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup hazelnuts (150 g)
  • 1 cup diluted espresso (250 ml)
  • FOR THE MOUSSE:
  • about 1⅓ cup (300g) dark chocolate
  • 1 13 ounce jar (300g) Nutella
  • 1¾ cup (400g) heavy cream (whipped to medium hard peaks)
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp rum
  • 4 eggs
  • FOR THE GANACHE (This is enough for half the cakes, since I froze half the cakes unfrosted. Just double if frosting the entire cake).
  • 2 cups (about 425 grams) heavy cream
  • 12 oz. chocolate (I used three, 4 oz. bars of Hershey's Special Darrk)
Instructions
  1. TO MAKE THE SPONGE CAKE:
  2. Whisk the eggs and sugar at high speed for about 10 minutes.
  3. Sieve the cocoa powder, flour and corn starch and add them to the egg mixture gradually and folding slowly.
  4. Pour the mass into a half-size hotel pan (my pan measured 15" by 10" x 2.5" but the chef used a pan that was 20" x 10" x 2.5")
  5. Bake at 350F for 30-40 minutes or until cake pulls away from sides of pan.
  6. Let cool at room temperature, then wrap with plastic film and store in the fridge or freezer until needed.
  7. Cut the cake in half to make for easier handling, then cut each half in half horizontally, in order to have two layers.
  8. Then put some plastic wrap on the bottom and sides of the pan where you baked the cake, and put the layers inside, with separate pieces of plastic wrap for each half of the cake.
  9. That way, you can easily remove only half the cake and leave the rest frozen for later use.
  10. Each half of the cake made 12 servings, (30 for Chef Destro who cuts smaller portions) so unless you have a crowd of 24, you can keep half frozen.
  11. TO MAKE THE MOUSSE:
  12. Separate the egg whites from the yolks and set aside.
  13. Whisk the yolks with sugar and rum.
  14. Add the chocolate (previously melted) folding it slowly, then add the Nutella and combine (This is the hardest part because the Nutella is quite stiff. But keep at it.)
  15. Whisk the egg whites to hard peak, then gradually fold them into the chocolate mixture (again it's hard because the Nutella is so stiff, but once you have all the egg whites added, it loosens up and when you add the whipped cream, it will be just right consistency.)
  16. Fold in the whipped cream and set in the fridge until ready to use.
  17. TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE AND FILLING:
  18. Leave the cake in the pan and remove the top layer.
  19. On the bottom layer of the sponge cake, drizzle with half the espresso.
  20. Set half the mousse on top of it and sprinkle with the hazelnuts.
  21. Place the top layer over the mousse and drizzle with the other half of the espresso.
  22. Cover and chill in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours.
  23. FOR THE GANACHE:
  24. Heat the cream, turn off the heat and add the chocolate, stirring to combine until smooth.
  25. TO FINISH THE CAKE WITH THE GANACHE:
  26. Cut the frozen cake in 24 portions, if you plan to serve all at one time.
  27. In that case, double the ingredients for the ganache.
  28. Otherwise, place half the cake in the freezer and cut the other half into 12 portions.
  29. Place them on a perforated rack and quickly coat them with the warm ganache.
  30. Place back in the freezer to harden.
  31. Repeat the coating process once more and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
  32. Save a bit of the ganache to use as a center dollop with a hazelnut perched on it.
  33. If you have any gold leaf, add a small piece to the top.
 

 

Ricotta and Nutella Tart

  • May 25, 2019

If you’re a chocolate and hazelnut fan, this recipe is for you. It’s got a bottom layer of Nutella, covered with a ricotta mixture and drizzled with more Nutella on top. The first time I made the recipe, I used a ready made crust and it crisped up nicely, browning perfectly on the bottom. I loved the flavor combination but thought it could benefit from a doubling of the ricotta layer.

So the next time I made it, I doubled the recipe for the ricotta layer.

The filling tasted great, but the problem was that the crust was undercooked on the bottom, even though I left it in the oven a little longer than the recipe called for. It could be because in addition to doubling the amount of ricotta, I also baked two tarts in the oven at the same time, which may have caused the pastry to bake unevenly. Or was it because I forgot to prick the pastry before smearing on the Nutella? In any event, it’s worth making this tart, but be warned – bake only one tart in the oven at a time for best results.

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Ricotta and Nutella Tart
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup 2% milk
  • ½ tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ cup plus ¼ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread, divided
  • your favorite tart or pie crust dough, chilled
Instructions
  1. In a blender, combine the ricotta cheese, milk and sugar, and blend until completely combined.
  2. Pour the mixture into a glass bowl and refrigerate until ready to use.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then lightly grease and flour a 9-inch tart or pie tin.
  4. Remove the dough from the fridge.
  5. On a floured work surface, roll the dough into a ⅛ inch thick circle.
  6. Place it in the prepared tin, trim any overhanging dough with a sharp knife and crimp the edges.
  7. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork.
  8. Spread the bottom of the crust with 7 ounces of the chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  9. If the spread is too thick, soften it in the microwave or place it in a heatproof bowl on top of a pot of boiling water.
  10. Remove the ricotta filling from the fridge and pour it over the chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  11. Bake the pie for 25 to 30 minutes or until the crust is golden.
  12. Let the pie cool completely then drizzle with the remaining ¼ cup chocolate-hazelnut spread.
  13. Refrigerate the pie for 2 hours before serving.
 

 

Castagnole

  • February 20, 2012
 Hello castagnole …or bignole or frittelle or whatever you call them where you live. They’re like fried doughnut holes but better. I made the pale ones using ricotta in the recipe, and the dark ones with cocoa powder. Both are delicious as is, but wickedly good when you fill them with Nutella. Just take a look.
See what I mean? Who the heck can resist one of these stuffed babies? Personally, my favorite are the pale ricotta castagnole.  For the chocolate ones, I originally used a recipe I found in a February 2009 issue of Cucina Italiana magazine, but the batter was extremely thin and didn’t work at all. I had to add a lot more flour than the recipe called for just to keep them together in the oil. The next day, I checked the magazine’s website and found the recipe was corrected to triple the amount of flour that was in the magazine copy.  Even so, making the chocolate ones is more difficult because it’s hard to tell from the color alone when they’re actually cooked through.

 

Carnevale is celebrated in many Catholic countries including Italy. Children dress up in costumes, flinging tiny scraps of colored paper called coriandoli (we call it confetti) along the streets. In Venice the celebration is particularly festive, with people in elaborate costumes and masquerades arriving from all over the world eager to strut their finery and vie for prizes. I’ve had the good fortune to be in Venice a few times during Carnevale. Here is just one of the many people in costume you see strolling the narrow streets and posing for photographers.

 

Fried food, including castagnole and chiacchiere (featured on this blog here) are a staple of the festivities, especially in the final week and days leading to Ash Wednesday and the solemn 40 day Lenten period. It’s a time to throw caution to the wind – party all night, eat all those decadent desserts and rich, cholesterol-laden meats. Hence the name fat Tuesday, as it’s known in the U.S. or Mardi gras, the French equivalent. The word carnevale derives from the Latin carn, meaning flesh, and levare, to put away.  This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 22, so you’ve still got time to indulge in these delightful little treats.
And if you’ve decided to give up something else for Lent, like peas or okra, well then, you can continue eating these castagnole guilt-free all through the 40-day period.
Join me for a week in Italy at the end of May and live like an Italian – sightseeing, cooking and eating in a villa located in the Alban Hills near Rome. There’s still time to enroll. For details go to:
 

 

 
Ricotta Castagnole
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 t. kosher salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1 cup flour
2 t. baking powder
oil for frying (safflower, canola or similar oil)
powdered sugar
Nutella for stuffing
Heat oil in a pan (I use a cast iron skillet) to a depth of about three inches on a medium-high heat.
Beat eggs with a whisk in a large bowl. Add sugar, ricotta, salt, vanilla, flour and baking powder. Beat with a wooden spoon until mixed well. Batter should be thicker than pancake batter but not as thick as bread dough.
Drop a tablespoon full into a pan of hot oil. Fry the batter until they balls of dough are golden brown. They almost turn themselves over, but if they don’t make sure you flip them to fry all sides. Check the interior after you fry a few to make sure they’re cooked through. Adjust the temperature if necessary.
Drain on paper towels. Use a pastry bag and pipe with Nutella. Alternately, cut a hole with a knife and insert a small bit of Nutella. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
Chocolate Bignole
From lacucinaitalianamagazine.com

Ingredients

Pastry Cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1½ tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
  • 1¼ tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, at room temperature
Puffs
  • 1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ⅔ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • About 3 quarts vegetable oil
  • ½ cup confectioners’ sugar

 

Instructions

For Pastry Cream: In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch and salt until thick and pale, about 2 minutes. In a medium saucepan, bring milk to a boil over medium heat; remove from heat.

In a slow and steady stream, whisking constantly, add about 2 tablespoons of the hot milk to the egg mixture; then, whisking, add remaining milk. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan, return to medium heat, and, whisking constantly and vigorously, bring to a boil. Cook, whisking constantly and into the edges of pot, until mixture is thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat, whisk in chocolate, and let sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in butter pieces, one at a time, until pastry cream is smooth and silky. Transfer cream to a clean bowl, immediately cover the surface with plastic wrap to prevent a crust from forming, and chill until cold, about 1 hour (pastry cream can be made up to 1 day ahead).

For puffs: In a bowl, whisk together flour, ⅔ cup cocoa powder, granulated sugar, eggs, egg yolk, milk, butter, baking powder, vanilla and salt until smooth.

Heat about 3 inches oil to 375° in a 3-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat. Drop teaspoonfuls of batter into oil and fry, about 10 at a time, until puffed and dark golden, 1 to 1½ minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer puffs to paper towels to drain.

Transfer filling to a large pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch plain tip. Insert the pastry tip into the center of one puff; pipe in about 1 teaspoon pastry cream (do not overfill). Transfer filled puff to a parchment-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining puffs.

In a bowl, whisk together remaining 2 tablespoons cocoa powder and confectioners’ sugar; dust puffs with cocoa mixture. Serve at room temperature.

Nutella-filled Cream Puffs

  • February 5, 2012
It’s useless. I’m not even going to apologize for posting a decadent dessert after the more waistline-friendly pavlova dessert in my prior entry. Blame it on World Nutella Day – and the creators of the phenomenon –  Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso.
Together, they’ve managed to corral Nutella lovers around the world with recipes, stories, artwork and other adventures involving the chocolate-hazelnut treat.
Today, February 5, is the sixth year of World Nutella Day – an event dedicated to spreading the Nutella joy across the blogosphere. So if you haven’t participated as an entrant, at least you can enjoy the hundreds of posts from other Nutella devotees – and try making some of them yourself, like these cream puffs.
I got the best results when I used an ice cream scoop to portion out the batter. I used a piping bag with the first batch and made flatter “disks” that didn’t rise as high. They were certainly edible, but didn’t reach the heights of the second batch, made using the ice cream scoop.
You can see for yourself the height I got from using the ice cream scoop as a measurer and form for the puffs.

 

 
Those were the ones I took to a dinner party a few nights ago. They were also the ones where the chocolate glaze didn’t exactly turn out the way I wanted, even if it tasted good.

 

 

This cream puff is one of the rejects I kept from the first batch – a little flatter but still delicious – and this time I used a store-bought chocolate syrup from Hershey’s as the glaze.



Cream Puff Shells


printable recipe here
makes 8 large cream puffs

1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1/4 t. salt
1 cup flour
4 large eggs

Melt butter and water in a saucepan, add salt and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add flour all at once, stirring vigorously with a wooden spoon until it pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball around the spoon.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. The mixture should be smooth after each egg is added. Using an ice cream scoop if you have one, drop some of the mixture on a cookie sheet that has been greased, or on a sheet of parchment paper or Silpat. Bake at 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another half hour. Let cool completely before cutting in half and filling.

Filling:

2 cups whipping cream
1 13-ounce jar Nutella

Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add the Nutella, by spoonfuls, until all the Nutella is incorporated and the cream is stiff. Fill the cream puff shells and drizzle with a chocolate glaze. I used a store-bought syrup made by Hershey’s.

Nutella Chocolate Rice Pudding

  • January 16, 2009

I was inspired by Marie of “Proud Italian Cook” to make this dessert, after she posted her recipe for a decadent Nutella Hot Chocolate earlier this week.

I got to thinking … hmm, I have a jar of artisanal chocolate and hazelnut spread that was given to us last October by a young couple we met at a chestnut festival in Soriano, Italy. It’s made with dark chocolate – my favorite – but after microwaving it in the jar several times to pour over poached pears and ice cream, it had hardened beyond hope. Maybe I could salvage it by melting it in some heated cream to flavor a rice pudding — one of my husband’s favorite desserts.
I had just enough for about three servings.
That was last night.
Now who gets to eat the one serving that’s left in the fridge?
This is not going to be pretty.

Nutella Chocolate Rice Pudding

If you don’t have Nutella, or an artisanal chocolate-hazelnut spread as I did, you can substitute about 3 tablespoons of cocoa.

1 1/2 cups skim milk
1 1/2 cups cream
or
3 cups half and half

1/4 cup Nutella, or a similar spread
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup arborio riceCheck Spelling
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. Cointreau, rum or any liqueur

In a medium saucepan, gently heat the milk and cream or half and half. Add the remaining ingredients, except vanilla and liqueur. Stir constantly over low to medium heat for about 20 minutes, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat and add vanilla and liqueur. Pour into serving bowls and cover with a piece of plastic wrap in order to avoid “skin” from forming. Serve as is or with whipped cream.