Posts tagged hazelnut
Wednesday, September 15, 2010

nutella ice cream

Nutella Ice Cream

We are a household that respects its dessert. To me, it’s the period at the end of the sentence, a conclusion of sorts. You wouldn’t want all your sentences to end in ellipses, would you? Well, lack of dessert, even something as small as a morsel of chocolate, leaves me feeling unsettled as if my meal is incomplete. Like forgetting my cell phone at home – I feel a little disoriented when that happens. That “period”, the conclusion so to speak is missing. Andrew, thankfully, is of the same dessert persuasion. We revere our dessert, and we rarely turn it down. During our first dinner together, despite being full, we still decided to share our dessert, an apple cobbler, thus cementing our commitment to that portion of the meal.

eggs

So, here’s how this all went down with this Nutella ice cream. Labor Day Monday, while Andrew and I were perusing our respective RSS feeds (nerds!), I David’s post about Fenocchio’s ice cream in Nice, the very same place I wrote about when I made the ice cream that might still be the finest frozen creation to emerge from the Sassy Radish kitchen. I told Andrew about my trip through France after graduating college, making my way down to the French Riviera, walking around Nice and discovering Fenocchio entirely by accident. I showed him David’s pictures, “Should we find ourselves in the South of France, you know where we’ll be going.” Andrew wasn’t really paying attention, his eyes were fixed on a particular picture, “Yeah, I would be all over that Nutella ice cream.”

yolks, sugar

A light bulb went off in my head – why wait until we go to France (which, let’s face it, might not be be for awhile – suppressed sob), when we can make our own Nutella ice cream tonight – just in time for dessert? Why else would you bother having your ice cream bowl permanently hanging out in the freezer, taking up precious space, if instant gratification is not to be entertained? Lucky for me, Andrew puts up with my whims of cooking frenzy, and willingly eats and suggests future cooking projects. It works out rather well – I get to play in the kitchen, and he’s always ready to sample whatever experiments (good or bad) to come out of there.

pale yellow

Twenty minutes later, the custard was cooling in the refrigerator. Which brings me to the following: homemade ice cream is within anyone’s reach. While might sound silly to take up precious freezer space with a giant bowl, if you like ice cream and buy it regularly, it’s worth trying to make ice cream at home. decent ice cream makers are fairly affordable, and with minimal hands-on time, you could be making your own. I promise you won’t believe your taste buds – the flavors will be cleaner, brighter, stronger; the texture – creamier. And there’s no end in sight to how many combinations you could create!

gently pour custard almost ready

Also, there’s something lovely and old-school about making your own ice cream. It’s almost a journey back in time when things were simpler and a little slower. A time when we weren’t drowning in email, social media, and a thousand television channels. When burgers and bagels were smaller, and “super-sized” meals didn’t exist. Homemade ice cream, somehow, reminds me of that time. Funny thing is, I don’t even eat that much of it, but when I do, homemade beats store-bought by a landslide.

hazelnut evil

The custard takes only a few minutes to come together; chilling time, of course, takes longer – but if you have half an hour to kill in the morning, you can make this and forget about it until dinnertime. Right before you make dinner, pour the custard into the ice cream bowl, affix your machine parts, and turn the machine on. It’ll purr, hum, and make satisfied growling noises until your ice cream is ready. And when you scoop that ice cream into your bowl, your dessert is no longer a period – it’s an exclamation point.

Continue reading nutella ice cream.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

hazelnut chestnut cake

hazelnut chestnut cake

If you had to describe the hazelnut, what words would come to mind? Small? Plain? Uncommon? Well, Gina DePalma, the pastry chef at the famed Babbo, calls the hazelnut “enigmatic” and I can’t disagree with her. Aside from Nutella and Fererro Rocher chocolates, it’s not exactly a popular nut (giggle)* you find on the shelves of many grocery stores.

The hazelnut, otherwise known as the filbert, has never won a popularity contest – having never grown to be as popular as a peanut or an almond, who are the mainstream nut darlings. If you think of Kristin Stewart as the It-Girl of the moment – the peanut, is its nut equivalent. The hazelnut, on the other hand, is more like Zooey Deschanel, with a cult following but not the kind of a blockbuster hit that invokes teen hysteria. You don’t find hazelnuts in many stores and I’ve yet to see a commercial exalting its virtues (unlike the pistachio, the commercials of which are now on every channel).

hazelnut chestnut cake

Aside from not winning any popularity contests, the hazelnut is wildly adaptable and makes friends with virtually everything from baked goods to wintry salads (more on that soon). I like having a bag on hand for snacking and keep a stash at work, lest I become tempted by the sugary cereal shelf.

hazelnut chestnut cake

Because, I’ve always had a soft spot for the humble hazelnut, I’m a bit biased towards recipes that allow it to be the star of the show. And when I saw this recipe and realized that it was created by my all time chef crushes – Gina DePalma, I pretty much changed my morning plans to bake this cake. That’s right, I skipped my Saturday morning spin to bake (those of you who know me, realize this is huge!). And before I keep you in suspense any longer, and with apologies to my all time favorite spin instructor (hi, Kristin!), I can tell you now – it was well worth it. Gina DePalma has never let me down – the woman practically walks on water as far as I’m concerned.

hazelnut chestnut cake

Speaking of chef crushes (and I’ve got a few) mine are almost exclusively pastry chefs and women (though a few men are sprinkled in the mix like the creator of those celestial meatballs). I don’t know if that says I gravitate towards a certain kind of cooking, but chefs like Gina DePalma, Karen DeMasco, Claudia Fleming (whom I met last summer when she signed my book and was speechless, no doubt, making a lasting impression as the mute who likes to bake), Gabrielle Hamilton and Anne Burrell all create the kind of food I want to eat and make for others. There something warm, honest and approachable about their cooking. It’s the kind of meal you have at the end of your day, and even if your day was the kind that makes you just want to crawl into bed, that first bite instantly brings a smile to your face and wraps you in comfort. And while I can’t eloquently describe or put my finger on it, it is, for me cooking always meant creating that warmth, memories and comfort. Bringing people together, making them smile, taste, feel loved. This cake is an embodiment of the kind of cooking I love – unfussy, simple, comforting, yet festive and celebratory. It’s both everyday and special occasion. And its sweet, nutty smell is perfect for the holiday season as it fills your house with its welcoming, warm fragrance.

hazelnut chestnut cake

I like this cake for the holiday season because in the next few weeks we will be inundated with overly sweet desserts, and it’s nice to have an option of something more restrained for the palate. Though I’m always up for dessert, I tend to steer clear of overly sugary things. I find that with dessert, as with people, the ones who are overly sweet are off-putting. I like a little bit of sarcasm, some edge, a bit of a dark side, if you will. And I like dessert that challenges my palate – gives me a bit of sweet but not overwhelmingly so. A dessert that holds back a little. World, meet this cake – it’s got some edge, all right.

hazelnut chestnut cake

This cake calls for hazelnut paste, which isn’t the easiest thing to procure, as I learned. But since I decided to make this cake on a whim at 8 o’clock in the morning, I wasn’t as well prepared ingredients-wise. Though I’m a bit sad that I couldn’t locate hazelnut paste anywhere in the vicinity of my house and had to settle for chestnut paste, I have to admit the results were anything but disappointing.

hazelnut chestnut cake

A perfect finish to a meal on a cold fall day, some friends and I had this over glasses of tawny port, but it’s the kind of dessert that goes well beautifully with a fresh pot of coffee or espresso. A dollop of unsweetened whipped cream not only makes for a festive presentation, but also lets the flavors sing even more. And though I didn’t think that chestnut and hazelnut would go well together – necessity (or desperation) is the mother of invention – because they do. With dessert like this, the hazelnut could very well be propelled from obscurity into the spotlight. Which would make it the It-Nut?

hazelnut chestnut cake

*Since I have a maturity level of a 5th grader I giggled every time I wrote the word “nut” and hope you do as well reading it. Because, this and also this, never get old.

I chose this dessert for the Bon Appetit 2009 blog envy bake-off because I love its simplicity, yet uncompromising taste and complexity of flavors. If you want to raise the ante, you can double the recipe and make a marron butter cream (please let me know if you wish for me to post the recipe for it). Otherwise, it’s a wonderfully comforting and clean holiday dessert that resists going into the extremely sugary zone. In the meantime, go over there and vote for your favorite dessert – I hope it’s mine, but there are lots of amazing entries!

Continue reading hazelnut chestnut cake.