playing with flour

Category: Hazelnut

Panforte

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Wow, what a month it has been. I know that I promised to post here more often but sometimes things just don’t go to plan. We moved house which is always a challenge, and have finally unpacked and settled in and got our internet connected after three weeks. Whilst doing that I also had my graduation from medical school, my parents visiting from interstate and preparation for my new job which starts next week. Of course, just to make things slightly more hectic, there was Christmas and New Years! Thankfully things have calmed down now and should get back to normal. Fingers crossed.

Christmas this year was lovely and simple, with breakfast and lunch at our new place with family. Instead of the traditional Christmas puddings or cakes I made panforte which is an Italian variation on Christmas cake and gave it as gifts to friends and neighbours. It’s rich and flavourful and packed full of nuts and fruit, held together by chocolate and honey. The orange gives it a citrus scent and the figs make it chewy and moist. While I realise I’m a little behind with the Christmas recipe posts I don’t see any reason to wait until next year to make this. It is fantastic with coffee and makes for a great afternoon treat.

The recipe is simple and easy to make and you can feel free to make any alterations you wish. Add more or different nuts, use spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, add glace fruit… there are endless possibilities but I found this combination worked really well. The panforte can be kept wrapped in cling wrap and stored in a dark place for up to six weeks.

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Panforte

100g plain flour
2 tbsp cocoa
150g whole almonds
125g hazelnuts
Rind from one orange
100g raisins
150g dried figs, chopped
1 ½ tsp mixed spice
100g caster sugar
185g honey
60g dark chocolate, chopped finely

Preheat your oven to 170° and prepare a 22cm round cake tin with baking paper. Combine the nuts, rind and fruit in a large bowl and sift over the cocoa, flour and mixed spice.

In a small saucepan over medium heat combine the sugar and honey and stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer the mixture until it reaches 118° on a sugar thermometer (soft ball stage). Remove from heat, add the chocolate and stir through. Immediately pour over fruit and nut mixture and mix (it will firm up considerably).

Press the mixture into the prepared pan until even. Bake for 40 minutes then allow to cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire tray. If cutting into pieces allow to cool completely first.

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Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread

I have a confession to make: before today I had not tasted Nutella. Shocking I know, but it’s true. Obviously I’ve had chocolate and hazelnuts before, and even had the two together, but not once had I eaten this amazing spread. It is probably a good thing really, I can see myself buying (and eating) a lot more of it. I ate three spoonfuls before even starting these cookies!

Fragrant with hazelnuts and coffee this shortbread melts in your mouth. The rice flour keeps them light and the hazelnut meal gives a strong flavour and interesting texture. You could easily substitute almond meal or even macadamia meal if you like, but I found these cookies went perfectly with a spoonful of Nutella sandwiched between them.

This shortbread is quite easy to make but a little temperamental to work with. I recommend placing the dough in the fridge for a while before shaping into cookies to avoid getting your hands too messy. I cut small shapes out of half of my cookies while they were still warm from the oven although you can try and do this before you bake them but they may be too soft. Also don’t let them cool completely and then try to cut them as they will just crumble.

I think this recipe will quickly become a favourite in this house, not least of all because it gives me an excuse to eat more Nutella!

Hazelnut Espresso Shortbread Cookies

125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
60g icing sugar
60g hazelnut meal
130g rice flour
1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 1 tsp hot water
Nutella to fill

Preheat the oven to 160° and line baking trays with baking paper.

Sift icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and pale, about 5 minutes. Add the hazelnut meal, flour and coffee and stir until combined. Refrigerate about 30 minutes or until easy to handle.

Roll teaspoon sized balls of the dough and place on baking trays. Flatten each ball with the bottom of a glass (use a piece of baking paper between the glass and the dough if they stick) and bake for 10-15 minutes or until lightly golden.

If cutting out shapes from your cookies now is the time to do so. Be very gentle and use a toothpick to clean up any edges. Once completely cooled spread Nutella on one cookie and sandwich with another.

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