I hope everyone is enjoying their Valentine’s Day this year. If you already bought truffles or chocolates for your partner, bookmark this recipe. But don’t wait till next Valentine’s Day to prepare these. Pick a random day that’s not February 14. Buy some flowers. Prepare a special dinner that you both enjoy. Then pull these out for dessert. They’re amazing. These espresso-infused chocolate truffles melt in your mouth and pack a jolt of espresso. They’re also incredibly simple to make — as long as you don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty.
It is difficult to write about my experiences in Syria knowing that the country is on the brink of civil war and chaos. It breaks my heart. I also realize that not writing anything won’t necessarily make things better, either. And giving up on my blog — the thing that used to bring me so much happiness — is the last thing I want to do.
Vegas is all about one thing: over the top, elaborate, in-your-face, decadence. On my trip to Vegas last week I noticed that was a recurring theme. Gelato at 11 o’clock at night. Extravagant shows put on by Cirque du Soleil. The world’s largest chocolate fountain. Vegas is decadent. Sure, some people perceive its decadence in other more “lewd” ways, but I was there to experience the amazing food. I also learned how to play Craps along the way, but that’s a different blog post.
I find that when you don’t know how to go about saying something, it’s best to come out and say it. I learned this when I was younger. It’s like pulling off a bandaid…
My Canon Rebel died last week.
It hurt me to even type that, but it’s the truth. If you’re wondering whether it’s safe to leave your camera with a hotel for a couple hours after checkout, don’t do it. I hate to sound jaded, but that’s how my Canon met its horrible fate. The hotel is still investigating the matter, which, I hope, is not code for, let’s see how we could get out of this. So far they’ve been relatively kind and helpful, but I’m still waiting for them to make things right.
The last thing I photographed before my trip was a chocolate hazelnut ice cream. I stumbled upon this recipe for gianduia gelato on epicurious and couldn’t pass it up — it’s like Nutella ice cream. Despite the relatively positive reviews, I added my own twist by spiking the gelato base with hazelnut liqueur. Although it did not bring my camera back, I was happy to find the leftover gelato waiting for me in my freezer after I came home from my dismal trip.
The recipe calls for peeled, toasted hazelnuts, ground and steeped in hot milk. I’ve always peeled my hazelnuts by toasting them and rubbing them between a kitchen towel. While this method doesn’t get rid of all the skin, it does a great job of getting rid of most of it with very little effort. There’s also what has been dubbed the Julia Child technique, which requires you to boil the hazelnuts in water with baking soda until the water turns dark. Then you have to allow them to cool before you can peel the skins off. Either method works, although for this recipe, I don’t think you need to worry about getting all the peel off because you’ll be straining everything two steps later.
Pulse the peeled and toasted hazelnuts with sugar. Remember, the finer you grind your hazelnuts (i.e. the more surface area there is), the more hazelnut flavor will be infused into the milk. I went with a coarse cornmeal grind, but I feel like I could’ve gone further than that.
Once the hazelnuts steep in the hot milk for 20-30 minutes, you’ve essentially drawn out most of their flavor. I do not recommend reusing these. If you’re craving gelato with some texture, I recommend setting aside some of the toasted hazelnuts and folding them into the semi-frozen base once it comes out of the ice cream maker.
Rule number one: never add cornstarch to a hot liquid without diluting. My solution was to dilute the cornstarch in hazelnut liqueur before adding it to the strained milk mixture.
Once the mixture comes to a boil and reaches its maximum thickening potential, mix in your chocolate. I used a Callebaut 60% chocolate.
The next step is to let your mixture cool completely before adding it to your ice cream maker. The best thing, in my opinion, is to let it go overnight. The colder the ice cream base is before it goes into the ice cream maker, the less ice crystals will form, and the smoother your ice cream will be.
Since this gelato recipe uses cornstarch as a thickener, the base looks almost like a pudding after it is cooled; this is normal. Make sure to taste the base before putting it into the ice cream maker — not only is this a good habit in terms of making sure everything is seasoned correctly, but the base alone makes for an awesome chocolate hazelnut pudding.
If you use the ice cream attachment on your kitchen aid, as I did, make sure to whip as little air into the gelato base (i.e. keep your mixer on the lowest setting). This will help create the silky, slow-churned texture that gelato is known for.
yields approx 1 quart
- 2 cups hazelnuts (8 ounces), toasted , skins rubbed off, and cooled
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 4 1/2 cups whole milk
- 3 tbsp hazelnut liqueur
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao), finely chopped
Putting them all together
- Pulse toasted and peeled hazelnuts with sugar in a food processor. The result should resemble a coarse cornmeal texture.
- Combine the hazelnut mixture and the milk in a heavy-bottom medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once it reaches a boil, cover and set aside for 20-30 minutes.
- A couple minutes before the hazelnuts are done steeping in the milk, combine the hazelnut liqueur with the cornstarch to make a slurry. If the mixture is still a too thick (i.e. or clumpy), add cold milk to thin it out some more.
- Strain the ground hazelnuts from the milk mixture and discard.
- Return the strained milk to the medium sauce pot, stir in the the cornstarch slurry and boil over medium heat for 2 minutes, making sure to stir constantly. The mixture will be thick.
- Remove from heat and mix in the finely chopped chocolate.
- Chill the base in the refrigerator overnight, or at least for 4-6 hours, then put it into your ice cream maker to make the gelato.
- When complete, transfer the gelato to an air-tight container and freeze until ready to eat.
note: recipe adapted from epicurious.com
I don’t know what else I’m supposed to call it, but inspired by inspiration seemed appropriate. This month for A Taste of the Mediterranean we’re exploring tarts. Seeing as I’m asking bloggers to submit their own variations of this French classic, I thought I’d make some myself.