Hazelnut Freckle Cupcake – tender cupcake speckled with bittersweet chocolate; with chopped hazelnuts and sugar at the bottom, ganache on top and decorated with a glistening caramel-dipped hazelnut spikes. Price available upon request.
freckles and candy
The idea for this cupcake started with a chocolate-speckled cake. I wanted to make something quirky but flavorful. Again, I used my go-to basic cupcake recipe and adjusted it to make a hazelnut-flavored one. Frangelico is so expensive so I used a hazelnut syrup. I also added a combo of chopped hazelnuts and sugar and dumped a heaping teaspoon of this mixture on the bottom of each cupcake liner to create a crunchy base. For the frosting, chocolate goes well with hazelnuts so ganache is the only way (my way, actually!) to go.
I’ve long wanted to make the caramel-dipped hazelnuts since I saw them in Alice Medrich’s book Bittersweet. But for some reason, I could not cook a perfect caramel; if it’s not undercooked, the syrup gets burnt. I think I’m the only one who has trouble with cooking caramel—sigh. The project I was working on before this was actually a caramel cupcake but since I always had disastrous results with the syrup, I ditched cooking the caramel from scratch. I was still able to create a luscious caramel cupcake but that’s another story.
Coming to this project, I still had no confidence making caramel so I made another topper, sort of a chocolate bark with hazelnuts. It looked good and tasted good but I was still dreaming of those shiny, nutty and spiky gems so I decided to give caramel another go. I followed Ms. Medrich’s recipe but halved it as I anticipated another failure and I do not want to waste valuable sugar especially at this time when sugar prices are skyrocketing. The syrup cooked to a beautiful amber color and following instructions, I put the pan on an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Stop the cooking indeed as I heard the caramel cracking and hardening. I think I left the pan in the ice bath for too long. What to do, what to do? I rewarmed the solid caramel on low heat and it turned syrupy again. Whew, lucky me. This time, no more ice bath. I just worked quickly.
Now how did I get those spiky tips? As per Ms. Medrich’s instructions with some of my modifications, I pierced the side of the hazelnuts with a pointy toothpick, dipped them in the caramel and stuck them on a piece of styrofoam. At that point, the caramel will begin to drip and create a long string. I did this on the kitchen sink with a newspaper directly below the skewered nuts to catch the caramel drippings. The pan with the cooked caramel can also catch the drippings so there will be no wastage.
It looks daunting to make but it is really quite easy. Just make sure to use these candied nuts at once preferably on the same day they are prepared.
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skinning hazelnuts the foolproof way
Home bakers are used to skinning hazelnuts by roasting them first in an oven and then rubbing off the skins with a dish towel. But there is another way that will ensure that the entire skin on each hazelnut will be removed. This foolproof method comes from Rose Levy Beranbaum who learned this from Carl Sontheimer (the man who brought the food processor to America from France and called it Cuisinart). Boil 1 1/2 cups water in a large saucepan and add 2 tablespoons baking soda. Add 1/2 cups nuts and boil for 3 minutes. Test a nut by running it under cold water. The skin should slip off easily. If not, boil a few minutes longer. Rinse the nuts under cold water and toast them in a 350 degrees F oven for 20 minutes or so. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.
4 comments December 17th, 2009