Flavor combinations fascinate me. The endless possibilities keep my mind swirling with ideas, sometimes at the worst moments, like when I’m sitting in church trying to listen to the pastor preach. There I sit with a dazed look, lost in my own thoughts of mexican fondue…beer or tequila? But then of course there are combinations of ingredients that we as a culture have come to accept, they are as a matter of fact and go without question. For instance if you order French fries of course you would expect ketchup; pumpkin pie never sits alone without it’s partner - whipped cream, and our all American favorite, “would you like cheese with that burger? ” One of my favorite flavor combinations is hazelnut, coffee, and chocolate. Individually I would date all three but together, they make me take a deep breath…sigh…close my eyes and smile, that’s a man I would marry. Although Hazelnut isn’t a common American favorite, I have found that once it’s introduced it cannot be resisted. It’s no surprise then that I can sit alone in a closet with a jar of Nutella, remove lid, and insert spoon. I discovered, years back, that Nescafe made an instant gourmet Hazelnut coffee and even though the price throughout the years has tripled, I can’t help but have a container hidden in the back of my pantry. It’s mine and I don’t share it. If you are looking for Hazelnut treats galore, try Cost Plus World Market- jackpot.
This brownie recipe was created by me and for me, with the dream of me sitting alone spoon in hand. I must admit these were every bit as good as I had imagined them to be. The brownie itself is made with Hazelnut liquor (Frangelico), Hazelnut coffee granules, and ground Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut Tea in mixed in with the sugar. The tea is a trick I learned while making peppermint brownies with, of course, peppermint tea. Chopped Hazelnuts top this rich decadent dessert giving it the last blast of Hazelnut flavor, crunchy and slightly roasted. These can be served alone, but I found that in the same way I enjoy cream in my coffee, these are best cozied up in a bowl with vanilla ice cream. The caramel sauce? Do you need an explanation? Creamy homemade caramel sauce with a dainty sprinkling of sea salt adds the finishing touch to an already perfect dessert.
10 oz unsalted butter
10 oz unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoons Hazelnut tea –about 2 tea bags
2 cups granulated white sugar
4 large eggs- room temperature
1 Tablespoon Frangelico (Hazelnut Liquor)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons granulated instant hazelnut coffee (espresso powder can be substituted)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup all purpose flour
5 oz roughly chopped hazelnuts
Position rack in the center of the oven preheat to 350 degrees
Spray the bottom of a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and line with parchment paper,
Spray the parchment with cooking spray
(Allow the parchment to extend at least 1-2 inches; this will act as a handle to pull cooled brownies from pan)
Put about 2 inches of water in a small saucepot and bring to a boil
Place a heatproof bowl over the water and melt chocolate and butter , stirring occasionally until smooth – make sure your water is simmering but not touching the bottom of the bowl
Once melted remove from heat and set aside
In a food processor blend tea and sugar until finely chopped and combined
In a medium bowl whisk the eggs, Frangelico, vanilla, coffee granules and tea sugar until just combined
Whisk in the melted chocolate
In thirds add in the flour and gently fold in with a spatula until just combined- do not over mix
Pour batter in prepared pan, sprinkle with Hazelnuts and place into preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until brownies are slightly cracked, pulling away from the edges and toothpick comes out just barely clean.
Cool completely, serve with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce
Caramel Sauce with Sea Salt
1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sea salt
Mix the water and sugar in a medium (very clean) heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Cook over low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir.
Increase the heat to medium and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a warm chestnut amber brown (about 350 degrees F on a candy thermometer), about 5 to 7 minutes, gently swirling the pan to stir the mixture.
Be careful – the mixture is extremely hot! Watch the mixture very carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly.
Turn off the heat. Stand back to avoid splattering and slowly add the cream and vanilla. Don’t worry – the cream will bubble violently and the caramel will solidify.
Simmer over low heat; whisking constantly, until the caramel dissolves and the sauce is smooth, about 2 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature, at least 4 hours. It will thicken as it sits
Once cooled add in sea salt