Hazelnut flour and Easter dessert Part 1: planning and components

As Steve and I get closer to our move back to Grand Rapids, Michigan in a handful of weeks I'm working on using up some of the ingredients in my larder.  My current focus is hazelnut flour.

I'm able to buy nut flours (primarily almond and hazelnut) here in Providence from the Virginia and Spanish Peanut Company, but they sell them in minimum 5 pound portions.  I go through almond flour fast, but I end up freezing the bulk of the hazelnut flour for periodic use.  I still have 3 lbs or so on hand, so I've been working on recipes that will help me reduce my stash before the move.

The other day I held a tart class during which we baked a hazelnut version of sablé Breton, garnished with an orange-zested, white chocolate pastry cream and some nut crumble.  Boy, was that tasty!

Being on tap for dessert for Easter dinner at Dick and Dorothy's, I turned to the recipes from my spring 2009 professional entremets course at LCB Paris.

I opted for my version of an almond-lemon-raspberry number, focusing on hazelnut-orange-fruits rouge as my flavor profile.  There's still a hint of winter in this combo, but, since Easter is on the early side this year, I figured this would be a last nod to late winter's tastes.  And besides, the weather hasn't figured out that it's spring yet!

Many chefs, whether savory or sweet, will sketch out a dish/dessert for assembly or plating.  I certainly don't claim to be an artist, but it's kinda' fun to draw out what one has in mind for a layered dessert (takes me back to those grade school coloring days).  It's all part of the mise en place.
In this case I was looking for a cake/custard/fruity/nutty ensemble.  Gotta have those contrasts!  And the good news is the components can be made several days ahead and frozen before final assembly.

First I created two 16 cm square cake "pans" by wrapping these bottomless forms in foil.  My intention was to make my components in the same square shape in which I would assemble them.

On to the prep!

les ingredients pour le pavé

For the pavé aux noisette blend 95 gm soft butter, 150 gm sugar, 2 gm salt and the zest of an orange.  Add half of 200 gm egg, then half of 190 gm ground hazelnuts; finish with remaining egg and ground hazelnuts, blending to smooth.

before the egg white addition

Whisk 100 gm egg white with 30 gm sugar to medium firm peaks . . .

and fold them into the butter/sugar/egg/nut mixture. 

finished batter

Butter the foil, divide the batter between the two forms . . .

ready for the oven

and bake at 375º for about 25 minutes (should look nicely browned and feel firmly spongy in the center).


Once the cakes cool, remove them from the molds, wrap and hold 1-2 days at room temp or up to 2 weeks in the freezer (the day before assembly place them in the fridge to thaw).

For the vanilla bean ricotta custard . . . .

les ingredients

blend 354 gm cream cheese, 177 gm ricotta, 112 gm sugar and the seeds scraped from one vanilla bean until smooth; blend in 2 eggs and 1 white, followed by 177 gm heavy cream until incorporated.  Pour into your chosen pan or ramekins.

I baked these in the same foil wrapped 16 cm square forms, placed in a water bath.  Steve was tickled that I had leftover custard to fill a handful of small ramekins to boot!

Bake at 300º for about 30 minutes until set.

Once the custard had cooled I put it in the freezer for 30 minutes or so, during which I made a mixed fruit coulis using IQF berries and cherries.

Thaw, puree and strain 227 gm/8 oz frozen fruit (yield 150 gm).  Warm the puree, add 20 gm sugar to dissolve, and whisk in 3 gm of bloomed sheet gelatin (softened in ice water and squeezed out).  Let the mixture cool a bit.

I poured it over one of the chilled custard squares, spreading evenly . . . .

and topped it with hazelnut/almond crumble, pressing it in gently.

Putting the crumble on the still liquid coulis and then into the freezer helps set the layers and keep them together for the final assembly.  The crumble will ultimately become the center layer of my creation (let's hope!)

Next up - final assembly and tasting!

Stay tuned.