This is a tart I made recently with hazelnut cream. It had spiced poached pears and fresh cranberries baked in it. My former boss and mentor told me that she thought that different nuts had different seasons associated with them. For example, pecans are a winter and fall nut. I didn’t give it much thought initially, but upon trying various nut and fruit combinations I do feel that the hazelnut truly shines with winter and fall fruits.
Growing up in California I don’t ever remember trying a hazelnut. It wasn’t until I moved to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) that they were suddenly everywhere. It didn’t take long for me to begin my love affair with hazelnut as it is simply the most flavorful nut. Earthy, rich and slightly sweet – hazelnuts pair incredibly well with PNW fruit such as berries and pears. Another well-known hazelnut combination, made most famous by Nutella, is hazelnuts and chocolate. For me it is the only nut that can both stand up to chocolate and compliment it.
This recipe is a labor of love. The first time I had a tart with almond frangipane – I loved it. Later I thought to myself, wouldn’t this be more magical with hazelnuts? So that is what I made. This cream can be used for the filling in tarts, pies, danishes or anything that is going to be baked and needs a creamy hazelnut filling.
1 cup ground hazelnuts ( you can grind your own or buy hazelnuts meal. If you grind your own, make sure that most of the skin is off because it is very bitter).
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 cup flour
6 T butter
pinch of salt
1 T vanilla
1/2 cup heavey cream
Place the sugar, hazelnut meal, salt and butter into the bowl of the mixer fitted with the paddle attachement.
Add the egg and egg yolks one at a time to the mixture while the mixer is on the slowest speed. Scrape the bowl and paddle down. Then add the vanilla and the rum.
This what it should look like when it is done. Creamy and smooth and without any chunks of butter. It is ready for immediate use. If need be, you can also store it in a fridge for up to a week. Bring it out an hour or so before use so it can soften and become easy to work with.
Depending on the size of what you are baking, it can be baked between 325 and 400 hundred degrees. For example, if you are baking something 2 inches across you want a higher heat so that it bakes quickly and doesn’t leave the center raw. If you are baking an 11 inch tart, you could start with a higher heat to gain color and then turn it down to a lower heat about half way through to make sure that the center is well baked. To tell if it’s done, simply press on the filling to see whether it bounces back from where it is touched. If so, it is fully ready. If it leaves an indentation it is still needs more time in the oven.
Usually I like to serve the tarts with this filling cold. Another thing to think about is that everything usually goes better with whipped cream. Don’t listen to my mentor and enjoy this year round and delight in the flavors of the PNW.