There are times when life gets a bit frantic, be it big decisions pending or a deadline looming large. The workload lifts to another level and all of a sudden you're left feeling outpaced, over-stretched and as though you're flying by the seat of your pants. Whether or not there's an end in sight it's times like these when what you really need is a quick ten minutes peace with a cup of tea and a biscuit, and these roasted hazelnut and browned butter numbers are exactly what the doctor ordered.
Food aromas generate very powerful emotional responses—a scrunched nose of disgust or wistful remembering-childhood smile—and one of my all-time favourites is that of browned butter. Rich and comforting it lends a new depth to batters and pastries, and blends perfectly with the earthiness of autumnal nuts and fruits. Here the caramel tones pair beautifully with roasted hazelnuts, and are nicely offset by the slightly bitter crunch of raw cacao nibs. Relatively quick and just a little bit different, they are a lovely way to take some time out and pretend for the briefest of moments that life isn't in such a rush. A delicious little biscuit indeed.
ROASTED HAZELNUT BROWNED BUTTER BISCUITS (Adapted from Poires au Chocolat)
- 100 g hazelnuts
- A pinch of salt
- 80 g browned butter*
- 70 g light brown sugar
- 1 Tbsp crème fraîche
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 135 g plain flour
- 30 g cocoa nibs
- 30 g raw sugar, for coating
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C. Place the hazelnuts on a tray and roast for 8 minutes until the skins have darkened and cracked open in places. Rub off the skins and then pulse the hazelnuts in a food processor until finely ground. Remove and reserve 30 g, then add a pinch of salt and pulse the remaining nuts until they become a smooth paste.
In a medium bowl cream the butter and brown sugar until light and creamy. Add the hazelnut paste, crême fraîche and vanilla and beat until combined. Finally, fold through the flour and cocoa nibs and bring together into a smooth dough.
Mix the 30 g ground hazelnuts and raw sugar together in a shallow plate or bowl. Take a 20 g chunk of dough (a heaped teaspoon) and roll it into a smooth ball using the palms of your hands. Coat the ball in the hazelnut-sugar mixture and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with the remaining dough and then use a palette knife or similar to flatten the biscuits to about 1-1.5-cm thick.
Bake the biscuits for 14-16 minutes until they are deeply golden and cracks have begun to appear around the edges. Leave to cool on the tray for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. The biscuits will keep in an airtight container for approximately one week. Makes 20-22 biscuits.
** To make the browned butter melt unsalted butter in a saucepan and allow to simmer and froth until the solids are dark brown in colour and the butter smells like rich caramel. Transfer to a bowl and cool completely so that the butter is once again solid. Before making the biscuits bring the browned butter back to room temperature so that it is soft enough for creaming.