I’ve been a fan of hazelnuts for as long as I can remember. Growing up I would seek out the little round nuts in the bowl of mixed nuts that was on the kitchen table during the winter. Back then I knew them as filberts. Years later I discovered that these nuts paired perfectly with chocolate. I think my first experience with this combination was when my friend A.’s husband brought back a box of Perugina chocolates from Italy. I couldn’t seem to get enough of the candies labeled gianduja-a chocolate hazelnut mixture.
Fast forward to my travels in Italy and everywhere I turned I found chocolate bars studded with hazelnuts. A favorite spot for indulging my addiction is Caniparoli Cioccolateria in Lucca. Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate-I’m not fussy-I bought them all and sampled them daily before stuffing my suitcase and heading home.
Well, my stash has dwindled, but these squares definitely will tide me over until I’m back in Italy. They are like a super rich brownie topped with ganache and toasted nuts. I’ve been eating them along with my morning cappuccino (I know, pretty decadent), but they would be wonderful served for dessert with a scoop of vanilla ice cream over top.
Chocolate Hazelnut Squares
Vegetable oil spray
1/2 cup hazelnuts
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
5 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Chopped toasted hazelnuts, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan. Line the bottom and 2 sides with parchment paper, allowing the paper to extend 1 inch beyond the pan. Spray the paper.
In a pie plate, toast the hazelnuts in the oven for 12 minutes, until the skins blister. Spread the nuts on a kitchen towel and let cool completely. Rub the nuts together to rub off the skins. Transfer the nuts to a food processor. Add the flour and salt and pulse until the nuts are finely ground.
In a microwave-safe glass bowl, heat the chocolate at 20-second intervals, stirring a few times, until melted. Let cool to warm. In a bowl, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 minutes. Add the chocolate, egg yolks and vanilla and beat until combined. Beat in the dry ingredients just until incorporated.
In another bowl, using clean beaters, whip the egg whites at high speed until soft peaks form. Fold the whites into the batter until no streaks remain. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then freeze until chilled, 1 hour.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Invert the cake onto a cutting board and remove the paper. Cut the cake into 5 equal strips, then cut each strip crosswise into 5 squares, wiping the knife between cuts. Transfer the squares to the prepared baking sheet.
In a microwave, heat the cream and butter until very hot. Whisk in the espresso powder. Add the chocolate and let stand until melted; whisk until smooth.
Using a small offset spatula, spread the ganache on the top of each square. Sprinkle the squares with chopped hazelnuts and refrigerate until the ganache is firm, about 30 minutes.
***The original recipe calls for icing the sides of each square in addition to the top. I opted to just frost the top and saved the leftover ganache to use as a fudge sauce for ice cream.
December 29, 2014 at 3:11 am
Oh wow they look so delicious!! ❤
December 29, 2014 at 3:16 am
My favorite gelato is hazelnut
January 2, 2015 at 1:49 am
Lyn-I totally agree-I always order nocciola and maybe a little cioccolata to go with it!
December 29, 2014 at 4:36 am
That’s a great recipe! The first time I tasted chocolate and hazelnut together was through Nutella. They go really well together
January 8, 2015 at 2:40 pm
Dulciamira-I can’t get enough of that combo! No wonder Nutella is so popular.
December 29, 2014 at 9:51 am
Love the Perugina connection Janie. These look perfect festive fare!!! Buone feste!!!!
January 2, 2015 at 1:50 am
Janine-I can’t tell you how excited I was to get into that box of chocolates when my friend returned from Italy! Buon Anno!
December 29, 2014 at 6:13 pm
These look wonderful, Janie. I adore hazelnuts. When I first tried them – WAY back in the sixties, I did not care for them at all. This was when they were still known as “filberts.” No one, but no one, called them hazelnuts back then. I sort of grew into them, and now I have some in my freezer all the time. I will have to make these. Thanks, and all the best to you for a terrific 2015!
January 2, 2015 at 1:54 am
Adri-I’m with you about the filberts! I’ve always had a soft spot for them and combined with chocolate, I’m thrilled. Buon Anno!
May 25, 2021 at 6:20 pm
Do you know how we might order the hazelnut milk chocolate fudge loaf? (they slice it in 1″ slices in the store for you)
It was the best chocolate from the Lucca store.
May 25, 2021 at 11:22 pm
Bren-I wish I could tell you how to order it. I always shop at Caniparoli Cioccolateria in Lucca. I’m not sure if they ship. Maybe you
can email them.