September 20, 2010

Hazelnut Brownies II - Chewy Hazelnut

Since my first batch of Hazelnut Brownies were a chocoholic's dream and I felt a little chocolated-out, I decided to highlight the Hazelnut flavor in the second batch of brownies by modifying a recipe for Nutty Butterscotch Blondies that I found in King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking.  Essentially, a blondie is a brownie without the chocolate.  It wasn't that I didn't want the chocolate, I just didn't want the chocolate to overpower the hazelnut.  So with this second attempt at Hazelnut Brownies, a Nutella-Hazelnut batter is marbled into a hazelnut blondie batter.  Then it is topped with chopped hazelnuts for some textural contrast, as well as a visual reminder of what one should be tasting.

While my first Hazelnut Brownies were egg-leavened and used a minimal amount of flour, this second batch is leavened with baking powder.  For the flour, being that the starting recipe is from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking, I used white whole wheat.  I like whole wheat, because it gives full-bodied cookies and brownies a little ump, so that the texture stands up to the flavor.  I wouldn't use whole grain flours in delicate cookies, such as Katz Tongues or Madelines, but in anything chocolatey, I like to use whole grain flour for at least a portion of the all-purpose.

The end result is chewy, buttery and nutty. But you know what I concluded?

Maybe I don't really crave the real hazelnut-chocolate combination.  Maybe what I crave is Nutella...  Or Frangelico over ice.

Isn't it a bummer to all of us natural food enthusiasts when the -flavored product is somehow more satisfying than the 'natural?'  But, oh well, opening a jar of Nutella or a bottle of Frangelico is certainly less time-consuming than mixing and baking a pan of brownies.  Besides, my waistline needs a break from this kitchen adventure.  

Hazelnut Nutella Blondies
Highly adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup each white sugar and brown sugar
4 eggs, divided
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white whole wheat flour, whole wheat pastry flour or spelt flour
3/4 cup Nutella

1.  Toast hazelnuts:  Preheat oven to 350º.  Roughly chop hazelnuts.  Toast on ungreased rimmed cookie sheet 5 minutes.  Stir.  Toast 3-7 minutes more until just golden.  Nuts may go from white to burnt in less than a minute, so keep an eye on them and be smelling for a nutty aroma. Let nuts cool.  Then grind 2/3 of the hazelnuts into a powder in a food processor (or coffee grinder--but don't blame me if it breaks).  Reserve the remaining 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts. 

2.  Line a 13 x 9" baking pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking oil.  Set aside.

3.  Melt butter in small saucepan over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and add sugars, mixing until well blended.  Transfer butter-sugar mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer. 

4.  Add three of the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape bowl.  Beat in vinegar and vanilla.  Beat in baking powder and salt.  Scrape bowl.  On low speed, beat in ground hazelnuts and flour, just until blended.  

5.  Spread about 3/4 of hazelnut batter in prepared baking pan.  To the remaining batter add Nutella and the fourth egg.  Beat to combine, about 20 seconds.  Spoon Nutella batter over hazelnut batter.  Run a table knife through the batters to swirl.  Top evenly with reserved hazelnuts. 

6.  Bake at 350º 26-28 minutes, until the top looks shiny and puffed. A cake tester inserted in the middle should reveal sticky crumbs.  Let brownies cool completely--or at least almost completely--in pan before cutting into bars.  Store tightly covered at room temperature for a couple of days, or freeze for longer storage. 

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