Have you ever become so totally obsessed with an ingredient or recipe it completely takes over your life? Because that is exactly what happened when I recently sampled an ethereal Chocolate Hazelnut Torte at a local Atlanta restaurant. That particular sweet and nutty flavor combination is always a favorite, but it was the crispy, creamy wafer crust that had me at hello.
I have a minor -- or major, depending on who you ask -- case of undiagnosed OCD, and the biggest triggers usually pertain to food. (Okay, sometimes office supplies, makeup, and hair products can be to blame.) For the most part my weirdest tendencies tend to go unnoticed, thank goodness, but sometimes my food obsessions just completely take over.
For example, the crunchy, "hazelnutty" crust from that delicious dessert. I wanted to know what was in it, how it was made, and more importantly, how could I, as in me, make it. I began poring over my pastry books and endlessly surfing the best baking sites, and that is how I stumbled upon feuilletine. The minute I saw it I had an Aha! moment; I knew it was exactly what I'd been looking for.
Feuilletine is essentially crispy wafer-flakes that add a textural element to all kinds of desserts. The buttery crumbs, made from crepes dentelles, used to only be known in pastry kitchens, but lately they've become a more familiar ingredient for serious home bakers. (Thank you, Christina Tosi!)
Upon discovering them for myself, I couldn't wait to order a batch of the toasty bits to play "pastry chef" with, that is until I realized I could make them from scratch. Huge score! Many thanks to the wonderful Stella Parks of BraveTart for the fabulous recipe (link below). Not only were they delicious; they were sooo easy!
My first experiment with the homemade feuilletine led to these delicious chocolate hazelnut crunch bars: a more humble version of the restaurant recipe that started it all. I combined the flakes with Nutella and semisweet chocolate to form the crust, and then I topped it with a layer of ultra-rich, classic ganache.
This recipe is easy to make and is delicious all in its own right, but there's also plenty more fun to be had -- a thicker base of wafer with just a thin coat of chocolate would taste mighty similar to a Kit Kat Bar, and a plump layer of pale mocha mousse could parallel the pâtisseries of Paris! Let the experimenting begin!
Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bars
Makes one 9x13 tray, bars cut as big or small as you likeFor the crust:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted
10 ounces (about 1 cup) chocolate-hazelnut spread, such as Nutella
5 ounces (about 2 cups) pailleté feuilletine
For the filling:
6 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
8 ounces (1 cup) heavy cream
2 ounces (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
For the crust, line a 9 x 13 inch pan with parchment paper, allowing the parchment to hang over the long sides of the pan to act as handles.
In a large bowl, combine melted chocolate and chocolate-hazelnut spread and stir until smooth. Fold in the feuilletine until combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Use a sheet of wax paper (or a nonstick Silpat mat) to press the mixture into a smooth, even layer. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill while making the filling.
For the ganache, place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat; pour over the chocolate. Let mixture sit for 2 minutes, or long enough to melt the chocolate. Add the butter and whisk until ganache is very smooth. (You can also use an emulsion blender to mix.)
Pour the ganache over the crust and smooth with an offset or rubber spatula. Transfer to the refrigerator until set and firm, about 1 - 2 hours. Slice into bars before serving. Keep stored in the refrigerator and serve chilled.
(Images: Nealey Dozier)