Today I’m wearing my Japanese doll apron, so today must be…baking day!
Let’s combine some of my favourite things; gluten free treats and etymology lessons!
While looking for an adjective for this recipe, I stumbled upon the word ‘dastardly’. These rustic looking biscuits are definitely a bit mischievous, with their sweet chewiness disguised by crunchy cracks and that rough exterior.
According to the dictionary, the word dastard (meaning a coward) has come to encompass all manner of nasty behaviour, but still essentially means “one who avoids all personal risk”. It is rather a stretch, I know, but as a coeliac, I can appreciate the fact that this biscuit contains no flour of any kind, and are therefore no risk to me.
The idea behind them, of course, is Nutella. The ‘sandwich spread’ that I always resented being put on bread, which I ate with a spoon when no one was looking. In primary school, I bought the little snack packs of it at the canteen, eating them with the little plastic spatulas, and loved it when it was a hot enough day and it would melt. I also got my education about what metal does in the microwave when I put the jar in with a bit of foil still stuck to the rim. I do go to great lengths to melt my food sometimes…
2 3/4 cups hazelnuts
3 cups pure icing sugar
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark chocolate, chopped, or chocolate chips
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
, or whatever.
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
(Makes about 36)
Preheat the oven to 180C, and prepare some biscuit trays with baking paper, and give it a grease with spray if you want to.
If you buy hazelnuts without their skins on, you can just give them a light toasting. If not, lay out on one of the lined trays and pop in the oven for 5-10 minutes, or until you can see that the skins have cracked. To peel them, put hazelnuts onto a clean tea towel, wrap them up and rub them. This should get the skin off most of them, and the rest will be fine as they are.
Chop the hazelnuts coarsely. Probably not like this, which was the result of 1 second (I kid you not) on speed 9 of Thelma the Thermomix. They still turned out nicely, but if you want to get more of a nut crunch and thinner biscuits, you can do it a more gently. I will be more cautious next time.
Sift together the icing sugar, cocoa and salt in a large bowl and combine with a whisk.
Add the egg whites and vanilla. Whisk until it’s all incorporated, but don’t beat it too hard, or you will hurt it’s feelings and it will go stiff.
Switch to a spoon and stir in the chopped hazelnuts and chocolate.
When putting biscuits on a tray, if the mixture is too wet to use hands I like to cornel them, just to get a nice shape. This just means taking two spoons, scooping some up with the first one, then flicking it from spoon to spoon until it’s roughly round.
The first ones I made were huge, so unless you want monsters like this, spoon out only a level dessertspoon (or whatever size the bigger spoon is in an ordinary cutlery set). Leave a good 5cm between each one (I did 6 per tray of these smaller ones).
Two trays will do, once you get those in the oven you can relax a bit until the next rotation. Bake for 12-14 minutes. The tops should be glossy and lightly cracked.
The biscuits should come off the paper easily once they’re baked, but just in case, slide the whole sheet of paper and biscuits onto a cooling rack.
Let me tell you how they eat. There is a crisp, satisfying crunch before the chewy centre, the earthy nuttiness balances the sweet…just like Nutella really, but better, a kind of caramelised Nutella praline. Straight out of the oven you get a gooey hot chocolate chip hit, which would have been a lot better if I hadn’t had to use up normal chocolate chips and used 70% cocoa chocolate instead. Next time. Definitely good enough for a next time.