Hazelnuts are something that I have grown to truly appreciate. While they used to be the round, slightly bitter little nut with a thin paper skin that I would try to avoid in the mixed nuts bowl, they have now become a delicious snack and ingredient that I try to use whenever possible. For many years, my knowledge of the hazelnut was a coffee creamer flavor or a sweet smelling housewarming candle. No longer.
I have since married a French man who adores the noisette and have visited Europe on several occasions to find that the hazelnut or filbert is a much loved ingredient that is used in all sorts of ways from cooking to baking.
There is the decadent Italian dessert called mousse gianduja that is made with a chocolate hazelnut mixture (I actually ordered this delicious delicacy while in Florence!); butternut squash with fresh chèvre and toasted hazelnuts;(I just made last week and will be on the Thanksgiving menu!) and, of course, there’s the fabulous Frangelico liqueur that is the key ingredient to a rich hazelnut martini (yes, this will be served up over the Christmas holiday!).
The recipe that I am going to share is an easy recipe that I recreated from one of my family’s favorite fall desserts and using one of our new found pantry staples-Nutella. This dessert really gets me in the autumn mood! But before I share my recipe, I thought I would list a few interesting facts about the hazelnut.
- The first hazelnut tree that was cultured in the United States was planted in Oregon and was brought by French settlers in the 1850’s.
- The Willamette Valley in Oregon (same region where some top Pinot Noirs come from!) is a top producer in the U.S. and exports 50% of its crop.
- According to a study done by the New England Journal of Medicine, hazelnuts can reduce the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or dying of heart disease by 30%.
- Hazelnuts have shown to lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides, while increasing good cholesterol.
- It is said that filbert (another name for the hazelnut) came from the French Saint Philbert, whose Feast Day happens to be August 20, the same time of year the hazelnuts ripen.
Chocolate Hazelnut Apple Cookie Tart
Makes 2 tarts- serves 10-12 people
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 8 oz pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup Mascarpone cheese
1 cup Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread
1 cup caramels (melted it is about 3/4 cup)
3-4 peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup toasted finely chopped hazelnuts
To Make the Crust:
Heat oven to 300 degrees
Beat butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, blend in flour.
Press into 2 8 inch tart pans
Bake for 20-25 minutes
Set aside and let cool before putting on the topping.
To Make the Topping:
Cream the cheeses and the Nutella together.
Spread on the baked tart shells
Place the sliced and peeled apples on the tarts
Melt the caramels in the microwave for 10-15 second intervals, watching carefully, until melted. Drizzle over apples.
Sprinkle toasted hazelnuts.
Cut, serve and enjoy!