January 8, 2015
During our fall trip to Italy we went to a very chic restaurant in Milan, Sadler. At the end of five fancy courses we were pummeled presented with a tray filled with beautiful small desserts. I was beyond full at this point; there was no way I could nibble anything. Among the offerings was a tiny cellophane bag filled with chocolate covered hazelnuts covered in dusting of cocoa. I proceeded to snag that bag and stash it in my purse — yep, class act all the way.
Fast-forward a couple of days to back home in Santa Barbara. I found those nuts buried in the depths of my purse and promptly devoured the entire bag. They were delicious and left me wanting more — also, how could I talk to my family about how amazing they were when I didn’t offer a bite to anyone? Into the kitchen I went to replicate and this three-ingredient bark was born. Many holiday batches were made — and shared. They were such a hit they’re moving out of Christmas territory into full-time rotation.
Actually, these chocolate nuggets are a perfect January dessert. Everyone is stepping off the cookie/cake/cocktail train but still craving a little sweetness at the end of dinner. This bark isn’t overly sweet, but does give a touch of decadence and looks so pretty stacked on a small silver tray. The simple ingredient list is just right for the gluten-free and/or cutting back crowd.
Hazelnuts grow all over northern Italy and are prized for good reason; sweet, crunchy and wonderful, when mixed with the semi sweetness of chocolate and the bitterness of these nuts really shine. Quality hazelnuts can often be a challenge to find, but I found a great source thru Amazon (Is it just me or do all roads seem to lead to Amazon these days?). Fresh, pre-roasted and pre-peeled — peeling hazelnuts is not fun, trust me. Nuts have been more expensive lately, but I was able to get a whole pound of hazelnuts for $17.99 — with only three ingredients being used here every bite will taste special.
1 1/2 cups roasted unsalted hazelnuts
2 cups (12 ounces) bittersweet chocolate — chopped or chips
1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silpat. In a clean glass bowl microwave the chocolate for 30 seconds on high then give it a good stir. Place the bowl back into the microwave for 20-second increments, stirring the bowl of chocolates each time. I usually do this a total of four times. The last time you zap the chocolates make sure there still are chunks in the mixture then stir until it is totally smooth.
(If you melt the chocolate all the way the chocolate will bloom, meaning white spots will form all over the chocolate when it hardens. You don’t want that because it looks like the chocolate has mold all over it.)
Once the chocolate is melted add the nuts and pour on the prepared cookie sheet. Slam the sheet pan on the counter so any air bubbles escape and the nuts appear to be in a single layer. Put the unsweetened cocoa powder in a sifter and sprinkle over the soft chocolate. Shake the pan a bit to get full coverage. Place the sheet pan in a cool area of your home or speed up the process by sticking the whole pan in the freezer. Once it hardens, break apart into desired sized pieces. Serve or store in an airtight container. The bark will last a couple of weeks in your pantry.