It appears that I’m going through a hazelnut phase at the moment. I’m not sure why – perhaps my vestigial Northern hemisphere-oriented seasonal body clock is attempting to convince me to ignore the bright little clumps of daffodils that I pass on my way to and from uni by distracting me with hazelnuts and other such nutty, autumnal flavours because we’re coming up to September and said body clock thinks it should be autumn soon, not spring. Or perhaps I toast hazelnuts in largeish batches so that I always have toasted hazelnuts available for use straight away when I bake and may have been a little overenthusiastic with the amount of hazelnuts that I toasted on Sunday such that they didn’t all fit into my designated toasted hazelnut jar (don’t judge) so I clearly had to bake with the overflowing ones. Perhaps there’s an element of both…
Either way, I baked with hazelnuts this weekend. More specifically, with white chocolate and hazelnuts. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d borrowed Marian Keyes’ Saved by Cake from the library. One of the recipes that caught my eye was for white chocolate and macadamia nut cupcakes which she suggests can also be made with hazelnuts. It sounded like an excellent way to sort out my minor toasted hazelnut over-abundance issues. And indeed the cupcakes turned out wonderfully. Now I realise that they don’t look like much, but oh boy are they scrumptious, and in fact their “nothing special” look makes tasting them an even more delightful surprise. The combination of white chocolate and hazelnuts works fantastically well. The white chocolate flavour subtly permeates right through the cupcakes and the hazelnuts intersperse it with a lovely toasted nutty flavour and also give a great crunch which keeps the cupcakes texturally interesting.
I’m also aware that they don’t look too much like cupcakes – one generally expects cupcakes to be topped off with great big swirls of icing. Or even small swirls of icing. But these are icing-less. The original recipe doesn’t feature icing, and I’d initially thought that I might add some white chocolate-based icing, but when I tasted the cupcakes I realised that icing of any sort would probably just be too much and overpower them. I was going to call them “muffcakes” since they look rather like muffins due to their lack of icing, but still have the texture of a cupcake. Then I realised that that sounds like something else entirely – I haven’t looked it up on Urban Dictionary, but I don’t particularly want to. So I’ve called them “naked cupcakes” instead. Which I’m not sure is much of an improvement but it does sound slightly classier. I’m just going to stop talking now and share the recipe.
White chocolate & hazelnut naked cupcakes
Makes 15 cupcakes
Adapted from Saved by Cake
To toast the hazelnuts, spread them out on a baking tray, place in an oven pre-heated to 180°C and roast for 10 min, until they smell fragrant (be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn). Rub the hazelnuts in a clean tea towel to remove most of the skins, and allow to cool fully before using. These cupcakes will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box, but are best eaten sooner rather than later and are perfect for an afternoon tea break.
300g white chocolate
100g unsalted butter
100g toasted hazelnuts
180g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
100g light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Set out 15 silicone cupcake moulds on a baking tray or line two cupcake/muffin tins with liners. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/fan oven 150°C.
2. Break 200g of the white chocolate into pieces and add to a heatproof bowl with the cubed butter. Gently melt together over a saucepan of simmering water, stirring often (make sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl as white chocolate can burn very easily and keep an eye on the mixture). Remove from the heat as soon as the chocolate and butter are smoothly melted together.
3. Meanwhile, roughly chop the remaining chocolate and the hazelnuts and set aside. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a medium bowl, stir together and set aside.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and the sugar until the mixture is smooth, thickened and creamy. Whisk in the vanilla extract and the melted chocolate mixture. Add the flour mixture and fold in with a spatula until just combined. Fold in the chopped chocolate and hazelnuts.
5. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cupcake moulds or liners, not filling the liners more than ¾ full. Bake for 20-22 mins until risen, golden and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to sit in the silicone moulds for a couple of minutes for the cupcakes to firm up a little before removing and them and transferring to a wire rack to cool fully.