Valentines day is almost here and this decadent chocolate and strawberry layer cake is perfect to share with your loved one. I shared this recipe over on Sharon Wee’s blog “Wee Love Baking. For the blog post and recipe click here.
Imagine if you will, a time where there is a chocolate shortage. Ok well that could possibly be too awful to contemplate, but during World War II there was indeed such a time. Luckily for us at that time there was an ingenious Italian pastry chef, by the name of Pietro Ferrero, who mixed hazelnuts with chocolate to extend his chocolate supply thereby making a sweetened chocolate spread which would eventually become the Nutella we know and love today.
Now this wasn’t the first time hazelnuts and chocolate had been mixed together in the middle of a chocolate shortage. During Napoleon’s reign there was a chocolate shortage due to the British blockades of the Mediterranean. During this time a chocolatier in Turin named Michele Prochet mixed hazelnuts and chocolate together and created a product called Gianduja.
Getting back to Nutella; in it’s original form it was called Pasta Gianduja which was a hard block, but Ferrero adjusted the recipe to create a creamy version called Supacrema Gianduja. A few years later his son changed and modified the recipe and renamed the product Nutella with the intention of selling it throughout Europe.
Here is one more interesting fact about Nutella: the 5th of February is World Nutella day. Now that’s a holiday that I can get into, perhaps we can celebrate with a little Nutella ice cream…..
Make vanilla ice cream following this recipe.
Churn vanilla ice cream in ice cream maker as per manufacturer’s instructions.
While ice cream is churning, place the Nutella in a heat proof bowl and place over a pot of simmering water, stir until melted. Remove from heat and set aside until ice cream is ready.
Once ice cream is ready scoop out into a plastic container.
Pour dollops of Nutella randomly over the ice cream.
Use a knife to create a swirl through the ice cream.
Freeze to firm up ice cream.
Dry roast the hazelnuts in a small frypan. Remove the skins.
Melt chocolate over bain marie. Dip hazel nuts in chocolate. Place on a plate and put in the fridge to harden.
Decorate Nutella ice cream with chocolate coated hazelnuts and serve.
Giving your desserts and cakes that wow factor can sometimes be as simple as a little bit of decoration. I quite often use spun sugar or toffee shards to dress up a simple rustic cake or dessert. Humidity is the enemy of these decadent sugar decorations and they won’t last long so it’s best to decorate just before serving. At the hotel we kept the toffee shards stored in an airtight container between sheets of baking paper in a cool dry room.
Before starting arrange an area to spin the sugar. I use two wooden spoons, I put something heavy on the spoons and have the two handles spaced about 30cm apart sticking out from the bench.
Lay newspaper on the floor underneath where you will be spinning the sugar otherwise you will be picking hard caramel off the floor for days. Make sure that you have a bowl of ice water nearby in case of burns. Also have another heat proof bowl of water ready for later in the process.
I prefer to use the dry method to make spun sugar, this simply means that you are not adding any liquid (water) to the sugar.
Put sugar in a saucepan over a low – med flame. Wait until the edges of the sugar start to melt, once it does start mixing the solid sugar into the melted sugar in small amounts. The first part is quite slow so be patient.
Once sugar has melted and has turned a light amber colour take off stove and put pot into a heatproof metal bowl of water to stop cooking process then remove from the water.
Now you have to wait until caramel starts to firm enough to spin, you can do this by using a wooden spoon. Put the wooden spoon in the sugar and lift out slightly, shake the spoon from side to side and see if caramel starts to form strands when it falls back into the pot. If it doesn’t form strands then wait a bit longer and test again.
Once caramel is ready, use a slotted spoon to dip in caramel. Let the bulk of the caramel drip back into pot. Hold spoon high above the two wooden spoons and move spoon briskly from side to side above spoons. You will see the sugar form fine threads over the spoons. Take spun sugar off the spoons and form into a ball. Be careful of any large spots of caramel that may stick to the threads of sugar – these will be hot and can burn.
You do need to work quickly as the caramel in the pot will harden quite quickly and you will need to reheat to bring back to spinning consistency.
Melt the sugar in the same manner as the spun sugar. Once the sugar is melted and a light golden amber colour, pour straight onto a piece of baking paper. Allow to cool and harden completely then cut into big pieces with a knife.
Melt the sugar in the same manner as the spun sugar. Once the sugar is melted and a light golden amber colour, pour separate amounts onto a piece of baking paper. Allow to cool slightly. When the toffee pieces are still warm and pliable, but not hot, pick up the end of a piece and start stretching the toffee. Break or cut the piece when you have desired length. Twist piece to achieve desired shape. Allow pieces to cool and harden before use.