Food and drink celebrations are all the rage in the UK this month. October started with National Cocktail Week, and is continuing, on an even more glorious note, with this week’s double-whammy recurrence. Yep – it’s both National Chocolate and Baking Week. And you’ve probably guessed what this post is about: a bake that involves some chocolate. If that sounds too obvious, I promise you’ll forgive me when you’ll taste these gluten-free hazelnut and ricotta tartlets.
I consider these beauties as my most successful bake so far, and probably, given the smug satisfaction that their pictures still inspire me, the closest I’ll ever get to motherly pride. But this sense of accomplishment is only one of the reasons that make this recipe so special to me, and the others are all about taste.
For one, this was my first-ever gluten-free experiment, reassuring enough to not be the last. Success is mostly down to the quality of the tartlet base recipe I adapted. As my grandmother says (in a slightly different context: think lounges cramped with pictures of toddlers long grown into adult nephews, and fourtets of elderly ladies playing briscola on Sunday afternoons), “I’m just a lousy player who’s dealt very good hands”, and taking inspiration from Victoria Glass’s Chocolate and Pistachio Tarts was the ace in my pack. My gluten-free surprise is also in the crust, which has the texture of a biscuit cheesecake base, but is made, in fact, with ground hazelnuts. If I was tasting it blindfolded, I’d never guess there are no cracker crumbs.
The filling offers even more wonders. Even if you’re one to frown upon the cheeky practices of scraping bowls and licking spoons, you just can’t not come across this ricotta and chocolate cream, and feel unmoved. Once you’ve had the first tiny sample, fighting the urge to eat the rest of it by the spoonful becomes a challenge. But then, it would be a shame to cave in before adding the signature ingredient: a layer of hazelnut paste, spread on top of the crust, which enhances the taste of the cream in quite a definite way. From a smooth, delicate ricotta delight, to a softer but equally flavoursome version of hazelnut spread.
I have to thank WhyNut for this nutty twist to my tartlets. Importing Antep pistachios and 100% natural nut pastes, they sell exactly the kind of ingredients I love to retrieve in a sweet treat. Having had the opportunity to sample some of their nuts and pastes, I know I’ll be sad when I run out of my current supplies. However, I have a million and one ideas on how to make the most of the pistachio and almond pastes they sent me, and more recipes are certainly on their way. Can’t think of a better prospect on National Baking Week – what about you?
Gluten-free Hazelnut and Ricotta Tartlets
(makes 4 tartlets)
For the crust
- 100g whole hazelnuts
- 60g unsalted butter
- 50g cocoa powder
- 50g caster sugar
For the filling
- 1 egg
- 60g caster sugar
- 15g cocoa powder
- 250g ricotta cheese
- 8 teaspoons hazelnut paste (I used WhyNut 100% Pure Hazelnut Paste)
- Finely chopped hazelnuts, to decorate
Prepare the crust
- Whizz the hazelnuts in a food processor, until they’re finely ground.
- Add the butter, cocoa powder and sugar, and whizz until you obtain a smooth, sticky dough.
- Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it with cling film, and leave it to chill in the fridge for an hour.
- Remove the dough ball from the fridge, unwrap it, and cut it into quarters.
Pro Tip: Don’t chuck the cling film away just yet. The dough is quite sticky, and risks to break when you roll it out on your worktop; the cling film ensures that you can work it without making a mess, and place it easily in the tartlet cases.
- Roll the cling film on your worktop. Flatten one of the four pieces of dough with your hands, until it reaches a size that fits your tartlet case (you will need enough to cover the bottom, and create a border all around).
- Lift the cling film to transport the flattened base more easily. Reverse it into a tartlet case, and peel off the cling film. Remove any excess crust, and use them to fill any holes or uneven spots in the border.
- Repeat the procedure with the other pieces of dough.
- Prick the tartlet bases with a fork. Pre-heat the oven to 180°, and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.
- Leave aside to cool down while you prepare the filling.
Prepare the filling
- Using a hand mixer, whisk the egg, sugar and cocoa powder, until you obtain a smooth mixture.
- Add the ricotta, and continue whisking until combined.
- Spread two teaspoons hazelnut paste on each tartlet base.
- Add the ricotta and chocolate cream by the tablespoon, dividing it evenly between each tartlet.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180° and bake for 30 – 45 minutes. The correct amount of time will depend on your oven, but in general, you should wait until the filling is just set.
- Remove from the oven, and leave aside to cool down.
- Remove the tartlets from the cases, and sprinkle them with finely chopped hazelnuts before serving.
Note: WhyNut sent me a sample of the hazelnut paste I used for this recipe, as part of a selection of nuts and pastes they invited me to try. Thank you WhyNut for inspiring this recipe – more to come very soon!