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Hazelnut Ganache Cups

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C).  Bake the hazelnuts for 10 - 15 minutes or until the skins start to blister and the nuts are fragrant.  Remove from oven and wrap the nuts in a clean towel and steam for 5 minutes.  Rub the towel briskly to remove the skins.  Let cool.  Remove 60 hazelnuts to be used as garnish and then place the remaining cooled hazelnuts in a food processor and process until finely ground.  Set aside.

Coarsely chopped the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. 

In a small saucepan bring the cream to a boil.  Immediately, remove from heat and pour over the chopped chocolate.  Gently stir the mixture until smooth and then add the alcohol or vanilla extract and finely ground hazelnuts.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate the mixture until thick but not solid (about 30 minutes).

Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a large plain tip and pipe the ganache into small candy cups until they are 3/4 full.  Place a toasted hazelnut, pointed end up, on top of each cup.  Chill the ganache cups until they are firm (about 1 hour).

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several weeks or they can be frozen for a few months.  Best served at room temperature.

Makes about 60 1 inch (2.5 cm) ganache cups.

8 ounces (225 grams) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon alcohol (Grand Marnier, brandy, rum or bourbon) or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)

2/3 cup (100 grams) hazelnuts, plus 60 hazelnuts to be used as garnish