Hey guys, remember that crazy Hazelnut Meringue Layer Cake with French Coffee Buttercream? You know, the cake that was topped with those cute, but dangerously addicting caramelized hazelnut clusters? Well, here they are again. I thought they deserved a short post of their own, so I could also file them under toppings in my recipe index. Makes sense, right? I mean, these babies would be perfect on ice cream!
Besides, I thought a few tips on how to make these would come in handy. So here goes!
The recipe that originally inspired me to come up with these caramelized hazelnut clusters is a recipe I tried back in 2013, when I was developing a recipe for delicious Cinnamon Ice Cream with a Grape Ripple. I wanted to replicate my favorite lunch – cinnamon oats with fresh grapes and yogurt – in ice cream form, and I thought the addition of crunchy caramelized oats would be perfect. And it was!
So when I decided on making the Hazelnut Meringue Layer Cake, I knew I was going to try to caramelize chopped hazelnuts, following the same process. Needles to say, it totally worked and I was super thrilled with the way these hazelnut clusters came out!
Just a few tips: once in the oven, the caramel will melt into a shallow golden puddle, which doesn’t resemble clusters in the least. In fact, at some point, you’ll notice that the ‘clusters’ may start to look like a giant Florentiner cookie. That’s fine… I decided to break it up with a fork while the caramel was still hot. By spreading the caramely hazelnuts around that way, you ensure that they clump together as they cool.
Another little tip: ‘drain’ the clusters on paper towels. As you know, nuts are quite fatty, and when the hazelnuts are in the oven a lot of the oil comes out, which mixes with the butter from the caramel. By placing the somewhat cooled hazelnut clusters between a few paper towels for about twenty minutes, you can easily remove the excess oil. It’s what I did…
- 110g unsalted hazelnuts
- 55g (or ¼ cup) unsalted butter
- 100g (or ⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons, packed) light brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon table salt
- Preheat your oven to 160°C/325°F (standard oven setting).
- Place about 90g of the hazelnuts in a plastic sandwich bag and gently smash them with a rolling pin into smaller pieces the size of oat flakes. Add the reserved whole hazelnuts.
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter with the sugar and salt. Heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter has melted. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat, add stir in the hazelnuts.
- Spread the hazelnuts onto a cookie sheet lined with baking parchment and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, give the nuts a good stir with a fork. The caramel will have melted around the nuts, but that’s fine. Just stir it all up to form clusters and leave the nuts to bake for 5 more minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove from the oven and stir the nuts again with a fork. Try to spread the mixture as evenly as possibly, to form bite size hazelnut clusters. Allow to cool completely.
- Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a week.