Mini Hazelnut Blueberry Tarts

I have a couple of handful of friendships that are almost as old as I am. I trust them with almost everything and know I can count on them at any hour of the day even if it’s waking them up to ask a stupid question at two in the morning. I feel exactly the same way about this recipe. There’s hundreds of pages in my recipe book, but when it comes to baking a dessert for a party, I know this one won’t let me down. A friend has asked me to make her dessert table at her wedding and this recipe definitely made the cut.

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This recipe is originally Dorie Greenspan’s French Pear Tart and has been posted on here before, but I’ve made this tart in so many variations, with them all being delicious outcomes, that I might as well share this one with you too. Almonds were replaced with hazelnuts and the poached pears were replaced with blueberries.

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You can find Dorie’s recipe here.

Follow Dorie’s recipe with the exception of using 3/4 C. of ground hazelnuts and 1 lb. of fresh blueberries.

Don’t forget to make that powdered sugar RAAAAAAINNN!!

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Makes 13 cupcake sized tarts.
Pan used was this Wilton’s Mini Tart Pan.

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Dark Chocolate Cheesecake with Nutella Chocolate Ganache

HAPPY NEW YEAR, my foodie friends!! Where did 2012 go?? I swear we welcomed 2012 just two months ago! Anyway, my new year resolution is to always keep things short and simple. Sometimes things get so complicated that we forget to stop and smell the roses. Always appreciate what you have and look on the brighter side of things. What is your new year resolution?

My aunt wanted me to make something chocolate-y for Christmas. I knew EXACTLY what I was going to make as I’ve been patiently waiting for an entire month! My mom had also brought back bars of chocolate from Italy for me. Everything played out so perfectly. I saw this AMAZING post by Ambitious Kitchen and got all googly eyed when I saw the pictures. Cheesecake + Nutella = OMFG! What was interesting was that it had Greek yogurt.. something I’ve never seen before, but it was FANTASTIC!! Are you ready for this….? I’m still not sure if I am…

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Under all of that chocolate and cream cheese, somehow, somewhere, a light and fluffy cheesecake is produced. I don’t know how, but let’s just say Monique is a genius! It was my first cheesecake ever and I’m glad I chose this recipe to pop my cheesecake cherry. IT WAS A TOTAL HIT.

Let’s start the new year off on the right foot. Greek yogurt is good for you, right? So is dark chocolate. So is a handful of nuts. There you go, a healthy start! Heehee May your 2013 be full of love and happiness!

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*instead of using 3 bricks of full fat cream cheese, I used 2 regular and one 1/3 less fat. Also instead of heavy cream in the ganache, I used 1% milk.

DARK CHOCOLATE CHEESECAKE WITH NUTELLA CHOCOLATE GANACHE
Adapted from: Ambitious Kitchen

3/4 C. FAGE 2% Greek yogurt
24 oz. (3 bars) cream cheese, room temperature
3 large eggs
1 large eggyolk
1-1/4 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. unsweeted dark cocoa powder
10 oz. 72% dark chocolate, chopped

CRUST:
1 C. hazelnuts
25 Oreos
1/4 C. butter, melted

Nutella Ganache
1/4 C. Nutella
1/2 C. heavy cream
2 oz. 72% dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 C. toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 tsp. coarse sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Place the hazelnuts and Oreos into a food processor and grind them or place into a large freezer ziplock bag and roll with a heavy rolling pin until consistancy of sand. Place crumbs into a large bowl and add the melted butter. Mix until it looks like wet sand.

Pour into an 8″ or 9″ springform pan and press onto the bottom and sides of the pan forming a crust and making sure the thickness is even all around. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and set aside.

To make the cheesecake batter, melt chocolate until smooth in either a double boiler or microwave. If using the microwave, make sure to melt the chocolate using half power and in 30 second increments. When the chocolate is melted and smooth, set aside.

In a mixer, beat yogurt and cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the sugar and cocoa powder and mix until just combined. Next add the eggs and eggyolk and mix until combined. Fold in the cooled melted chocolate until completely combined. Pour the mixture into the crust. Tap the pan to release air bubbles.

Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minutes. The cheesecake is ready when you move the pan and the cheesecake moves like jello. Leave in the oven with the door crack open for 2 hours. Transfer into the refrigerator.

To make the ganache, place nutella and chocolate into a medium bowl. Heat the cream until almost boiling and pour over the chocolate and nutella. Stir until smooth. Pour over the cooled cheesecake. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts and salt and put back into the fridge, preferably overnight.

Serve right out of the refrigerator.

Chocolate on chocolate..
Drooolaaaage…

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Nutella Baklava

This holiday season, I didn’t want to bake cupcakes, cakes, or cookies. I wanted to bake something new, something I’ve never attempted before. I came across something that only a dessert genius would come up with…. NUTELLA BAKLAVA?! Oh my gosh.. my heart skipped a beat when I read the title and my heart skipped a second beat as I was scrolling drooling over the pictures. I skimmed through the list of ingredients and realized ALMOST every item was already in my kitchen. OMG, must be a sign. I immediately put my shoes on and ran out the door to pick up some phyllo dough. I got home and was sad when I realized I had to wait for the phyllo dough to defrost. Darn!

Phyllo dough is an entremely thin dough that is most seen in the freezer aisle today. It can be made at home, but takes a great skill to make and a huge table and long roller is needed along with a lot of your time. It tastes great with meats, potatoes, and of course NUTELLA. DUHHHH. I’ve watched my mother work with phyllo dough when I was a young child so I knew exactly what to do after reading the recipe. If you’ve never heard or worked with phyllo dough, you may get a little confused, but don’t fret! Practice makes perfect!

Hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and pistachios – a freak nut’s dream come true. Flakey layers of thin sticky crispy buttery crunch – a pastry lover’s dream. Nutella – well that’s self explanatory. If you fall into all three categories like I do, you REALLY have to try these. They can be time consuming to make, but that’s okay. Just get your baking loving friend to make these for you. I’m pretty sure everyone knows someone who loves being in the kitchen. He or she will thank you for sharing the recipe as much as I thank Epicurean Mom for posting it =]

*I’ve made this twice in the past week. The first time, I didn’t read the instructions carefully and ended up cutting the baklava AFTER baking. It started out as a crumbly mess, but I poured the syrup over the entire thing and let it cool before cutting. Everything turned out OK, WHEW. But I found that cutting before baking is so much easier and the end result is so much prettier.

Cutting after baking:
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Cutting before baking:

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NUTELLA BAKLAVA
Adapted from Epicurean Mom

1/2 C. unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 C. nutella, melted
24 sheets phyllo dough, thawed
1/2 C. toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1/2 c. roasted pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/3 C. blanched almonds, coarsely chopped
1/3 C. toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped

3/4 C. honey
1/4 C. water
1 cinnamon stick

First things first, make sure all ingredients are ready. I started off with all whole nuts. I even had my sister deshell all of the pistanchios for me =P You can either hand chop the nuts or do what I did and throw them all into a blender. Pulse just a few times. You don’t want to end up with a bunch of powder. Set aside.

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Melt butter in a small dish and set aside.

Put nutella in a small bowl and microwave in 30 second intervals until the nutella is thin and easy to spread. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a 9×13″ brownie pan, lay 6 sheets of phyllo dough on the bottom of the pan, making sure to brush each layer with butter before putting the next layer on.

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Spread 1/3 of the melted nutella over the phyllo dough then spread 1/3 of the nut mixture evenly over the nutella. Layer another 6 sheets of phyllo dough, buttering each layer, over the nutella and nuts followed by another third of the nutella and nuts. Repeat this again, ending with a last layer of 6 buttered sheets of phyllo dough.

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Press down to compress everything together. Using a sharp knife, cut into desired sized pieces.

Bake for about 35 minutes, until the phyllo dough is golden brown.

As the baklava is baking, add the honey, water, and cinnamon stick in a small pot. Stir the mixture until the honey and water are mixed together. Bring the mixture up to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. The mixture should still be liquidy, but not as loose as water is. Set aside.
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when the baklava is ready, take out the pan and evenly distribute the honey mixture over the baklava. Put aside and let cool.

Enjoy the baklava after it’s been cooled. Keep in a sealed tight container for up to a week for freshness.

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Diet starts tomorrow…