The chocolate-hazelnut paste popularised by the chocolate-makers of Turin in the 19th century was the forerunner of Nutella, the spread that children all over the world know and love.
The dark chocolate-hazelnut ganache that fills these rich chocolate shortbread biscuits is an adult version of that childhood treat. Make these for a special tea party – they can be baked and assembled a day or so in advance.
Makes 20 pairs
Kit you’ll need: a 6–7cm star cutter; 2 baking sheets, lined with baking paper; a small disposable piping bag
FOR THE DOUGH
225g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
225g plain flour
65g cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
FOR THE GANACHE FILLING
75g blanched hazelnuts
1 tablespoon caster sugar
75g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)
75ml double cream
25g unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
50g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids)
Icing sugar, for dusting
- Make the dough first. Put softened butter into a mixing bowl, or freestanding electric mixer. Beat until very creamy. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is much lighter in colour and texture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into the bowl and mix in with a wooden spoon or plastic spatula, then use your hands to bring the mixture together into a firm dough.
- Turn the dough out on to an unfloured worktop (flour will leave white marks on the dough) and gently knead to a flat disc. Place the disc between two large sheets of clingfilm and roll out to 5mm thickness. Peel off the top layer of clingfilm and stamp out stars with the cutter. Gather up the trimmings, then re-roll and stamp out more stars.
- Set the stars slightly apart to allow for expansion on the baking sheets, then cover lightly with clingfilm and chill for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat your oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4.
- Uncover the stars and bake in the heated oven for about 12 minutes until just firm but not coloured – watch them carefully as the chocolate dough can quickly turn very dark around the tips (this would make the biscuits taste bitter). Remove from the oven and leave the stars to firm up on the baking sheets for three minutes before carefully transferring them to a wire rack to cool – the biscuits will be very fragile until completely cold. Leave the oven on.
- While the biscuits are cooling, make the ganache filling. Tip the hazelnuts into a small baking dish or tin and toast in the oven for 7–10 minutes until a good golden brown. Remove 20 of the best-looking nuts and set aside for the decoration. Transfer the rest of the nuts to a food processor (there’s no need to wait until they are cold). Add the sugar and process until ground to a fairly fine and slightly sticky powder.
- Break or chop up the chocolate into even-sized pieces and put into a small, heavy-based pan with the cream, butter and salt. Set over very low heat and stir gently with a wooden spoon until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the ground hazelnuts. Leave the ganache on the worktop, stirring frequently, until firm enough to spread.
- When you are ready to assemble the stars, give the ganache a good stir. Using about a rounded teaspoon of ganache for each, gently spread the ganache over the underside of half your stars. Top each star with a second star, placing the biscuits underside to underside and matching up the points.
- To finish the stars, gently melt the chocolate. One at a time, dip the base of each hazelnut in the melted chocolate, then set it in the centre of a star. Spoon the rest of the melted chocolate into the piping bag and pipe a fine zigzag of chocolate across each star. Leave until set, then very lightly dust with icing sugar. Store in an airtight container and eat within five days.