Editor’s note: High elevations make cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Are you a Nutella fan? If so, you’re not alone! This European-born spread featuring chocolate and ground hazelnuts has taken the U.S. by storm. Since arriving here in the ’80s it has become almost as popular as peanut butter. It’s the superstar in this tart recipe, flavoring a rich, creamy filling that is cradled in a tender tart shell and topped with a sprinkle of toasted nuts. With a complex flavor and velvety texture, it has broad appeal.
Preparation is a breeze. The filling never sees the inside of an oven; it’s made in a single saucepan, cooks on the stovetop, like a pudding, and is chilled until set. The tart shell is the only part of the dessert that’s baked; select a recipe for the dough that includes an egg so the shell is sturdy enough to support the soft filling. I’ll provide you with one if you email me with your request. The tart is all about the Nutella, so the shell isn’t critical to its success; you could even use a commercial one.
In spite of its name, you’re not required to use Nutella to make it; feel free to substitute another brand of chocolate-hazelnut spread as long as the strength of flavor and overall taste are close to those of dessert’s namesake.
Make in a shiny metal 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. The recipe can be halved for a 7-inch tart pan.
Your favorite sweet tart shell recipe
1 egg white, optional
¼ cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts, optional
2 scant cups heavy whipping cream, cold, divided
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Generous ¾ cup Nutella
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
Chopped hazelnuts, optional
1. Make the crust: Lightly grease only the bottom of your tart pan and make and bake your tart shell. Optional: As soon as it comes out of the oven, whisk the egg white until it’s frothy, brush a thin layer (you won’t use all of it) over the bottom and sides of the hot tart shell, and let it dry. This will prevent the crust from getting soggy when the filling is added. For a stronger hazelnut taste and some added crunch, sprinkle finely chopped hazelnuts evenly over the bottom of the tart shell (optional). Let the shell cool while you make the filling.
2. Make the filling: In a small bowl or 2-cup measure, combine ½ cup of the cream and the cornstarch. Whisk until the cornstarch is completely dissolved (be sure it dissolves completely or the filling will be marred by white lumps of it). Add this mixture, along with the rest of the heavy cream, the Nutella and the salt to a medium saucepan and whisk to thoroughly blend them.
3. Place the pan over medium-low heat, continue whisking, and bring the filling to a low boil. If necessary, reduce the heat so the mixture simmers, keep whisking until the mixture thickens and holds marks from the whisk for about a second; this usually takes 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla to combine thoroughly.
4. Quickly pour/scrape the filling into the tart shell (it need not be completely cool). Depending on the depth of your pan, you may not use all of it. If there are any lumps of filling (some may occur on the pan bottom), don’t include them; you want a totally smooth texture. Tilt the pan and/or use an offset spatula to distribute it evenly in the shell.
5. Refrigerate the tart, covered with an overturned bowl to avoid placing anything directly on the filling, until it’s set, at least five hours or overnight. If desired, decorate the top with chopped hazelnuts. The tart, well covered, can be refrigerated for up to three days. Slice it with a thin-bladed sharp knife, cleaning it after each cut.
This recipe is a variation of one published by FoodNetwork. Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-elevation cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at [email protected].