Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hazelnut Harvest and Intensely Rich Brownies

When people visit us, they always mention how much they love our garden. I remember when we first moved into the house and how the space outside was nothing more than a bare piece of land with a few tiny trees. Over the years, Hans has done a wonderful job at turning that space into our own little paradise. Today it's looking quite full and lush with beautiful flowers in hanging baskets, thick lavender bushes, other potted herbs and even a small pond. Last spring we added an apple tree, a cherry tree, various pepper plants, tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries. After ten years of living here and all the time we spend outdoors, you'd think we'd know everything there is to know about this beautiful space. That's why our surprise was huge when we recently discovered a hazelnut tree growing in a distant corner!

A few weeks ago, Hans and Kirstie harvested the first kilo of nuts and yesterday I finally decided to use some in my brownies. Sure, it sounds quite idyllic to do this instead of buying a bag of nuts, but let me assure you that cleaning hazelnuts is one tedious job! It took us about an hour of sweat to produce 150 grams of hazelnuts! Still, I'm not complaining. After tasting my thick, densely fudgy brownies with the addition of our own home- grown nuts, I realized that all that peeling was well worth the effort. A few handfuls of tangy dried fruits were also thrown in this time for a burst of zesty flavor.

Here's the recipe:

Intensely Rich Hazelnut and Fruit Brownies
*250g butter
*300g pure, dark chocolate

*5 eggs

*300g unrefined cane sugar

*2 tsps vanilla extract

*fat pinch of salt

*200g flour

*150g whole hazelnuts

*180g mixed dried fruits (I used a mix of cherries, cranberries and blueberries.)

Preheat oven to 180C. Melt butter and chocolate au bain marie. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla till thick and creamy. Add the chocolate while beating. I did this with the help of my Kitchen Aid. Fold in the flour, salt, nuts and fruit. Pour batter evenly into a 32.5 x 22.5-cm (13 x 9-inch) baking tray and bake for 20- 25 minutes. Allow to cool 20 minutes before cutting into bars. Makes about 28 brownies.