Monday, May 26, 2014

We had neighbours who brought hazelnut seedlings all the way from Sicily. They planted them in their garden and they grew to be hearty trees that survived our harsh Canadian winters. It was once an open backyard between us, but it was time to have a fence put in, for it was safer for the children and both sides wanted more privacy.

One summer, when it was high time to build the fence, my parents approached the neighbours to ask if they could split the cost for the materials and help with the labour. The neighbours at first agreed, but became suddenly elusive when weekends came and when the project was ongoing. The beautiful fence was finally built, and my parents were proud of their hard work, as they should be. Then, as quick as a wink, the neighbours reappeared as soon as the fence was completed. They enjoyed the rest of the summer in their backyard, with my parent's beautiful work, without a blurb of thanks. The only thing we were able to see over the fence were the hazelnut trees.

Then one day in September, we went into the yard and saw an abundance of hazelnuts that had fallen on our side of the fence. We were so excited about the rare harvest, even if only from the ground. I was imagining Russian Tea Cakes and Hazelnut Bread with the handful I had. We even recruited my daughter who was three at the time, who joyously hunted and gathered them in her little bucket.

The next day it seemed that the neighbours, who heard our exclamations from the day before, were not very happy with our harvest from their trees. So they decided to prune them! They climbed their ladders and cut away at the branches, mostly the ones that hung over on our side. We've never seen them work so hard! But of course from all of this activity, we were sad and disheartened. 

Their action made the trees sad as well. Since the pruning, the hazelnut trees have produced very little. My youngest daughter never saw enough to fill her little bucket. Now four years later, the trees are dying.

These flourless dark chocolate hazelnut brownies are melt-in-your-mouth amazing. They come out of the oven with a natural crisp, meringue topping, which can still handle an icing of Nutella, if you really want to overdose on hazelnuts. Dare to sprinkle chopped, roasted hazelnuts on top of that and I guarantee you will die (from bliss). This my friend, is my ode to those trees. And I'm sharing this with you, because the trees did.

Flourless Dark Chocolate Sicilian Hazelnut Brownies 

8 oz organic 70% dark chocolate, divided (I used Green & Black's)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 roasted hazelnut flour (I grounded roasted hazelnuts with skin on, in a food processor)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8 inch square baking pan with overhanging parchment paper (to help lift out the brownies after baking and cooling). Melt 4 oz. of the chocolate with the butter in a small pot on low heat until melted. Take off heat and slightly cool.

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In a large bowl, whisk eggs with the sugar and vanilla. Then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture.

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Whisk in the hazelnut flour, along with the baking powder and salt. Fold in 4 oz. of chopped chocolate.

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Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for one hour. Gently lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment flaps (the top of the brownies will crack and that's ok) and gently cut into squares. Share and serve just the way they are or over the top with some Nutella icing and a generous sprinkling of chopped, roasted hazelnuts.

© 2014 

Altered from a recipe by Ms. Bonnie Stern © 2014

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