I have had a thirty year love affair with French supermarkets.
On annual family camping holidays to France as a child I would love the weekly visit to the local supermarché. Wondering from aisle to aisle mesmorised by the unfamiliar packaging, the exotic sounding products and, invariably trying to sneak in at least six extra boxes of La Vache Qui Rit ('Laughing Cow' cheese) and a few extra CaremBars into the trolley.
Not a huge amount has changed in the intervening years. I just try and persuade myself that the boxes of Laughing Cow are for nostalgia's sake.
Really, I would happily survive on the stuff for the rest of my days.
And even in possession of a GCSE French 'A' grade I continue to stare, somewhat baffled, at the various packages, attempting to guess the contents on the basis of the pictures.
Course, with all the baking, I'm obliged to factor in extra time in the home baking aisle. Not that Andrew minds, he gets extra time in le vin aisle.
I'm currently eking out treasured bottles of various baking essences and extracts from a trip 18 months ago. Meanwhile, returning from the recent trip to France my suitcase contained at least four mysterious French baking ingredients to every sock.
Here's a little of the recent booty*:
And centre-right is a little bottle of extract de café which inspired these biscuits.
Hazelnut and Coffee Cream Biscuits
150g whole peeled hazelnuts, toasted
125g unsalted butter
150g soft brown sugar
Zest 1 orange
1 large egg
125g plain flour
0.5 tsp baking powder
Decoration and filling:
Egg wash made by lightly mixing 1 medium egg with 1 tbsp water
125g icing sugar
1 tsp coffee extract
A tbsp or two of milk, if required
1. Grease and line two baking sheets with parchment paper
2. Set aside approximately a dozen of the hazelnuts for decoration. Place the remainder in a food processor and pulse until just finely ground. Set aside
3. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the zest and egg and continue to beat until fully incorporated.
4. Gradually beat in the flour and baking powder and then mix in the ground hazelnuts, taking care not to overmix
5. Using your hands roll the dough into a long, thin roll, approx 2-3 inch in diameter. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least half an hour to firm
6. Preheat the oven to 350F/180C/170C fan/Gas Mark 4
7. Remove the dough from the fridge and slice the dough into biscuits rounds.
Alternatively roll out the dough on a floured worksurface and use a biscuit cutter to cut into rounds. Half of the biscuits will now become the top layer: place a hazelnut into the centre of each 'top' biscuit and lightly brush with the egg wash.
8. Place all the biscuits onto the prepared baking trays. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
10. Allow to cool for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely
11. To make the coffee cream filling: beat together the butter, icing sugar and coffee extract until smooth and glossy. Add a tbsp of milk if required. Use a piping bag or teaspoon to sandwich together the biscuits with the coffee cream
- You can use 2 tsp instant coffee mixed with 2 tsp hot water as a substitute for the coffee extract
- These are lovely, nutty little biscuits with a subtle hint of creamy coffee
- The biscuit bases freeze well for up to one month. The recipe should make approximately 12-14 sandwiched biscuits
- This recipe calls for peeled hazelnuts. Sitting peeling hazelnuts is not the most scintillating of baking jobs. However, I used the following method which led to the skins practically dissolving off the hazelnuts in front of my eyes:
1. Bring 500ml of water to the boil.
2. Add 2 tbsps bicarbonate of soda. At this stage the water will foam up in the manner of a mad-cap science experiment. This is okay, I promise:
3. Add the hazelnuts and watch while the water turns black. Again, in the manner of a mad-cap science experiment. Again, this is okay, I promise. Really.
4. Meanwhile, fill a second pan with ice cold water
5. After 3-4 minutes use a slotted spoon to remove the hazelnuts and plunge them into their cold water bath
6. Remove from the cold water pan one by one and peel with ease. Honestly. Dry with a teatowel or kitchen towel
7. To toast place on a baking tray in an oven preheated to 180C/350F for 10-15 minutes being careful not to burn them after all your hard work peeling the hazelnuts
(The other alternative, most definately worth considering you may feel, is buying ready skinned, toasted and chopped hazelnuts from the supermarket)
* On a trip to my local Waitrose yesterday I discovered that at least half of these products can be easily purchased there. At half the price. Ah well, at least I did my bit for the French economy.