Sunday, 20 January 2013

Hazelnut and Coffee Cream Biscuits

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

75g butter

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

Baker's notes...

  • 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.


  1. I completely agree with you about French supermarkets...they are amazing and you do just end up wondering about for ages admiring all the lovely food! I love the look of your biscuits...they're very original and all the elements work really well together. I particularly like the hazelnut on the top! :-)

  2. These biscuits look and sound delicious. I'm desperate to try that speculoos spread!

  3. These biscuits look and sound delicious. I'm desperate to try that speculoos spread!

  4. What a beautiful post. I feel your love entirely. I've brought a few goodies back from California with me that I can't wait to get cooking with. I try and go for stuff I know I can't get easily in the UK which is hard but it's such a joy to Ho food shopping in another country I find. Lovely biscuits my dear. Simply lovely xx

  5. Amazing! I'm afraid to tell you I'm also having a love affair with French Supermarkets... sorry! ;) id you know you can get speculoos in Waitrose now.... bit dangerous though, it's too good out the jar. My personal favourite are the little soft cheese cubes that come in all the different flavours, I'm obsessed!

    Your biscuits look beautiful I love how you've finished them.

  6. Great looking biscuits and a lovely mix of flavours. I love French supermarkets too, and lived happily in France for 7 years.Am going back again later in the year, and will bring back lots of goodies.

  7. There is something seductive about foreign supermarkets that make me lose my common sense. When I worked in Switzerland for a year I bought so much in the local supermarket they must've thought I was insane!

  8. I luuuuurve French supermarkets. In fact any foreign supermarket gets me excited - the Italian ones are incredible too. These little biscuits look absolutely delicious and just a little hit of coffee sounds perfect.

  9. Beautiful looking biscuits and I agree with you that french supermarkets are great. We take the car on the Eurostar over to Calais to buy wine and I always end up with a bag full of mustard, biscuits and liqueurs!

  10. We have a KaDeWe in Berlin with imported goods from the world and I have a secret love affair with this one :) I can totally understand yours. Lovely biscuits.

  11. Your biscuits look wonderful! I could eat a couple right now....

    We always come back from France with a bagful of stuff - the supermarket shelves are an Aladin's cave for me! I also brought a jar of Speculoos paste and a some biscuits plus a little recipe book for using them.....have managed to resist so far but they keep calling to me from the kitchen !!

  12. Yes, I could spend hours wondering a French supermarket and came back with lots of goodies this year. Afraid mine were more savoury than yours but still share your appreciation! I also skinned hazlenuts for a cake I did but swiftly moved onto buying the skinned variety, they were quite a challenge, those damn skins. Love the thought of coffee & hazlenut together in a biscuit x

  13. I can only dream of wandering french supermarkets!

  14. There is nothing like a French supermarket, I can spend hours in one, and we have to schedule in extra time when in France, including half an hour in the stationery section!

    I once spend an entire day in a Spanish supermarket stocking up to equip a yacht for a transatlantic crossing (which got cancelled). We had 10 trolleys full not including the bottled water. I have to admit that it dampened my passion for foreign supermarkets for a while!

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  16. Lovely sounding biscuits and your supermarché stash looks great too. I was interested to learn of your blanching technique for the nuts. I just toast them with the skins on hen rub them in a tea towel while still hot. Skins come off! Not perfectly as there are always a few stubborn bits, but pretty good. If I ever need perfectly blanched nuts, I now know what to do!

  17. Ha ha! It just shows that good old Waitrose can be economical, and the UK is not the most expensive country for food!


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