Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls

These last few weeks have been a blur of exhaustion and responsibilities. Time is lost in the small necessities of lifedays pass quickly, but each week drags on in a disorienting march. As the school year nears a close, I find myself in my classroom hours after the last bell rings, lesson planning and grading assignments while the nice weather mocks me through the windows. I swing by the gym on the way home, not because I want to, but because guilt delivers me to the door. Exhaustion claims me in the first few minutes of group classes, and I wonder if sitting on my couch to recharge would have been the better choice. I come home to a messy apartment, an empty refrigerator, and three days of dishes sitting in the sink. I look through bills, health benefit packages, and lease renewal forms in the evenings, too tired to make useful decisions.

Even though its foolish, I sometimes wish adulthood came with accolades. You made the responsible decision and went to the gym? You get to watch Fixer Upper on the couch for two consecutive hours without moving! You did all the dishes in the sink? You get a phone call from your mother telling you she's proud of you!

Some days are easy and some days are hard. I keep telling myself these waves of overwhelming responsibilities will fade and calmer waters will soon arrive.

This weekend I am carving out time to relax. A quiet morning of coffee drinking and pastry making sounds healing. This recipe for chocolate hazelnut rolls uses Quick Puff Pastry as the base. By removing the need for yeast and rising time, the rolls come together quickly. The puffy pastry can be made several days in advance or, if you are like me, you already have a batch stored in the freezer for pastry emergencies.

With a generous amount of chocolate hazelnut spread, a sprinkling of demerara sugar and cinnamon in the filling, and a topping of chopped hazelnuts, these flaky rolls will brighten any weekend morning. 

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls are a celebration of butter and chocolate in pastry form. With puff pastry as the base, the rolls become golden and flaky in the oven. The inside features a smooth layer of chocolate hazelnut and cinnamon, and the top emphasizes texture with toasted hazelnuts. These are rolls for special occasions, certainly, but should be served on the average weekend after a hard week of being an adult. Your own adult accolade, if you will.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Oat Bars (GF) 
Two Years Ago: Blueberry Pie 
Three Years Ago: Sunflower Seed Bread, Blackberry Fool, Lime Curd Tart, & Honey Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Four Years Ago: Homemade Mascarpone, Ladyfingers, Tiramisu Cake, & PB Cornmeal Cookies
Five Years Ago: Strawberry Milk, Vanilla Pear Muffins, Chocolate Filled Buns, & Malted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Hazelnut Rolls
Inspired by Joy the Baker

Yields 12 rolls

1 recipe Quick Puff Pastry, chilled (or thawed, if previously frozen)
1 cup (300 grams) chocolate hazelnut spread
1/4 cup (50 grams) demerara or brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 ounces (55 grams) hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled puffed pastry into a 12 by 16 inch rectangle. Spread the dough evenly with the chocolate hazelnut spread, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edges.

In a small bowl, stir together the demerara sugar, cinnamon, and salt. Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the chocolate hazelnut spread. From the longer end, roll the dough tightly until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the dough and cut the log into 1 1/4-inch thick segments. Place the rolls individually into a muffin tin and sprinkle the chopped hazelnuts over the top.

Bake for 28-35 minutes, or until the rolls are bubbling and golden. Serve warm.

Hazelnut Cherry Granola with Chocolate Coconut Bites

I emerged from winter hibernation with boundless energy and an inability to sit still. With the last cold days behind usfingers crossedI've been spending less time in the kitchen and more time out of the house. Even though I moved to the Minneapolis/St. Paul area in August, a new teaching job and looming winter chill kept me close to home. Now that the warm weather is here, I am finally exploring the city I have called home for the last nine months. When the weekend arrives, I dash out of the house in the morning and return late in the evenings, on a mission to find the most walkable lake and best place for non-dairy ice cream.

For now, I am indulging myself in this new spirit of adventure. Soon the city will grow familiar, this curious feeling will fade, and I'll no longer need Google maps to lead me home.

Granola has been my go-to for breakfast the past few weeks. Both simple and filling, it pairs well with plain yogurt and almond milk alike. Over the years, I have played around with my favorite granola recipe, testing out  different variations. This granola recipe is another variation, but it may soon become a classic in my kitchen. Oats, quinoa, and hazelnuts form the base of this granola. With honey and dried cherries for sweetness, almond butter for richness, and cinnamon for warmth, it forms a satisfying meal.

To add something a little extra, I sprinkled the granola with chocolate coconut bites. They may be a bit decadent, but you can chop them to the size of your liking and add as many or few as you'd prefer. 

Hazelnut Cherry Granola is a hearty recipe that can serve as both a meal or a snack. With hazelnuts, oats, and quinoa forming the bulk of the dish, the cherries act as a sweet accent. The chocolate coconut bites are optional, but they add a new dimension to the overall flavor and texture. Stir into plain yogurt or shower with milk and enjoy on a quiet weekend or as fuel for a day out exploring.

One Year Ago: Cranberry Almond Granola and Cinnamon Sugar Swirl Loaf
Two Years Ago: Honey Almond Quinoa Granola and Coconut Tapioca Pudding
Three Years Ago: Pita Chips, Almond Joy Bars, Mango Lassi, PB & J Muffins, & Almond Butter Chocolate Cookies
Four Years Ago: Grapefruit Soda, Irene's Orange Rolls, S'mores Cupcakes, and Mai Tai
Five Years Ago: Thin Mint Brownies, Strawberry Pancakes, Roasted Pineapple, and Lemon Thins

Hazelnut Cherry Granola with Chocolate Coconut Bites
Inspired by Will Frolic for Food

Yields 5-6 cups

Hazelnut Cherry Granola
3 cups (270 grams) old fashioned oats
1/2 cup (85 grams) quinoa
1 cup (5 ounces or 140 grams) hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup (78 mL) coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup (80 grams) almond butter
1/2 cup (170 grams) honey*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg white, optional**
1/2 cup (80 grams) dried cherries, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (170 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the oats, quinoa, chopped hazelnuts, cinnamon, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the melted coconut oil, almond butter, honey, vanilla, and egg white until uniform. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and stir until evenly coated.

Spread out evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden and fragrant. If the egg white was omitted, stir halfway through baking; if it was added, do not stir the granola and leave it to set while baking. Cool completely before storing. Stir in dried cherries.

Chocolate Coconut Bites
3 ounces (85 grams) semisweet chocolate, melted
1/2 cup (30 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tablespoon chia seeds, optional

In a small bowl, stir together the melted chocolate, coconut flakes, and chia seeds. Using an offset spatula, spread it into a 1/4-inch layer on a sheet of wax paper. Place in the freezer until solidified, about 10-15 minutes. Chop into coarse pieces, similar to the size of the hazelnuts. Stir into granola only when granola is completely cooled.

*Substitute maple syrup for the honey and eliminate the egg white for a vegan version.

**The egg white binds the granola together for a chunkier texture, allowing you to break it apart into small or large pieces of your choosing. If you prefer a looser granola, omit this ingredient.

Bananas Foster Sauce

Brunch has become the way I do weekend lunch. For a girl with an early morning schedule, I would never survive the wait until actual brunch time to enjoy a towering plate of French toast. Instead, I eat when I rise and wait until the crowds have cleared around noon before reaching for the maple syrup.

On days when I don't want to change out of my pajamas, the challenge is to whip up something equally delicious and simple in my own kitchen. This is where caramelized bananas enter the picture. After learning about bananas fostera dessert featuring warm caramelized bananas in a rum caramel sauce poured over vanilla ice creamI knew there had to be a way to bring this idea to brunch. I removed the ice cream and replaced it with your typical breakfast fare. Is it a little decadent? Sure. But that's why we do brunch.

As a long time non-stick cookware user (a trait I inherited from my mother), I was excited, but a little skeptical, when  Wolf Gourmet asked me to review its stainless steel and aluminum 10-Piece Cookware Set. Even though I associate the company with high quality, my only stainless steel cooking experience involved ruining my roommate's flimsy pan after trying (and failing) to fry an egg during my college years.

After a month of use, I can say with certainty that the pans have held up beautifully. The pans do well with deglazing after frying meat and vegetables to create sauces. With a seven-ply construction, the heavy pans heated food evenly, which felt reminiscent of cast iron. However, I was even more impressed with how it did with tasks for which I would normally use non-stick cookware. In the pursuit of brunch, I made crepes. I ran a light layer of olive oil around the pan, poured in the batter, and crossed my fingers that they would not stick. The crepes did not, but even more remarkable is that I didn't have to add more oil for the remainder of the batch. The layer of oil stayed in place and the crepes came out smoothly every time. I know I can't do that with my non-stick cookware.

And lastlyfor the purpose of honest disclosureafter I spectacularly burned my first batch of bananas foster sauce to a charred black ash due to inattention, the pan recovered to looking brand new with a soak in warm water. The high heat of the runaway caramel did not harm the pan. However, I did notice the bottom of one pan had minor discoloration after a few weeks, but it was nothing a little baking soda scrub couldn't cure.

Ultimately, high quality makes all the difference with stainless steel cookware. After my own personal use, I would recommend Wolf Gourmet. I would like to offer one Pastry Affair reader the opportunity to try the 10-inch skillet out in your own kitchen.

Edit: Giveaway is closed.

Bananas Foster is a warm sauce to be poured over sweet dishes and desserts. Bananas are caramelized with brown sugar and butter. With the warmth of cinnamon and the spice of rum, the sauce is elevated to another level. Though the traditional dessert featured the sauce poured over vanilla ice cream, the sauce is as lovely served over waffles, French toast (made with challah), or crepes.

One Year Ago: Banana Chocolate Hazelnut Cupcakes
Two Years Ago: Orange Coconut Pull-Apart Bread and Coconut Macaroons
Three Years Ago: Coconut Whipped Cream, Chocolate Ginger Biscotti, Banana Cinnamon Pancakes, Raspberry Lemon Cupcakes, and Pita Bread
Four Years Ago: Tropical Banana Bread, Strawberry Balsamic Jam, Strawberry Honey Oatmeal Bars, Blackberry Goat Cheese Tart, Arborio Rice Pudding, Chocolate Whoppie Pies, and Hot Cross Buns
Five Years Ago: Vanilla Almond Cupcakes, Banana Pudding, Devil's Food Cake, Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies, Orange Scones, and Honey Rolls

Bananas Foster Sauce

Yields about 1 cup of sauce

1/2 cup (100 grams) brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
2 medium ripe, firm bananas, cut into 1/4-inch slices
2 tablespoons dark rum

In a heavy skillet, melt the brown sugar and butter over medium heat.  Add the cinnamon and salt.  Stir and bring sauce to a simmer. Add banana slices and cook, turning once, until soft, about 2-3 minutes per side. 

Gently stir in the the rum; take care not to break apart the banana slices. To flambé, use a long lighter to ignite the vapor above the sauce. Let the flames burn until they go out on their own, about 30 seconds. However, the sauce can be served without flame and does not need to be flambéd if you are uncomfortable with the process.

Serve immediately over vanilla ice cream, French toast, or waffles.

Disclosure: A complimentary 10-Piece Cookware Set was provided for review by Wolf Gourmet. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.