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- Winter Fruits-

13 Jan. 2017

Whether nuts or dried fruits, winter fruits certainly bring great energy and nice crunch, flavor and color to desserts and chocolates that we like so much to munch on all through the winter season. With their Florentines, highly addictive chocolate bars and slightly crazy winter breads, their fine selection is fatally attractive.


The proof is with the creations of the Relais Desserts pastry chefs who, with the Holidays barely over, keep on offering us some delicious treats to tease our palate. And for the curious amateur, Benedict Beaugé, writer and historian of contemporary cuisine, enlightens us with the hazelnut, which once roasted, is the cat’s meow of chocolate makers and pastry chefs… and of course ours.






Milk chocolate with nuts and dried fruits bar by the Oberweis House. Hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, raisins and candied orange…








Front page, chocolate with nougatine stuffing bar by the Sève House

© Ginko-photo.com










By Bénédict Beaugé


The hazelnut is known for its flavor, that famous “taste of hazelnut”… Thank goodness, it is not only an aroma, as elusive as it is, it is also one of our most delicate “nuts”.


The hazelnut has not always been called a hazelnut. In several regions of France, the tree which it comes from is called the “coudrier”. This word comes from the latin corylus, which refers to the species and evokes the little green frayed hat which covers it and gives it its impertinent look. Which encouraged Jean-Luc Hennig to say, in his Literary and Erotic Dictionary of Fruits and Vegetables, that “cloistered under its green hood, it could tempt, they say, only wildlife, squirrels and bad boys.


Like many other fruits, the hazelnut comes from Asia Minor from where it spread over the entire northern shore of the Mediterranean in prehistoric times. The Romans appreciated the quality of these “Pontic nuts” and imported trees to cultivate them. That is where one of the most common varieties gets its name “avellana” – which, in French, designates the large, slightly elongated variety, the aveline.






Hearts of hazelnuts by the Bellanger House. Caramelized Piedmont hazelnuts, with fleur de sel and coated in delicately salted milk chocolate.





If, in France, one finds hazelnut orchards – in Corsica, throughout the southwest, but also in Brittany and the southern part of Dauphiné –, picking them along paths is still popular… particularly in the Massif Central region. In Italy, there are well-known orchards in the Piedmont region which have introduced two hazelnut specialities worldwide: the gianduja… and Nutella®!


Due to its refined flavor, the hazelnut was appreciated in sweets and pastries early on. It has often been used to prepare sweets such as pralines or a nougat. It has also served as a substitute for almonds and is used to prepare pralin or other pastries.


Sold with or without the shell, the hazelnut is used whole or ground, even reduced to powder, in pastries and in cooking. It is particularly good in charcuterie and in terrines. But that is not all: the seed is also known for its oil (very rich, it contains 50 %). The oil, which should not be overheated, has a delicate but strong flavor: the well-known hazelnut flavor. We can find the flavor in butter as well, but that is not the same, nor is the beurre noisette, which makes reference to its color!











The Charlotte bar from the Bellanger House where the power of tangy raspberry echoes the roundness of the crunchy hazelnut praline and dark chocolate… and let’s not forget the dried and candied fruits that are sprinkled throughout.






The Croquants by Eric Vergne. A milk and dark chocolate product line to snack on with Spanish almonds, Piedmont hazelnuts, Sicilian pistachios and Périgord walnuts…






Chocolate Croc by Dalloyau. Piedmont hazelnut crunch, moist sponge cake, Bahibé milk chocolate mousse (46% Dominican cocoa content) and hazelnut cream.






Milk chocolate with hazelnuts entremets by Claire Damon. Piedmont hazelnut Dacquoise, praline in crunchy flaky crust, milk chocolate sabayon and Piedmont hazelnut butter crème brûlée. And also milk chocolate icing sprinkled with hazelnuts topping.






Fruit bread signed Des Gâteaux et du Pain (Claire Damon & David Granger). Very gourmet organic bread made out of T80 stone ground organic flour, natural leaven, Noirmoutier salt as well as apricots, figs, prunes and almonds.






Milk chocolate with hazelnuts bar from the Oberweis House. Also exists in a caramelized almonds version.






Paris-Brest Chou by Sébastien Bouillet. Puff pastry, hazelnut cream, runny hazelnut heart and chunks of roasted hazelnuts.






Nougats by the Escobar House.






Nougats by the Escobar House.






Rochers by the Moutarlier House. Milk chocolate with caramelized almonds, puffed rice, candied lemon peels version, or dark chocolate with caramelized almonds, puffed rice and candied orange peels version






“Almonds and hazelnuts” box by Volker Gmeiner. An assortment of the best chocolates from the pastry chef and chocolate maker, including his almond and hazelnut specialties and the famous caramelized almond sticks, nut and almond nougatine.






Paris-Brest by Dalloyau. A moist puff pastry, a melt-in-your-mouth Praline cream and crunchy nougatine.






White chocolate Mendiant from the Wittamer House. Available in milk and dark chocolate assortments






Galet de la Côte by the Gelencser House. Grilled chocolate almonds covered in a fine layer of dragée sugar.

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