For The Hungry One, life is better when there’s texture involved. He doesn’t mind it when things get crunchy.

For me, there are few things that aren’t improved with the addition of hazelnuts. Risotto? Done. Roast chicken sandwiches? For sure. Granola? Absoloodle. 
 The humble hazelnut is the equivalent of a night infront of a fire, wearing tracksuit pants, flick through a book I’ve read before and listening to Dire Straits. Not outwardly sexy, but roundly comforting.  Once you’ve had a few nights of that ilk, you wonder why you haven’t scheduled more. It’s the same with hazelnuts. Everytime I invite them along to something, I kick myself for not doing it sooner.

So, while they’re not a traditional inclusion in a black forest cake , this year they’re making a guest appearance in The Hungry One’s birthday celebrations.

Just to be original, he’s yet again requested a version of his favourite trifecta; chocolate, cherries and cream. His birthday, his choice.

I’m tinkering with which layers to feature, but I know by now that some crunch is essential.

To give you an understanding of The Hungry One’s fascination with texture – it was even the brief he gave to our wedding florist- (who did a superb job). His greatest fear is a blanc mange of mush. God knows what he was like as a baby.

So, to add an extra layer of crackle, some hazelnuts have been gussied up into a shatteringly good praline.

They’ve been toasted so they’re warm and relaxed.  A tussle in a clean tea towel helps to shed the skins.

They then get muddled with some scaldingly hot toffee. Into the freezer they go to harden, before being  beaten up with a mallet. 

They’re sweet and sexy, crunchy and earnest. I imagine eating them is a bit like making out with the owner of an eco lodge.

While they’re destined for fancier places this time,  they’re also excellent building blocks to jazz up  other simple things. 

They would be lovely scattered over panna cottas; or even over vanilla ice cream with some cherries on the side.

And perhaps that’s what The Hungry One will get next year. If I just add some chocolate sauce I’ve got all bases covered.

(And if my god darn cherry mousse turns a suspicious shade of blue again, or the brownie cake cracks once more that’s exactly what he’s getting).

Actually, I’m sure if ice cream with topping was all he got, he wouldn’t complain a bit. At least he’d have his crunch.

Hazelnut praline

(Makes enough praline to scatter over desserts for 4-6, or to fold through mousse for 4-6).

Equipment

1 heavy bottom saucepan or non stick fry pan, 1 tray lined with baking paper, 1 tea towel.

Shopping/ foraging 
 50 grams caster sugar
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned

Here’s how we roll

1. Dry toast the hazelnuts in a pan.

2. Transfer the nuts to a tea towel and rub them all over to remove as many of the skins as you can.

3. Add the sugar to the pan and put it on a medium heat. Swirl the pan, rather than stirring to mix the molten sugar together.

Keep it on the heat until all the sugar has melted and it’s turned a light gold.

4. Add the hazelnuts to the toffee and shake them around. Transfer them to a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Be careful, the sugar will be very very hot.

5. Transfer the baking tray to the freezer and chill for 30 minutes.

6. Chop the praline into pieces for a chunkier praline, or pulse in a food processor for a finer praline.

7. Serve as an element of textural crunch with ice cream, panna cottas, or fold through  chocolate mousse. Or fold through a marscapone mousse that’s destined as a filling for a very special birthday cake….