Every Christmas I couldn’t wait for my mother to make her Pecan Tassies, the bite-sized pecan tartlets with a simple cream cheese pastry crust. For my pop-up event at the Lake Forest Bookstore, I put a spin on her traditional recipe, swapping hazelnuts for pecans, and adding chocolate and hazelnut liqueur to the filling. The next step was creating a chocolate pastry crust to up the chocolate ante. If you’re looking for something to take along to a Thanksgiving feast, these little gems make a great addition to the dessert buffet. With or without the dollop of Nutella and toasted hazelnut crown, guests too stuffed for another piece of pumpkin pie will appreciate this sweet little nibble with a cup of coffee.
Chocolate Hazelnut Tassies
for the crust
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
for the filling
1 cup hazelnuts, divided
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, room temperature
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tablespoons Frangelico (hazelnut liqueur)
2 ounces (about 1/3 cup) finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate
for the topping
1/2 cup Nutella
reserved toasted hazelnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack in top third of oven.
In a large bowl, beat butter, cream cheese and sugar together until completely blended. In a separate bowl, sift flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder and salt together, then whisk to blend thoroughly. Add flour mixture to butter mixture and stir just until dough comes together. Turn dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap and flatten into a 3/4-inch disk. Wrap completely in plastic and chill in refrigerator until firm, about an hour.
While dough is chilling, make your filling. Line a large baking sheet with a clean kitchen towel and set aside. Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a separate baking sheet. Toast in oven for 10-15 minutes, shaking the pan every few minutes, until skins blister and begin to pull away from nuts. Immediately pour toasted nuts onto towel lined tray, pulling towel corners up and over nuts to cover. Let nuts sit for a minute or two, then rub vigorously with towel to remove all loose skin. Allow nuts to cool.
Choose 24 of the best looking nuts and set aside for topping. Finely chop 3/4 cup of remaining hazelnuts. In a medium bowl, whisk brown sugar, kosher salt, egg and unsalted butter until butter has completely dissolved into mixture. Whisk in Frangelico. Stir in chopped chocolate and chopped hazelnuts.
Next, roll dough into 24 1-inch balls and place one in each hole of a 24-cup muffin tin. Gently press to distribute dough evenly along the bottom and sides of each cup (the dough should reach the top of each cup). Give filling a final stir then spoon into shells, filling each almost to the top.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 20-22 minutes, or until filling is set and shells begin to brown. Place on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes. Loosen shells with a small sharp knife and remove from tartlet pan. Cool completely on wire rack.
Place Nutella in a pastry bag fitted with a #12 round piping tip. Alternatively, fill a corner of a quart-sized zip-top bag with Nutella and zip closed with no air, then snip off a tiny corner from bag to create a piping hole. Pipe a dollop of Nutella onto each tassie and top with a whole toasted hazelnut. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container until ready to serve.