Hazelnut Heaven

Crumbly scones with a swirl of hazelnut spread.

That’s exactly what these scones are.

Aren’t you just getting giddy looking at how thoroughly packed with crunchy hazelnuts they are?

One of my favorite baking books from 2008 was “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang) by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, who own the Baked bakery in Brooklyn, NY. So I was thrilled to hear that the duo just brought out a sequel to that book. “Baked Explorations” (Stewart, Tabori & Chang), which offers 75 more recipes for irresistible homespun baked goods that are equally straightforward to make and yield exceptionally spot-on flavors.

The recipe for “Nutella Scones” caught my eye immediately after I received a review copy of the new book. Made with Nutella, toasted hazelnuts and cocoa powder, these beauties bake up as dark as a pan of brownies.

They look like they’d be too rich and heavy to enjoy for breakfast or brunch. But trust me, looks are deceiving. The crumb is actually quite light, crisp and crumbly. And the cocoa powder adds a hint of chocolate without hitting you over the head senseless with it.

Hazelnut spread with the consistency of natural peanut butter.In fact, I purposely played up the hazelnut factor by substituting hazelnut spread for the Nutella, since I happened to have a sample can of Love ‘n’ Bake’s Hazelnut Praline in my pantry. Like Nutella, it is made from roasted hazelnuts and sugar, but the one difference is there is no cocoa in it. Instead, it’s a pure nut spread with the thickness and consistency of natural peanut butter.

With any scone dough, be sure not to over-mix or else you’ll end up with leaden, tough baked goods. Never a good thing.

A generous amount of toasted, chopped hazelnuts gets stirred into the dough, before it is gently patted into a rectangle. A bit of Nutella or hazelnut praline paste is spread on top of the dough, before it is rolled up jelly roll-style. Then, you stand the roll of dough up on one end and gently flatten it down until you have a thick disk. Cut out wedges and bake.

When the scones come out of the oven, heat a little more Nutella or hazelnut praline paste in the microwave until the texture is more pourable, then drizzle over the top of each scone like glaze on cake.

These scones are loaded with hazelnut flavor. They also have that hidden surprise inside of a swirl of Nutella or hazelnut paste.

Take a bite, and prepare to go absolutely nutty for them.

Meet Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito: The authors of “Baked Explorations” will make three Bay Area appearances in the coming weeks to sign copies of their new cookbook.

Meet them at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at Rakestraw Books in Danville; noon Oct. 19 at Williams-Sonoma at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto; and 6 p.m. Oct. 19 at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. All three events are free to the public. The Williams-Sonoma appearance also includes a cooking demo by the authors.

If you can’t make it to any of those events, you can always tune in to Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Just Desserts” on Wednesday nights to watch Eric Wolitzky, pastry chef of Baked, compete in this inaugural series, which is turning out to have way more melodrama than the original “Top Chef” show. So much for pastry making being all sugary sweet, hey?

If you love hazelnuts, you'll love this scone.

Nutella Scones

(Makes 6 to 8 )

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder (like Valrhona)

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1 large egg

1/2 cup heavy cream

3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup Nutella or hazelnut praline paste, divided use

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place rack in the center. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt until combined.

Add butter. Use your fingertips to rub it into the flour until the butter is pea size and the mixture is coarse.

In a separate bowl, whisk together egg and cream. Slowly pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until dough just comes together. Gently and briefly knead dough with your hands. Add toasted hazelnuts and knead gently to incorporate. Flatten dough into a rectangle approximately 6 by 12 inches (it does not need to be precise) and spread 1/4 cup Nutella or hazelnut praline paste on top in a crisscross pattern. Roll dough up to make a cylinder about 6 inches long, turn it on its end, and gently flatten it into a disk about 1 3/4 inches high. Do not overwork the dough.

Cut the dough into 6 or 8 wedges and place them on a prepared baking sheet. Bake scones for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a scone comes out clean. Do not overbake.

Transfer scones to a wire rack to cool completely. Place baking sheet with parchment still on it on the rack.

Heat remaining 1/4 cup Nutella or hazelnut praline paste in a microwave until pourable, about 10 seconds on high. Pierce tops of the scones a few times with a fork. Use a spoon (or two spoons — one to scoop, one to scrape) to drip warm Nutella or hazelnut praline paste in a zigzag pattern over the tops of the hot scones. Transfer them to a refrigerator to set for 5 minutes, then serve immediately.

Most scones have a lifespan of 24 hours or less; however, these scones taste pretty darn good on day two provided you wrap them tightly and store them at room temperature.

Adapted from “Baked Explorations” by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

A Recipe from the “Baked: New Frontiers in Baking” Book: Root Beer Bundt Cake

And Another: Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks

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