These decorative garnishes are so fun! I really enjoy making Hazelnut Spears with novice cooks because it shows how much creativity you can have with sugar, even if you’re not a trained pastry chef. They are wonderful for garnishing celebration cakes, as well as adding flair to plated desserts. It was after I added these as a garnish that the Sexy Chocolate Coupe (page 210) got its name.
- Yield: 20 Spears
- 20 whole, raw hazelnuts
- 500 g(2½ cups) granulated sugar
- 125 g (½ cup) water
- 20 g (1 tbsp) corn syrup or glucose syrup
- Two 1-qt (960-ml) mason jars (or other large, sturdy jars)
- 12-by-12-in (30-by-30-cm) foam core board
- 20 toothpicks
- To set up a place to suspend the spears, line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Set two large mason jars on the baking sheet. Put the foam core board on top of the jars. Set this apparatus in a safe location on a counter or table.
- Prepare each hazelnut by using a toothpick to gently skewer it at the indent of the nut. Roll the toothpick between your thumb and forefinger as you insert it just far enough to hold the nut. Fill a medium mixing bowl, large enough to hold bottom of a medium stainless-steel or enamel-coated saucepan, with ice water.
- In the saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup. (See “Cooking Sugar,” page 26.) Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, covered, until the mixture boils and then takes on a light golden-brown color, about 485°F (200°C). Turn off the heat and let the mixture sit, uncovered, for 30 seconds. It will continue cooking and become a dark amber color. Submerge the bottom of the saucepan in the ice water for 10 seconds to stop the cooking. Remove the pan from the ice water and gently swirl the saucepan around. The mixture should resemble maple sap—dark and thick. Set the pan on an even surface.
- Work quickly, with one hazelnut at a time. Dip a hazelnut into the mixture until just covered, pull it straight up out of the sugar mixture, and move it over to the foam core board. The sugar will continue to drip. Pierce the toothpick into the underside of the foam core board so that the sugar drips away from the board and onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all the hazelnuts and allow them to dry and harden for at least 15 minutes. Use sharp, clean scissors to snip the sugar spears to the desired length.
- When ready to use, gently remove each hazelnut from the toothpick with a wiggling motion. These dramatic hazelnuts are best if used immediately, but they can be prepared up to 2 days in advance and stored still on the toothpicks, with parchment paper to separate them, in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.