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Chocolate-Hazelnut Christmas Tree Stump Recipe

1 1/2 C. skinned hazelnuts, divided

Triple Chocolate Hazelnut Bark:

1 sheet parchment paper
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted
1 oz. milk chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted
1 oz. white chocolate, coarsely chopped and melted

Frangelico Syrup:

1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/4 C. water
2 T. Frangelico (hazelnut) liqueur

Whipped Chocolate Icing:

6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 C. whipping cream
3 sticks (1 1/2 C.) unsalted butter, softened
3 C. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla extract

Toasted Hazelnut Sponge Cake:

Nonstick cooking spray
2 T. melted butter
6 sheets (each about 12 1/4 x 16 1/4 inches) parchment paper
1 C. cake flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
7 large eggs, separated
1 C. granulated sugar, divided
2 T. Frangelico liqueur
1 t. vanilla extract
4 T. powdered sugar, divided
Optional: 1 C. flaked coconut

1. Put the skinned hazelnuts in a baking pan and toast in a preheated 350 F. oven about 7 to 10 minutes. Cool. Coarsely chop cup for the bark; set aside. Finely chop the remaining 1 cup nuts for the cake; set aside.

2. To prepare the bark: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place each kind of chocolate in its own bowl. Microwave at 100 percent power 1 minute, stir and continue heating just until melted. Cool briefly. Pour the semisweet chocolate onto the paper and spread thinly to the edges. With a spoon, drizzle the milk chocolate over the top, followed by the white chocolate. Use the tip of a toothpick to swirl the chocolates into each other. Press cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts lightly into the surface. Place in the freezer. When firm, cover with foil or plastic wrap. (The chocolate bark can be prepared 4 days in advance. Store in the freezer until ready to use.)

3. To prepare the syrup: Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir well to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and pour into a bowl. Let cool about 15 minutes, then stir in the liqueur. (The syrup can be prepared up to 4 days in advance and refrigerated until ready to use.)

4. To prepare the icing: Place the bittersweet and semisweet chocolates in a bowl. Bring the cream to a boil and immediately pour over the chocolate. Whisk until the ganache is melted and smooth. Set aside to cool, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.

5. Make sure the butter is very soft. Place in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then slowly add the powdered sugar, beating well to blend. Again, scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the vanilla, and then the ganache. Set aside.

6. To prepare the cakes: Lightly spray two or three 10-by-15-inch baking sheets with sides with cooking spray. Place a sheet of parchment paper in each and lightly spray the surface. Then brush lightly with melted butter. Set aside. Heat oven to 325 F.

7. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and salt together onto a sheet of wax paper; set aside. Place the egg whites in a clean bowl of an electric mixer and beat until foamy with the whisk attachment. Slowly add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and beat until almost stiff. Transfer to a bowl.

8. Without cleaning the mixer's bowl, place the egg yolks in it and add the remaining 2/3 cup sugar, Frangelico and vanilla. With the paddle attachment, beat on medium-high speed 4 minutes. Scrape down the bowl. Reduce speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, using the wax paper as a funnel. Beat 45 seconds. Again scrape the bowl. Beat on medium speed 15 seconds. Fold about a quarter of the beaten egg whites into the batter to lighten, then fold in the remaining just to combine. Fold in the remaining cup of finely chopped nuts. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans, spreading thinly over the bottom. (If you have only two pans, set a third of the batter aside.)

9. Stagger the pans in the oven on two or three racks. Bake 5 minutes, then rotate pans and continue baking 4 to 5 minutes until the edges of the cake begin to pull away from the sides of the pan.

10. While the cakes are baking sift about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar over three sheets of parchment. Have the Frangelico syrup ready with a pastry brush.

11. When the cakes are done, work with one at a time. Flip it over onto one of the sugared parchment sheets and remove the top piece of parchment. Brush lightly with the syrup, then frost thickly with the icing. Cut the cake in half down the length. Starting with a narrow end, begin rolling one length away from you. Place that on the second length and roll. Now repeat with the second cake. If you have baked all three cakes at the same time, repeat with the third. If any of the cakes break, just mortar back together with icing. The cake will hold together even if there are breaks. (If you've only prepared two of the cakes, wash one of the pans. Prepare it with cooking spray, parchment and butter. Then fill with the remaining batter and bake, frost and roll as above.)

12. Place the cake on a serving plate. It's not fragile, and can be easily moved. Place short lengths of wax paper under the bottom edge. Frost the sides and top of the cake, using all of the remaining icing. Remove the paper strips. Break up the chocolate bark into jagged pieces and press into the sides. (You will have extra pieces.) Refrigerate. When the icing has firmed, cover the cake with sheets of plastic wrap. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight.

13. Remove the cake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving. Dust the top lightly with powdered sugar. If desired, sprinkle coconut 'snow' around the bottom edge. When ready to serve, use a long sharp knife and cut the cake in half, then into wedges.

20 servings.

Adapted from "Celebrate with Chocolate" by Marcel Desaulniers and "The Art of the Cake" by Bruce Healy and Paul Bugat



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