Hazelnut Praline Paste
- 2 cups raw hazelnuts
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-2 T walnut oil
- Toast two cups of hazelnuts at 325 degrees until the skins have darkened and the hazelnuts are giving off a wonderful toasty smell. Then wrap them in a dishtowel and let them steam for about 10 minutes (don’t skip this step!)
- After steaming, use the dishtowel to remove the hazelnut skins.
- When the hazelnuts are skinned, mix 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a heavy saucepan. After you’ve stirred the sugar and water, leave on medium high heat, and DON’T TOUCH. After about 10 minutes, it will reach a lovely golden brown in its darkest part, and that’s when you add the hazelnuts. Immediately pour the hazelnut pralines onto a baking sheet lined with greased parchment.
- To make the praline butter, break the caramel into pieces that will fit into your food processor. Start running your food processor, and add the pieces of broken caramel one or two at a time, and process until they’re ground. The ground mixture will look like graham cracker crumbs, but keep processing. It will start to get smooth, like thick peanut butter. At this point add a teaspoon of kosher salt, and keep processing. Start adding oil – hazelnut oil is best, but walnut oil will work too. Any neutral oil will also work in a pinch (but I’d avoid canola – I think it has a nasty aftertaste). Add a tablespoon at a time, and process until the mixture reaches your desired consistency. (I used two tablespoons of walnut oil for mine)
Note: My favorite café is actually one of an international chain based in Belgium, Le Pain Quotidien, which translates to “the daily bread”. Despite the general McImages that the word “chain” conjures, I think this is a very good one and is generally worthy to stand alone. I’ve eaten at three locations in New York, four in Los Angeles and one in Bruges, Belgium, where it’s called Het Dagelijksbrood (Flemish lesson of the day). The locations are remarkably consistent in terms of food and décor, and the bread and the praline paste are very good. They also make the world’s best egg salad sandwich, open faced, with anchovies on top. If you should desire to experience this for yourself, my favorite location is on Melrose in West Hollywood, where there’s an enormous patio under a large tree which is a very pleasant place to sit and enjoy a morning treat.