High Country Baking: Nutella-lovers, unite over this chocolate-y, nutty tart
High Country Baking
High altitude makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall, and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column, published on Thursdays, presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Are you a Nutella fan? If so, you’re not alone! This European-born spread, featuring chocolate and ground hazelnuts, has taken the U.S. by storm. Since arriving here in the ’80s, it has become almost as popular as peanut butter. In this tart recipe it’s the superstar, making a rich, creamy filling cradled in a tender tart shell and topped with a sprinkle of toasted nuts. With a complex flavor and velvety texture, it has broad appeal.
Preparation is a breeze. The filling never sees the inside of an oven; it’s made in a single saucepan, cooks on the stovetop, like a pudding, and is chilled until set. The tart shell is the only part of the dessert that’s baked; select a recipe for the dough that includes an egg so the shell is sturdy enough to support the soft filling. I’ll provide you with my favorite if you email me with your request – my email is at the end of this article. The tart is all about the Nutella, so the shell isn’t critical to its success; you could even use a commercial one.
In spite of its name, you’re not required to use Nutella to make it; feel free to substitute another brand of chocolate-hazelnut spread as long as the strength of flavor and overall taste are close to those of dessert’s namesake.
Make in a shiny metal 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom
The recipe can be halved for a 7-inch tart pan.
Your favorite sweet tart shell recipe
1 egg white, optional
¼ cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts, optional
Slightly less than 2 cups heavy whipping cream, cold, divided,
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Generous ¾ cup Nutella
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
Chopped hazelnuts, optional
1. Make the crust: Lightly grease only the bottom of your tart pan and make and bake your tart shell. Optional: As soon as it comes out of the oven, whisk the egg white until it’s frothy, brush a thin layer (you won’t use all of it) over the bottom and sides of the hot tart shell, and let it dry. This will prevent the crust from getting soggy when the filling is added. For a stronger hazelnut taste and added crunch, sprinkle finely chopped hazelnuts evenly over the bottom of the tart shell (optional). Let the shell cool while you make the filling.
2. Make the filling: In a small bowl or 2-cup measure, combine the ½-cup of cream and the cornstarch. Whisk until the cornstarch is completely dissolved, so the filling is not marred by white lumps. Add this mixture, along with the rest of the heavy cream, the Nutella and the salt to a medium saucepan and whisk to thoroughly blend them.
3. Place the pan over medium-low heat, continue whisking, and bring the filling to a low boil. If necessary, reduce the heat so the mixture simmers, and keep whisking until the mixture thickens and holds marks from the whisk for about a second; this usually takes 3-5 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla to combine thoroughly
4. Quickly pour/scrape the filling into the tart shell. It doesn’t have to be completely cool for this step. Depending on the depth of your pan, you may not use all of it. If there are any lumps of filling, don’t include them; you want a totally smooth texture. Tilt the pan and/or use an offset spatula to distribute it evenly in the shell.
5. Refrigerate the tart, covered with an overturned bowl to avoid placing anything directly on the filling, until its set, at least 5 hours or overnight. If desired, decorate the top with chopped hazelnuts. The tart, well-covered, can be refrigerated for up to three days. Slice it with a thin-bladed sharp knife, cleaning it after each cut.
This recipe is a variation of one published by FoodNetwork.
Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at The Bookworm in Edwards, Next Page Bookstore in Frisco, and Breck Books in Breckenridge). She became a full-time Frisco resident in 1991 and has been developing and adjusting recipes so that they work at our altitude ever since. Contact her at email@example.com.