High Country Baking: Nutella puffs take two bites
High Country Baking
High altitudes makes cookies spread in the pan, cakes fall and few baked goods turn out as they do at sea level. This twice-monthly column presents recipes and tips that make baking in the mountains successful.
Here’s a crowd-pleaser: Everyone’s favorite, Nutella, tucked into a tender, flaky, diminutive crust that’s devoured in two delicious bites. They can be frozen before baking, so keep some in the freezer and you’ll always be ready to serve a special breakfast, an afternoon pick-me-up, or even a light dessert.
To assure their success, avoid the temptation to overfill them. Too much filling will cause the crust to crack and some or all of the filling to escape. When making the crust, measure the sour cream precisely — any more than what’s specified in the recipe will make the dough difficult to work with. Be sure that the butter is very cold and don’t process the dough until it’s fully incorporated. Lots of small pieces of butter should remain visible; the water in the butter evaporates while baking, creating tiny air pockets that contribute to the flakiness that makes this crust so appealing.
Feel free to substitute your favorite pie dough for the crust recipe below.
Two-Bite Nutella Puffs
Works at any elevation
Yields seven 3-inch puffs
1 cup bleached all-purpose flour, spoon and level
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons unsalted butter (one stick), very cold
3 ½ level tablespoons sour cream, cold
7 teaspoons chocolate-hazelnut spread (Nutella)
About 1 tablespoon finely chopped hazelnuts, optional
Coarse granulated sugar
1. Make the crust: Place the flour, salt and baking powder in a food processor with the metal blade and pulse to combine well. Cut the butter into eight pieces, add them and pulse until the pieces are about half of their original size. Add the sour cream and use long pulses to blend it until the dough is in large, moist clumps with pieces of butter still visible. Dump it out on a sheet of waxed paper and gently knead it into a disc. Don’t overwork the dough or it will lose its tender texture. Wrap and refrigerate the disc until the dough is cold and firm or up to a day before using.
2. Prepare the filling: On a sheet of waxed or parchment paper, place seven mounds of Nutella, a teaspoon each, and refrigerate or freeze them until they’re quite firm. While the filling chills, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, with a rack in the center position. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
3. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. If it’s too firm to roll, let it rest until it’s roll-able. Roll to an eighth-of-an-inch thickness between two sheets of lightly floured waxed or parchment paper, lifting the dough off each of the sheets occasionally as you roll to prevent them from sticking. Using a 3-inch scalloped round cutter, cut it into circles. If, at any point the dough gets soft, return it to the freezer; it’s much easier to work with when it’s cold. Gather, chill, re-roll and cut the dough scraps until you have 14 circles. Return them to the refrigerator to firm up before filling.
4. Place seven of the dough circles at least 1 inch apart on the parchment-lined pan. Beat the egg until the yolk and white are blended, and brush this mixture in a ½-inch stripe on the outside edges of the dough circles. Save the beaten egg. Remove the chilled mounds of Nutella from the fridge, place one in the middle of each dough circle, and then flatten it a little. Sprinkle a few chopped hazelnuts (if using) over the Nutella and gently press them into it. Center the remaining seven dough circles on top of the filled ones and use the tines of a fork to press the two edges together so they’re sealed. (At this point the puffs can be wrapped airtight and frozen for a month.)
5. Place the cookie sheet, with the puffs on it, in the freezer or refrigerator. When the dough is quite firm, remove the sheet from the fridge and use a sharp knife to cut small vents in the top of each puff. Brush them with the remainder of the beaten egg and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar. Bake until they’re light golden brown, about 18-24 minutes, though the time will depend on their temperature when placed in the oven. Remove them to a rack and serve them when warm or cool them completely and store them, covered, at cool room temperature for 24 hours. Re-warm them in a 325-degree oven.
Vera Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks (available at the Bookworm of 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.
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