[A dead autumn leaf and a delicious nutella tart]


I am deeply in love with my origins.
Each year, around mid-October I remember the enchanting autumn I spent years and years ago in Unchio di Verbania, a small village just 4 kilometres north to the beautiful lago Maggiore, where my paternal grand parents were from.

There, in Piemonte, autumns are like golden ice – I walk on this small path. The dark-brown hearth, enriched with organic matter, is covered with dead leaves. The cold wind that comes from the montagna hits my face with such violence I almost faint.
This place exudes death and mystery. But at the same time it makes me alive and aware of every centimetre of my body.
This very unusual feeling haunts me.
Golden ice. Ghiaccio dorato.
Vibrant colours. Colori luminosi.

After a short moment, it’s difficult for the light to pierce the dense leafage of the hazelnut trees.
I suddenly remember my mother gave me a small basket to pick these small and perfectly round nuts.
She wants to make a torta di nocciole – a fragrant hazelnut cake, cherished by every mamma italiana.
I accelerate my moves. Soon my wicker basket lined with a striped red tea towel is full.


Then, filled with the prospect of inhaling the aromatic fumes of the cake, fresh from the oven, I hasten.
I run as fast as possible. The leaves flutter under my steps. The wind, which seemed hostile a few moments ago, is now carrying me.
I arrive to the village, relieved to finally see the pale-blue shutters. I rush inside the house and immediately feel the warmth growing on my cheeks – both from heat and excitement!


Nutella tart

These sweet memories exalt the lusciousness of hazelnuts.
But though I love hazelnuts, I love even more hazelnuts with chocolate.
The pastry and filling are straightforward and turned out perfectly.
I made a 20cm tart, so there definitely was some ganache (can you really call a mix of butter/chocolate a ganache?) left.
I also used less hazelnut and didn’t toast them before baking as I reckon 11 minutes in the oven would allow them to develop the nice nutty flavour you look after when roasting them first.
And as it was for my little sister – who doesn’t like the bitterness of high cocoa percentage chocolate – I used a 60% cocoa solid chocolate for the ganache.

I could have made my proper gianduja but as Patrick said: “I, on the other hand, find Nutella to be completely delicious, far better than any homemade hazelnut chocolate spread I’ve made.” While I’m feeling confessional I have to admit that I do too.