I, too, overflow; my desires have invented new desires, my body knows unheard-of-songs. Time and again I, too, have felt so full of luminous torrents that I could burst. - Hélène Cixous, an excerpt from ‘The Laugh of Medusa.”
The beginning of the year has been an endless outpouring of flux and floods. Storms, I could drown the world with my fingertips. The sea is against me, all I desire to do is swim. I swirl, uncontained, I burst rivers, I crash the shore, I cascade and fall, I swell and get swollen, I beat against the break, my fingers, an eternal stream of downpour, I wring them out, I storm, rivers overflow onto beds and our whirlpools collide, the current carries me away. I drown beneath the high-tide, I drown, I am all tide. I am all ocean.
For the most part, I said two-thousand-and-eighteen would be a never-ending outpour of new material. And I’d be lying if I told you I thought it would be different. I started living, for more, for something else, for someone else. I could only ever do heat and intensity or cool and calamity, best. A happy medium. Endlessly difficult to achieve, and one I’m working on. Routine is slowly streaming back. And it’s a routine that makes space for more-frequent updates, and a greater direction of recipes.
These Salted Hazelnut Bourbon Blondies with Cacao Nibs and Figs are my February heart. Filled with dark and stormy depth, richness, intensity, and a tremendous amount of sweetness. The month’s afternoon storms have led to a never-ending hunger for all things sugared. And a small square of these, are more than enough to sate. They’re buttery, golden, and filled with sweet, jammy, chunks of fig. There’s molten bitter pools of dark chocolate, toasted hazelnuts, and spelt flour, within. Bourbon, too. And there’s a final flourish of smoked fleur de sel. They’re the kind of thing that doesn’t hold back.
You can substitute the figs for an equal amount of another addition of choice. I love to use dried sour cherries or cranberries. For something even more decadent, try dates or caramelized white chocolate chunks.
I use couverture dark chocolate in this recipe. Sourcing couverture isn’t always necessary, but a good block of chocolate, is. The chocolate should be the kind you wouldn’t just bake with, but that you would eat. The 70% strength is on the slightly bitter side, which pairs perfectly with all the sweetness within. For a less intense flavor, you could use a chocolate with 60% cacao solids, though I wouldn’t recommend use anything less.
I use smoked fleur de sel to finish. You could also use regular fleur de sel or flaked sea salt. Pink sea salt would be stellar, too.
SALTED HAZELNUT BOURBON BLONDIES WITH CACAO NIBS AND FIGS
70 g hazelnuts, 160 g unsalted butter (cubed), 250 g dark muscovado sugar, 2 medium eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla bean extract, 1 tablespoon bourbon (optional), 130 g white spelt flour, 50 g hazelnut flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 110 g 70% dark chocolate (roughly chopped), 90 g dried figs (chopped), 1 tablespoon cacao nibs, smoked fleur de sel, (for finishing).
Pre-heat the oven to 180 c (350 f). Grease and line a 20 cm (8-inch) square baking pan with non-stick parchment paper. Let the paper slightly overhang the sides. Set aside.
Roughly chop the hazelnuts. Place them on a baking tray lined with non-stick parchment paper. Bake, until fragrant and evenly toasted, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Place the butter into a medium saucepan. Heat, over medium-low, until melted and golden. Remove from the heat and pour the butter into a large mixing bowl. Add in the dark muscovado sugar. Whisk until smooth and combined, about a minute. At first it looks like the butter and sugar won’t combine, but the mixture will become smooth and glossy as you continue to whisk. Add in the eggs, one at a time, and whisk until well incorporated. Whisk in the vanilla bean extract and bourbon. The mixture should be very glossy and smooth. Set the bowl aside.
In a separate medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the white spelt flour, hazelnut flour, and salt.
Add the dry ingredients into the bowl with the butter and sugar mixture. Use a wooden spoon to fold the ingredients together until just combined. Add in the dark chocolate chunks, dried figs, and toasted hazelnuts. Mix until evenly incorporated throughout the batter.
Pour into the prepared baking pan, using a rubber spatula to help spread the batter to the edges and to smooth out the top. Sprinkle over the cacao nibs.
Bake, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is shiny, crackled, and golden brown. The edges should be firm and the middle just set, but with a slight softness to it. Remove from the oven and let the blondies cool in their pan to room temperature. When you’re ready to serve, sprinkle over a little of the smoked fleur de sel, and slice into even squares.