Chocolate-Hazelnut Hot Milk Hedgehogs

A while back, I posted a recipe on making these cute little Mont Blanc hedgehogs. So, I wanted to revisit that, now that I have discovered the beauty that is edible paint, and I wanted to make this chocolate and hazelnut version! Whenever I think of chocolate and hazelnut together, I remember when my sister came back from France, and introduced me to Nutella. Prior to her doing student exchange there, my life was pretty monotonous when it came to food. I just ate boiled veggies and boiled meat, because that was all my mother ever fed us. But when Kim(my sister) introduced me to French pastry, that’s when a lot changed for me. Imagine growing up not knowing what a macaron or brioche was. That was me. That was me before Kim went to France. And it is so crazy for me to imagine how far I have come since then! But that whole random rant aside, Nutella is milk chocolate-hazelnut spread. It is probably the most common form in which people have consumed a hazelnut, since hazelnuts on their own are on the expensive side. However, I wanted to embrace that combination of chocolate-hazelnut, and milk, and make cute little hedgehogs out of those three ingredients primarily! For the components, we have a hazelnut hot milk cake, a chocolate-hazelnut ganache, a vanilla Bavarian cream, a whipped chocolate ganache on top, fresh cream to act as the snout, edible paint made from vanilla extract and cocoa powder, and for the little hedgehog ears, some fresh hazelnuts to finish!

So, let’s talk components. Hot milk cake sounds a bit…weird, but to break down what it is, you basically take butter and milk, bring them to a boil, and pour that into a cake batter. The heat from the milk essentially gelatinizes the flour in the cake and denatures the glutens in the flour, which causes the final cake to have a super soft and tender crumb. The cake also uses half ground hazelnuts in place of flour, which also adds to an even softer mouthfeel on the cake and is brushed with a milk-based cake soak, just to keep the cake from drying out. With the ganache, I made an initial, larger batch of it with chocolate, milk, salt, and butter. I recommend using Valrhona’s Azelia chocolate, which is a hazelnut-infused milk chocolate, since that would be pretty much on the nose with what we are trying to do here! If you do not want to do that, and want to just use plain dark or milk chocolate, perfectly valid and fine as well, but just wanted to throw out the suggestion for your optimal chocolate and hazelnut-consuming pleasure. I took a portion of that ganache, mixed it with crushed hazelnuts, and used that as the center for my little hedgehogs, just to provide a fun surprise! The rest of the ganache is being whipped with heavy cream and piped to form the outer quills on the little beans. For the main body of the hedgehogs, I went with a vanilla Bavarian cream, which is a custard lightened with whipped cream, just to add something more neutral to carry the flavors of everything else going on!

For the chocolate ganache:
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips(highly recommend using Valrhona’s Azelia chocolate)
a pinch of salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp coarsely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a pot, heat up your milk, chocolate, salt, and butter. Once everything is fully melted together, portion out about 1/4 cup of the mixture. To that mixture, stir in the hazelnuts. Pour the chocolate-hazelnut mix into silicone 1/2-inch sphere molds and freeze solid, about 2-3 hours. Alternatively if you do not have sphere molds, you can also pour the mixture into a shallow freezer-safe container and freeze the mixture solid that way, then scoop out 1 tablespoon-sized balls. Keep these frozen solid for easier assembly.

For the remaining chocolate, pour that mixture into a shallow container, cover it, and refrigerate the ganache for at least 30 minutes, or until chilled firm. When you are ready for the final assembly steps of the actual hedgehogs, transfer the chilled strictly chocolate mixture back into a stand mixer with a paddle attach and whip with the heavy cream until it forms a soft, creamy mixture. Transfer to a piping bag with a star tip.

For the cake:
1/2 cup milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp canola oil
1 egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup hazelnut flour(can sub with finely ground hazelnuts or just regular flour)

In a pot, heat up the milk, butter, and canola oil. In a bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, vanilla, and salt to ribbon stage. Sift into the whipped eggs the baking soda, baking powder, and flours and fold together for create your batter. Once the butter is melted into the milk, pour the mixture into the batter and fold together to combine.

Pour and spread your batter over a lined quarter sheet tray. Bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes. Allow the cake to cool down at room temperature before attempting to assemble with.

For the milk soak:
3 tbsp milk
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Mix everything together. Keep the soak cold for assembly.

For the Bavarian cream:
1 tsp gelatin powder
2 tbsp cold water
1/4 cup milk
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cups heavy cream, whipped stiff and kept cold

In a pot, mix together the gelatin with cold water first. To that, add in the milk and bring to a simmer over low heat. In another bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with sugar and salt. Once the gelatin is fully dissolved into your milk, lower the heat and pour half of the milk mixture over the egg yolks, whisking everything until combined. Transfer your egg yolk mixture back into the pot and whisk everything together on low heat for 2-3 minutes. Pass the mixture through a sieve into a bowl to remove any lumps, and mix into the strained egg yolk-milk custard your vanilla extract. Allow the custard to cool down at room temperature for 3-4 minutes before folding in the whipped cream. At this point, you will be ready for initial assembly.

For initial assembly:
Using silicone 4-inch half sphere molds, fill them a third of the way with your Bavarian cream mixture. You should have 6 molds to fill in total. Cut out roughly 6 3-inch rounds of your hot milk cake, as well as 6 1-inch rounds. Brush the cake with your soak. Press the 1-inch rounds of the cakes into the cream, then add in the rest of your Bavarian cream. Press in the frozen chocolate-hazelnut cores, then add in the larger rounds of cake, scraping down any mousse that pushes past the mold with an offset spatula. Freeze the mousses for at least 2 hours before attempting to unmold.

For final assembly:
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 tsp confectioner’s sugar
a pinch of salt
1 tsp cocoa powder or activated charcoal
1 tsp clear alcohol or vanilla extract
*whipped chocolate ganache
chocolate pearl sprinkles
hazelnuts, broken in half

In a bowl, whip the heavy cream, confectioner’s sugar, and salt to stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag with a rounded tip and keep cold.

In another smaller bowl, mix together the cocoa powder/activated charcoal with clear alcohol/vanilla extract. This will be your edible paint for the hedgehog’s “eyes”.

To assemble, unmold the Bavarian creams. Pipe your whipped ganache on top and around the still-frozen creams to form the “quills” of the hedgehogs.

To form the “snouts”, pipe the whipped cream onto the surface of the Bavarian cream. Use the chocolate pear sprinkles to form your “snouts”. Alternatively, you can paint on the snouts using your edible paint and the end of a toothpick or a skewer.

Dip the round end of a chopstick into your edible paint and press those against the surface of the Bavarian cream to form your “eyes”.

To make the ears of your hedgehogs, simply press the hazelnuts into the ganache. Allow the Bavarian creams to thaw in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour before attempting to serve, or else the hedgehogs will be frozen solid!

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