Part II: Gâteau aux Noisettes Success

For February vacation week, our family went searching for snow in the Jura mountains of Switzerland. Thankfully, we found it in Le Locle and La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Since 2009, UNESCO has listed both cities as World Heritage sites for their watchmaking history and how it shaped their development. When we came home, the trip had inspired me to finally tackle an allergy-friendly version of a local Neuchâtel specialty: Gâteau aux noisettes (hazelnut cake, but I call it a tart).

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Allergy-Friendly Accommodations

In Le Locle, we stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment in a wonderful old farmhouse outside of town. Relais de La Baume sits on a hillside, surrounded by evergreen trees and snow-covered pastures. Our apartment had a kitchen, so we planned to make all of our meals there. At the same time, I emailed two local restaurants in advance to inquire about allergy-friendly options for my son. I never heard back from one, and the other said they couldn’t guarantee a safe meal for him. While it would have been great to eat out together as a family, we played it safe by buying groceries at the Coop in Le Locle and cooking for ourselves in our well-equipped kitchen.


Neuchatel’s G
âteau aux Noisettes

During our trip, I had the chance to sample yet another gâteau aux noisettes from a bakery in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. I first discovered these hazelnut tarts last year when we visited a well-known bakery in Valangin. These nut-filled tarts traditionally have a thin layer of icing and are a local treat here in the canton of Neuchâtel. They come in all shapes and sizes. You can find similar ones in German-speaking Switzerland, but likely without the icing. In my opinion, they taste best with a strong cup of coffee.

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Hazelnut tart from Interlaken with Rivella, a popular Swiss soda that contains whey

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Gâteau aux noisettes and other baked goods from La-Chaux-de-Fonds

In the canton of Neuchâtel, according to Patrimoine Culinaire Suisse, the gâteau aux noisettes was originally developed in Colombier at Confiserie Zurcher. The bakers started using hazelnuts in the tarts instead of almonds, when they became too expensive during World War I. Yesterday, I finally made it to Zurcher with my 2-year old. We picked up a petite gâteau aux noisettes—the last one in the case.

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Home of Gâteau aux noisettes: Confiserie Zurcher, Colombier

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Gâteau aux noisettes from Confiserie Zurcher

When we got back home, I had the Zurcher gâteau for my second breakfast, while my 2-year old had the allergy-friendly version I made the day before. While shortcrust pastry is more traditional, and what Zurcher uses for their version, my homemade tart used allergy-friendly, pre-made puff pastry. Puff pastry is an acceptable alternative, and one used by the bakery in La-Chaux-de-Fonds. Plus, it’s nice taking a shortcut once in a while with store-bought pastry dough!


Gâteau aux Noisettes

Recipe adapted from the vegan blog, Loetitia Cuisine—another one of my favorites from Switzerland.

(dairy/egg-free)

Makes 1 tart in a 9-inch American-style pie pan or 4 smaller 4-inch tarts.

Dough:
Prepared pâte feuilletée (i.e., puff pastry to fit the specs listed above)
Dairy-free margarine, for greasing the pan/s or line the pans with parchment paper

Filling:
100 grams ground hazelnuts
100 ml rice milk
25 grams brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar (optional)

Icing:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
3 teaspoons water

1. Lightly grease the pan with dairy-free margarine and lay the puff pastry into it. Press in the pastry dough, and cut away any excess dough. Please note: the pastry dough should only go about halfway up the sides of the pan.

2. Mix together the filling ingredients until well-blended. Pour and spread the filling evenly into the prepared dough in the pan. The filling should roughly be the same height as the edges of the dough.

3. Bake at 180°C/350°F for 30-40 minutes, until the crust has lightly browned and the bottom isn’t soggy.

4. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly. Whisk together icing ingredients and spread a thin layer on the tart while still a little warm.

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My homemade hazelnut tart sans dairy and eggs

My husband just discovered this morning that he has a minor allergy to hazelnuts, among other things, which helps to explain why he’s not a huge fan of this tart! However, if you can tolerate hazelnuts or almonds, this is an easy and satisfying recipe. Bon week-end!

Dairy-Free Hazelnut Crescent Rolls

On Sunday morning, we packed up some freshly baked hazelnut crescent rolls for a visit to our neighborhood Christmas market. I prepared the hazelnut filling the night before and quickly made the dough in the morning. This easy recipe makes a nice dairy-free pastry without too much effort!

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I had been searching for a new Swiss holiday recipe to try when I came across this one from Swiss Milk for “Croissant aux noisettes.” The recipe calls for crumbled up pieces of leftover Christmas cookies. Perfect for me, because I burned a pan of “Etoiles à la Canelle” while getting ready for a holiday party last weekend. I couldn’t bear to throw them out and was looking for a creative way to use them up. I still have cookies leftover, so I’ll be making these rolls again before the holiday season is over. I hope you like them too!

 

Hazelnut Crescent Rolls

(Dairy-free, baked egg)
Adapted from Swiss Milk’s recipe (in French).

Makes 6 rolls

Dough:
250 grams all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
100 ml rice milk, very warm
50 grams dairy-free margarine, melted and cooled
1 egg, lightly beaten

Filling:
180 grams ground hazelnuts, toasted
50 grams cookies, crumbled (e.g., crushed in a plastic bag with a rolling pin)*
100 ml water
100 grams sugar
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1-2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Glaze:
5 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon water
1-2 drop(s) freshly squeezed lemon juice

*Christmas cookies like Etoiles à la Canelle, Basler Brunsli, Milanais, or other chocolate and vanilla cookies, etc.

1. For the filling, mix ground hazelnuts and crumbled cookies. Separately, boil water and sugar until sugar is completely melted. Stir together with the warm hazelnuts , adding the lemon zest and juice and cinnamon. Cover and let cool completely. Put in the fridge and leave overnight.

2. For the dough, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warmed rice milk. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and salt and make a well in the center. Pour into the yeast mixture in the well, along with the butter and egg. Knead to obtain a soft dough that bounces back when pressed. Please note: The dough will be sticky, so be patient, but add a little flour, as needed. Cover and let stand at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, about 1-2 hours.

3. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a circle and cut into 6 triangular pieces. Divide filling evenly, and roll into crescents. Please note: There’s lots of filling, and I had some leftover.

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4. Bake 20-25 minutes in an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F.

5. While the rolls are still hot, whisk together all the icing ingredients. Smooth the glaze on the top of the rolls and let them cool completely (or if you can’t wait, like me, eat them while they’re still warm!).

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What are your favorite allergy-friendly recipes for the holiday season? Please share by leaving a comment below or sending me an email. Thanks!

Super Quick: Tarte aux Pruneaux

This week at school, my 5-year old and his classmates made little plum tarts or tarte aux pruneaux. On Tuesday, their teacher took them to the marché to buy fresh plums. With 4 plums purchased for each student, they all walked back to school. Then on Thursday, they prepared and baked the tarts. When we went to the playground after school that day, my son unveiled his baking creation, carefully wrapped up in a colorful napkin.

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Our 2-year old with multiple food allergies didn’t taste the tart because I assumed it contained some type of milk-related ingredient. To give him that opportunity, I made a super quick version at home using a pre-made crust from Coop—a convenient allergy-friendly product I’ve recently discovered. The Coop-brand Kuchenteig (German) or Pâte brisée (French) contains gluten, but the label doesn’t list any of my son’s allergens—milk, egg or almond.

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The French-speaking cantons of Switzerland eat tarte aux pruneaux this time of year, in part because it’s plum season, but also because of the upcoming mid-September holiday—Jeûne  Fédéral. Historically, this was a federal fasting day “in remembrance of wars, pestilence or other misfortunes.” A traditional fast-breaking feast included tarte aux pruneaux, which could be made in advance.

While I haven’t heard of anyone planning to fast on September 16, the practice of making and eating plum tarts has continued—as demonstrated by my son’s recent classroom activity. This tart took almost no time to make, and my husband finished it up at breakfast this morning.

 

Vegan Tarte aux Pruneaux

Adapted from a recipe featured in Migros’ cuisine de saison.

(dairy/egg-free)

Pastry:
1 prepared tart crust, such as Coop’s Pâte brisée

Filling:
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
15-20 plums, pitted and quartered
1/3 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Place prepared tart crust in an 11-inch/28-cm, nonstick springform pan (use greased parchment paper, if necessary). Prick the crust with a fork. Spread ground hazelnuts evenly on the crust.

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Next, gently arrange the pitted and quartered plums on top of the hazelnuts. Please note: you can pack the plums tight and overlap them a bit; they’ll shrink as they bake. Then, sprinkle sugar over the fresh plums.

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Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the plums have softened and the crust is lightly browned.

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My Sunday plans include a huge, 4-course feast celebrating local Suisse-Romande cuisine. I look forward to discovering some new Swiss foods I can safely recreate at home for my family. Bon week-end!

Part I: Gâteau aux Noisettes Experiments

I’ve come across hazelnut cakes or “Gâteau aux Noisettes” during our travels lately, both in French and German-speaking Switzerland. While our son has tested positive for an almond allergy, he can safely eat hazelnuts, peanuts and all other tree nuts—though he hasn’t tried them all yet. Of course, these cakes often contain dairy and eggs, so I’ve been experimenting with an allergy-friendly version at home. After two cakes this week, I still haven’t perfected the recipe. This latest cooking obsession all started with our spring visit to Valangin.


Father’s Day in Valangin

To celebrate Father’s Day this year, we traveled by bus to Valangin in the canton of Neuchâtel. Our primary destination was the Château et Musée de Valangin, perched on a hill above the small village. The museum held a lot of great furniture and other historic artifacts, while being a manageable size to navigate with our small children. In particular, I loved touring the castle’s 16th century kitchen that had a wall adorned with kugelhopf pans—the predecessor to my beloved bundt cakes.

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Sampling Hazelnut Cakes

After touring the castle, we stopped at Weber confiserie and pâtisserie, which opened its doors in 1874. I immediately spotted a brown tart with a semi-transparent, light pink icing. After using my embarrassingly bad French skills, the patient clerk behind the counter told me it was a “Gâteau aux Noisettes.” We tried it back at home after the boys were in bed. It had a mildly sweet and nutty flavor that pairs well with coffee. Its shape reminded me of a frisbee.

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Fast forward to this afternoon, with my in-laws visiting and my youngest taking a nap. I ran out and picked up another version of the hazelnut cake from our local shop. It has a similar flavor and icing, but instead with a moist and cakey texture. To be honest, I prefer this version to the one from Valangin.

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My second attempt at a Swiss hazelnut cake was given mixed reviews, so it still needs a lot of work. After trying a new version of this local specialty today, I am planning a different approach to my allergy-friendly recipe. Luckily with my in-laws here, they can help eat all the extra cake!

As always, if you have a Swiss recipe to share, please send it my way. And, thanks so much for your interest, advice and support. Bon week-end!