This is a celebratory assembly of rich and decadent things; it should cap a luxe meal nicely; while also leaving space for a cheeseboard, cold meats and so on later in the day, should a second wind arrive.
Both the prunes and hazelnut brittle are things to be made in advance; the dessert will come together in a matter of moments on the day. There’ll be leftovers of both to snack on over the next few days.
Prep time: 1 minutes, plus a few days’ marination
Cooking time: 10 minutes
- 300g soft, pitted prunes
- 175g water
- 50g caster sugar
- ½ cinnamon stick
- 5 strips orange peel (using a quick peeler)
- 1 vanilla pod, split, seeds scraped
- 1 rooibos teabag
- 125ml armagnac
- 75g blanched hazelnuts
- 2 tsp flaky sea salt
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 50g salted butter
- 3 tbsp water
- 50g 80-90 per cent dark chocolate
- 200ml double cream
- Double espresso, 60ml strongly brewed coffee, or 1 tbsp instant espresso dissolved into 60ml boiling water, cooled
- 1 tbsp icing sugar
- A week or more before the meal, place the prunes in a sterilised, heatproof, sealable container. In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, cinnamon, orange peel plus vanilla pod and seeds. Boil, simmer for four minutes, ensure sugar is dissolved, then take off heat, add teabag and leave to steep for 5 minutes.
- Remove teabag and pour over prunes. Leave overnight before adding the armagnac. Seal and leave in a cool place for a week or more (one day is fine, if necessary).
- For the hazelnut brittle, first line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicon mat. Roast or toast the nuts until golden brown. Sprinkle in a layer over the baking tray and liberally add salt.
- Combine the sugar, butter and water in a heavy-bottomed pan. Place over a medium-high heat and leave to melt then boil for 5-6 minutes. Don’t stir. If you have a thermometer, wait for that to read 150C. Or watch it come to a dark maple colour. Pour over the nuts and leave for 15 minutes to cool and firm-up.
- Melt the chocolate in a small bain marie, then break the brittle into palm-sized pieces and dip ?-½ of each piece into the chocolate. Return to the lined tray, chill for 30 minutes to firm the chocolate, then transfer to a sealable container, separating layers with baking parchment. Store in a cool place.
- When ready to eat, place a mixing bowl on a bag of ice or frozen peas. Add the cream, coffee and sugar and whisk with a hand-held balloon whisk until light and airy – just beyond ribbon stage.
- Decant five or six prunes per person, plus a tablespoon of syrup. Spoon the airy cream next to them, and lay some chocolate-covered brittle nearby.
Ed Smith (@rocketandsquash) is a cook and food writer, his latest book Crave; recipes to suit your mood and appetite was released early this year.