Dark chocolate and hazelnuts are the basis of this recipe, a natural pair known in Italian by the single name ‘gianduia.’ Grandma and Grandpa came across this “salami” in a rural trattoria when the chef cut a few slices from a roll resembling the familiar salami sausage and urged us to try it with our aperitifs. He explained that his mother always had some on hand and I’m not surprised as it can be dressed as dessert for a party, or down to slice as a quick aperitif treat. Try a slice or two with a glass of fresh lemonade or orange squash. Dry cookies, on the lines of Petit Beurre (Rich Tea in the UK), are needed to make the salami, and it keeps for weeks.

Chocolate Salami is also the foundation of great desserts. One is shaped as a tepee of three slices propped up on a large rosette of whipped cream and sprinkled with berries. Another is a Christmas tree shaped with three overlapping triangles and a sliver of salami as stem. Raspberries decorate the end of the “branches”, with a silver ball at the top of the tree. Other ideas might be whole strawberries, orange segments, Cape gooseberries, chocolate coins, chocolate truffles, Baci candies, and gummy bears, just a few of them add up to a memorable festive treat.

Serves 8 as dessert
125 g/scant 1 cup hazelnuts
125 g dry cookies such as Petit Beurre
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 cup/200 g sugar
¾ cup/170 g butter, cut in pieces
5 oz/150 g dark chocolate, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and toast until the skins pop and the nuts are browned, 15-20 minutes, turning them once or twice. Let cool and rub with a dish towel to remove the skins. Put the skinned nuts in a plastic bag and pound with a heavy pan or rolling pin to coarsely crush them. To break the cookies in pieces, put them in a plastic bag and coarsely crush them too.

2. Beat the egg, egg yolk and sugar in an electric mixer until light and thick, 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter and chocolate in a medium bowl over a water bath, stirring occasionally until the mixture is smooth 4-5 minutes. Stir in the egg yolk mixture and keep cooking in the water bath, stirring occasionally, until it is hot to the touch, 4-5 minutes; the mixture will thicken slightly. Take it from the heat and stir in the hazelnuts and cookies.

3. Chill the mixture, stirring occasionally until firm enough to hold a shape, 10-15 minutes, then turn it onto a sheet of parchment paper and shape it into a 2-inch/5-cm cylinder. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about an hour. Reshape to a cylinder if it has flattened; chill at least 12 hours. Chocolate salami can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 weeks, or frozen for up to 3 months.

4.To finish: With a thin, sharp knife cut the “salami” mixture in rounds 3/8-inch/1-cm thick. Serves as a snack, or arrange a few slices on individual plates, with your choice of decoration.