Orange Nutella Hazelnut Brownies

I have to be honest with you all - I've been in a bit of a baking funk these past few days.  It all began late last week when I baked two failed batches of macarons.  Sheet after sheet of feet-less, crack-filled shells - I'm still not too sure what happened, but thankfully I was able to make one semi-successful batch to bring to my friend's bridal shower on Saturday.  Even though all of the ladies raved about them, I still felt defeated.

Then earlier this week, I spent hours baking and working on a cake for someone only to have them cancel on me at the last minute.  Things happen, but as fellow bakers know, it takes a lot of effort and energy to bake, frost, and decorate a cake from scratch.  Not to mention all of the dirty bowls and utensils that pile up afterwards...more funk.

Although baking is something I'll always love doing, there are just days I'm uninspired...then there are the days where I'm overwhelmed (and a tad intimidated) by all the talented baker blogs out there - what more can lil' ol' me contribute? How does one continue with a food blog - let alone a sweets blog, if there aren't any sweets to be shared?  I even ventured into ice-cream making yesterday for the first time, but that failed as well - probably because the machine I'm using is a no-name brand found on clearance at a local drugstore.  The mixture just didn't want to freeze.

So how does one get out of a baking rut? Stalk your food idols on Twitter for some inspiration! Ok, maybe not stalk but take notes of helpful links and articles that fellow foodies share... I happened to be scrolling through my "VIP Foodies" feed and a link by Joanne Chang (a fellow Taiwanese baker!) of Boston's famed Flour Bakery popped up - she was sharing a video on how to make French macarons.  How appropriate, right?

To make a long story short, the link led me to the Fine Cooking website - which eventually led me to create these decadent, orange-accented brownies! There is a Recipe Maker on the site, which is an interactive tool  that allows you to get creative with ingredients and then formulates the unique recipe for you once you're done selecting your flavors.

I came up with this combination just from what I had on hand - I knew I had a couple oranges that needed to be used up, as well as a bag of hazelnuts that had yet to see any sweetness.  Also, a couple weeks ago, I had found a cute mini bottle of Grand Marnier from the liquor store while picking out a bottle of wine for friends.  All of these flavors, wonderful on their own but so much better together... with chocolate and Nutella, no less!

Just the pick-me-up I needed... these brownies reminded me of those chocolate oranges wrapped in orange foil... you know, the ones where you whack 'em to break the chocolate into pieces? Anyways, they're the right balance of fudgey and cakey...I love me some fudgey brownies! They are oh-so-satisfying with a generous drizzle (more like slather) of warm Nutella -... and I did mention the Grand Marnier, right?

Orange Nutella Hazelnut Brownies
created by Sweets by Sillianah via Fine Cooking's Recipe maker

[Print Recipe]

Makes 24 Brownies

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups cocoa powder
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier
2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest
5 large eggs
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup Nutella; extra for drizzling

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of a 9x13-inch straight-sided metal baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, leaving about a 2-inch overhang on the short sides. Lightly butter the foil.

Put the butter in a large (4-quart) saucepan over medium-low heat and stir occasionally until melted, about 2 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth, 1 minute. Add the sugar and salt, and whisk until well blended. Use your fingertip to check the temperature of the batter -- it should be warm, not hot. If it's hot, set the pan aside for a minute or two before continuing.

Whisk in the Grand Marnier and orange zest and then the eggs, two and then three at a time, until just blended. Sprinkle the flour over the batter and stir with a rubber spatula until just blended. Stir in the hazelnut and chocolate chips.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Drop the Nutella by tablespoons evenly over the top and, using a knife or small spatula, swirl into the batter. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with small bits of brownie sticking to it, 35 to 45 minutes. Do not overbake. Cool the brownies completely in the pan on a rack, about 3 hours.

Using the foil overhang, lift the brownies from the pan. Invert onto a cutting board, carefully peel away the foil, and flip again.  Cut the brownie into 24 squares and serve immediately, or wrap in in plastic or waxed paper and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Let the brownies come to room temperature before serving.  If desired, drizzle with extra Nutella before serving.