1 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
2 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
1 vanilla bean
6 extra-large egg yolks
3 tablespoons cornstarch, sifted
1/2 cup sugar
1 large pinch salt
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1.Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Let cool. When cool, put in a clean towel and rub vigorously to remove skins (you can also just use your fingers). It's okay if some skin is left on -- you're going to strain later.
2.Chop the cooled hazelnuts to a coarse crumb in a food processor.
3.Make the hazelnut-infused cream: Put the milk and half and half in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and add both the bean and seeds to the milk. Add the hazelnuts and heat to scalding over medium-low heat. Remove from the heat and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.
4.In the meantime, whisk the egg yolks, cornstarch, sugar and salt together in a large bowl until thick and pale yellow.
5.In a small saucepan, melt the chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Set aside to cool.
6.Strain the milk-hazelnut mixture into the egg yolk mixture, half a cup at a time, whisking after each addition until you've added about a cup and a half. Then strain and whisk in the rest of the milk. Return to the saucepan over medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until the custard is thick and starts to bubble, about 3 minutes.
7.Strain the thickened custard into a clean bowl. Stir in the melted chocolate-butter mixture.
8.Optional, but highly recommended: Scrape the entire pudding into a blender or food processor and process for about 30 seconds, until silky-smooth. I learned this from Dorie Greenspan's pudding recipes, and it really gives the pudding a wonderful lightness.
9.Spoon the pudding into small ramekins or dessert cups, cover with plastic wrap and chill, overnight if possible. DO NOT eat it unchilled -- right after you make it the flavors will not have blended and will taste a little off.
pictures courtesy of here, recipe here.