By The Spoonful: Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

June 2011

I couldn’t live without cheese.  I couldn’t live without dense, grainy breads.  I really enjoy red wine.  I really enjoy strong espresso drinks throughout the day.  I could eat an [authentic] almond croissant everyday if I didn’t believe in a balanced diet.  When I lived in Argentina, my Hispanic friends told me I was Hispanic in my dancing hips and heart.  Clearly, my stomach is under French occupation (and probably a good portion of my heart as well).  I am also starting to think that I may be southern, but that’s a story currently waiting in Photoshop.

My French stomach was more French than my Parisian boss during my nanny days.  Even her parents attested to that theory as they eagerly served me foie gras, roasted meats and fine wines.  She would buy things like “American Hamburger Rolls”  and pre-packaged, white sandwich bread, squandering her French birthright:  French food!  However, there was one meal that consistently had a heaping helping of Frenchness.  For breakfast, she would eat toast with Nutellla, day in and day out.  Meanwhile, I didn’t eat it at all!  Demerit on my part.

I know people can’t put down Nutella spoons, and full jars quickly empty, but there are a few ingredients in Nutella I question.  Why do I need to consume soy lecithin?  What is vanillin, and why can’t it just be vanilla?  Those questions aside, I love the idea of Nutella, so as I brainstormed my next creation, the creation that would accompany me at The Waffle Shop for this very blog’s big debut, somehow nutella came to mind.  I potentially blame Phil for that!  Phil, if you are reading this, I am very happy you had the chance for an impromptu visit to ye ol’ Pareeee, but damn, did it make me jealous and nostalgic!!!

Without further adieu, I made my own version of Nutella.  We call it the “rustic” version due to its texture…

Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

Ingredients

Yield: about 24 ounces (3 cups)

4 cups whole raw hazelnuts

2 cups Agave syrup

½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder

½ cup hazelnut oil

1 Tbs pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Place hazelnuts in a single layer on a shallow baking pan. Toast until the skins are almost black and the meat is dark brown, about 15 minutes.  Stir the nuts halfway through baking to ensure an even color.

Allow the hazelnuts to cool slightly.

Wrap the cooled hazelnuts in a clean kitchen towel. Rub until most of the skins come off.  Inevitably, many will remain.

This next bit will depend on the strength of your food processor.  As my lovely was inherited with one of my apartments, she’s a bit fatigued and believes that a chocolate hazelnut spread tastes equally delicious when it maintains a hint of the original hardened nut texture.  Accordingly, I processed hazelnuts in two batches and then transferred the ground nuts to a large bowl.  I then added the remaining ingredients, stirred to incorporate and then food processed again in two batches until relatively smooth.     

Transfer the spread to an airtight container, and store in the refrigerator for 1-2 months (blah blah blah…let’s be real, I’ve never seen a jar of Nutella last two months… barely two days before you’re scraping the bottom of the jar for the last chocolaty, hazelnutty goodness).

Note:  There will be a lot of finger licking involved (not in an unsanitary, double-dip sort of way though)!

Note:  There will also be a lot of spoons involved because you’ll want to eat the chunk on the spoon that doesn’t easily scrape into the jar thus prompting the need for a second spoon and so on and so forth.

This special With The Grains version was for a friend in need of some chocolate-hazelnut goodness.  Dana, I hope this helps sweeten the week!

Two Closing Thoughts…

One.  Nutella is Italian?!? 

Nutella® spread, in its earliest form, was created in the 1940s by Mr. Pietro Ferrero, a pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company. At the time, there was very little chocolate because cocoa was in short supply due to World War II rationing.  So Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts, which are plentiful in the Piedmont region of Italy (northwest), to extend the chocolate supply. (from the Nutella website)

1.1 I really thought it was French.  Over crediting France with greatness?  This might also attest to some hidden French gene in my code.

1.2 This may also point to the need for a trip to Italy because I am clearly lacking a fundamental understanding of Italian culture.

1.3  They’re both Western European nations with a lot of similarities.  I’m not sweating this oversight, and I will continue to associate Nutella with my adopted motherland.

Two.  Shout out to Nitella

I have a friend with a chocolate-hazelnut complexion, DJ skills that could woo any girl better than an acoustic guitar solo, a mouth full of sweet teeth and a yoga habit.  I took one of his nicknames “Nits,” and from there I dubbed him DJ Nitella.  I would be remiss not to give him a shout out here.  Consider this bit your special dedication!

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