The story goes that, during World War II, chocolate was in short supply and that in Piedmont, where hazelnut trees grow aplenty, chocolatiers started cutting their cocoa with hazelnuts, to make it last longer. Out of terrible things sometimes small mercies are born – in this case, Gianduja chocolate and Nutella, a chocolate and hazelnut spread first made by Mr. Ferrero in 1940.
My personal story goes that, from the first time a spoonful of Nutella entered my system, a long-lasting love affair was born, briefly interrupted when living in countries where the familiar jar was not easy to find. I always dispensed with bread and ate it with demi-tasse spoons, dropping a sizable amount in an espresso cup, right after lunch. The tiny spoon would create the illusion that my stash would last longer as I twirled my tongue around it, walking around the house while eating. As I was never in the habit of walking and eating at the same time, I believe that was my first meditative experience.
My mother, inexplicably averse to all packaged food and who deprived me for my entire childhood of cookies and packaged snacks, had arbitrarily decided that Nutella was allowed, since her Food Scientist and Chemist cousin told her he had analyzed it and it did not contain anything improper. This is actually one instance where I wouldn’t quite care whether scientific studies demonstrated a link between Nutella and the bubonic plague, so eradicated is my addiction. Like a recovering addict, I don’t actually keep it in the house because I am known to finish a jar in just over 48 hours.
For the fun of it, a few years ago I set out to make my own chocolate hazelnut spread in the Pastry Kitchen for I can’t quite remember what purpose. I have since toyed with the original recipe, by all means not the only one you will find online, and, while it doesn’t quite come close to the manufactured taste of Ferrero’s Nutella, it is a fun and easy project and one that allows me to cheat. It doesn’t actually say Nutella on my jar so I feel entitled to eat as much of it as my heart desires.
1 C Hazelnuts (toasted and peeled)
6 oz Semisweet Chocolate (I used Callebaut 811, available from Wholefoods)
2 T Neutral Vegetable Oil, such as Canola or Corn or, even better, Hazelnut
4 T Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 ts Vanilla Extract
A pinch of salt
- If you can’t find peeled hazelnuts, which are hard to come by, after roasting them, try rubbing them inside a slightly moist paper towel. Most of the skin will come off and don’t worry about the rest. Put them in a food processor or coffee grinder until really fine.
- Melt the chocolate in a bowl over simmering hot water, add the vanilla extract and the pinch of salt. Using a spatula, add the hazelnuts, the vegetable oil and the condensed milk. Mix until well combined and smooth. You can also use the food processor.
- Store in a jar and spread when needed. If it hardens a bit, put the jar in some hot water.