Better than Nutella: Chocolate Nut Spread

I have a romanticized view of Nutella, based on childhood trips to my cousins’ house, where it was always in plentiful supply, unlike at home.  Aside from the largest collection of Barbies I have ever seen and a pool (a pool!), the highlights of these visits were breakfasts of Nutella melting on toast and afternoon snacks of a thin layer sandwiched between layers of fresh, dark bread.

Like most romantic notions, however, Nutella fails to live up to such ideals in reality.  I recently added a single-serving plastic container of the stuff to my shopping cart as an impulsive treat.  At home, I didn’t even finish my toast:  the Nutella melted in greasy pools, was revoltingly sweet, and I could hardly believe that there were hazlenuts in it.  (Nutella does, in fact, contain hazelnuts in it, but it’s main ingredients are sugar and palm oil.)

Still, I love a rich kick of chocolate with my breakfast coffee.  There are other solutions.  But pain au Chocolats hold little appeal for me:  I want a sturdier base than croissant.  Putting a sliver of dark chocolate between crusty bread is alright sometimes, but rather too decadent, and only good on baguette.  Besides, you need very good chocolate in very thin tablets for this to work.  I prefer to save that luxury (Lindt, 100 gr. for close to £2.) for an after dinner treat.

There was nothing for it but to make my own Chocolate Hazelnut spread.

Google spat up plenty of recipes.  The two that appealed immediately were the Su Good Sweets version and David Lebowitz’s take.  I settled on the Su Good Sweets recipe as my base to riff from.  I like the purity of her formula, and that it has a decent shelf life.  David Lebowitz’s spread boasts an appealing creaminess, but the idea of ending up with a fat jar of Nutella that had to be finished off in a week or less sounded dangerous.

In the end, I stuck closely to the simpler version, but included Lebowitz’s idea of adding honey to the formula, which added a round, creamy dimension that sugar alone lacked.  I also used half almonds and half hazelnuts, rather than all hazelnuts in my formula in order to take advantage of almonds’ intrinsic sweetness and upped the cocoa content.  Finally, I dribbled in water tablespoon by tablespoon, until I had a properly spreadable consistency, which I didn’t get from the original recipe.

The result: a perfect breakfast.  Even healthy, with all those nuts and much less sugar.

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SPREAD

makes about 2 cups, keeps at least a month, unrefrigerated

Heat your oven to 150°C.  Spread

1 cup raw hazelnuts

and

1 cup raw almonds

onto a baking sheet.  Pop them in the oven, and roast them until they take on a deep golden colour (if they are skinless) or burnished brown (if they have skins.)  This will take about 20-25 minutes.  To test, bit into an almond (Carefully!  Hot!).  It should be hot throughout and be quite pliable.  (They will harden when they cool.)  If the nuts have skins, transfer them to a dishtowel, fold it over the nuts and rub until the skins come off somewhat.  The hazelnut skins should rub off easily, the almonds will be more stubborn.  But don’t worry–as long as about half of the nuts end up skinless, you’ll be fine.

While the nuts are roasting, combine

1/2 cup sugar

and

1/4 cup water

in a saucepan, bring to a boil, giving an occasional stir to dissolve the sugar completely.  Once boiling, turn the heat down to the lowest point and allow to simmer for roughly 20 minutes, until the mixture takes on an amber colour and thickens.  You do not need to stir anymore.

the sugar blob

While the sugar is boiling, spread foil or baking paper onto a baking sheet.  When the sugar has turned amber, pour it all at once onto the lined sheet.  It will ooze out into a thickish blob.  Allow the sugar blob to cool and harden.  (About ten minutes.)

Next, break the sugar blob into sugar shards and put it, with all the roasted nuts, into a food processor and grind until the nuts and sugar form a stiff paste.

(I do not have a food processor, but managed to blend the nuts and sugar into a coarse powder with the chopping attachment of my immersion blender, and use the magic stick to purée the powder into a paste.  Unfortunately, I don’t think blenders are really up for the job–there is not enough liquid in the mixture for them to work.  You could use a mortar and pestle, which would give you the added advantage of burning off all the calories of your nutty chocolate treat before it is even made.)

To this paste, add

5 tblsps. unsweetened cocoa

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup water

2 tblsps. mild honey (I used Spanish sunflower honey.  To make the recipe vegan, you can substitute simple syrup)

Continue to process.  If the mixture seems stiff, add more water, a tablespoon at a time.  I ended up using 10 tablespoons in all

breakfast of champions: home-made chocolate nut spread on freshly baked ciabatta

(including the 4 from the 1/4 cup listed above, so six extra in this final step.)

Transfer to a large jar, or smaller ones, if you generously decide to share the wealth and give a sample to your most deserving friends.

Eat on toasted wholewheat ciabatta for breakfast.  Yum.

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One Response to “Better than Nutella: Chocolate Nut Spread”

  1. noe Says:

    This sound amazing. My mouth is watering!

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