World Nutella Day? I'm In.

In the last "real" job I had, I worked odd hours at the airport. During this time, I worked with a guy who had two full time jobs, one for us and the other at a foundry. I know for a fact, he was working 80 hours a week, and still had time to play soccer and stock up on the cherry Luden's cough drops for which he was famous for offering out of his shirt pocket. "When do you sleep?" I asked him. "Oh, mi hija, I sleep four hours a night. That's all I need."

Four hours seems a bit on the shy side, but I do think of him whenever I hit my 6-7 hour mark and wake up bright eyed and completely rested before 4:00 AM. If I am tired and decide to turn in early, as I did last night, sure enough the morning comes much earlier than usual. Try as I might, I can not get back to sleep. Fortunately, I have the palm sized Internet to keep me from getting up and waking the boys before their time.

I'm not a huge Facebooker. I wish I could be a social network guru, but to be honest, I don't really care. I do find it useful to weed through potentially interesting information and blog posts that I may not get to if I didn't have the reminder. Generally, in the early hours, the few European contacts I follow are most active - in the case of this morning, David Leibovitz. He informed me today was World Nutella Day, and continued with a blog post about making it yourself. He opened with a story about one of his past co-workers, which I found fitting as I lay reading in the dark of nearly 4 AM...

This was just the early morning convincing I needed to use up some hazelnuts that have been hiding out in the pantry since before Christmas. Hazelnuts are one of the nuts that I don't tend to eat out of hand as often as pecans or almonds, or pretty much any other nut. I had planned awhile back on making the recipe that the LA Times had published. But after Googling around for a half hour or so, and remembering about Sally Fallon's nut butters (she uses coconut oil and brined nuts...), I altered a bunch of methods to what I had. As soon as 7 o'clock rolled around (I did fall back to sleep somewhere around 6ish), I got up and toasted some hazelnuts.

Nutella is one thing that I can accurately remember the first time I tried. It was 1996, and I had recently met my soon-to-be-best-friend who had foreign jars of this Italian chocolate hazelnut spread. Sasa had told me that she actually didn't like peanut butter, since she was raised on Nutella. After a taste, I could hardly blame her. When I visited Croatia in the Summer of 1997, whole meals consisted of Nutella on crusty bread, the particular combination that appeals to most aficionados. It was a few years later, but eventually Nutella could be found in almost every common supermarket - probably just around the time that I began reading labels and noticing that although delicious, it was full of hydrogenated fat.

Until I made some this morning, I think it had seriously been years since I indulged in Nutella. This is a tragedy! Of all the things I've made at home to approximate their store-bought counterparts, this chocolate hazelnut spread is the closest to accurate. Knowing it is much more healthful, it can be an indulgence worthy of World Nutella Day and every day.

The recipe David Leibovitz posted looked great, but contained things not on hand like dry milk. As I'm not Parisian, and cannot toss on a coat and walk to the nearest market (well, I could but it would have taken me a few hours before I could have continued), I settled for blending a few different recipes. My package of hazelnuts was 8 ounces, shy of the 2 cups most recipes required. Many people mix this in their food processors with good results. I used the Vita-Mix, which produced an exceptionally smooth spread. It hardened in the fridge over the course of the morning, but softened when allowed to come back to room temperature in time for "lunch".

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread (adapted from the LA Times, Su Good Sweets, and a few other perusals...)
  • 8 oz. raw hazelnuts
  • 3/4 c. powdered sugar
  • heaping 1/4 c. Omehene cocoa powder
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • up to 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted
Toast hazelnuts on a sheet pan in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes - until they begin to smell toasted. Remove as many loose skins as you are able without being too particular. Unless you like being particular, then knock yourself out.

Blend the hazelnuts in the Vita-Mix (or food pro, it will take about 5 minutes according to most sources). When about half blended, add powdered sugar and cocoa powder and continue mixing until somewhat smooth. (It's probably not going to move through the blades until the oil is added.) Taste, and add vanilla and salt to your liking.

Then with machine running again, pour in the melted oil and process until it forms a smooth paste.

Makes a heaping cup or so of spread.

I am fairly certain this spread will not stick around for long. When I make it again, I may try brining my nuts overnight in salted water, then dehydrating them before continuing (and likely omitting the salt in the recipe). Many recipes also called for using honey as a sweetener, which appeals to me as well, even if it might change the flavor a little.

Do I think something as simple as chocolate and hazelnuts warrants it's own Day? Yes, I do. There are plenty of lesser things that we celebrate in life, that's for sure. One thing I know is if I wake up far too early again tomorrow, I'll hop quietly into the kitchen and get out a spoon... You will do the same if you make this stuff. It is perfectly addicting.