Living My Best Life (with Chocolate Hazelnut Butter)
OK. It’s World Nutella Day and I’m feeling like a champ for noting two important food holidays in a row.
C&C cares what you eat. If you are reading this then you probably know that I care about small-scale farming, organic ingredients and practices, seasonality, and direct engagement with our food systems. I can nerd out on the Ag Insider with the best of them. I also believe there is something to celebrate every day and I want you and I to live our best lives. This bit almost always involves chocolate and yes, a modicum of public enemy #1, sugar.
Saying all of that to say that my official stance is that sometimes you just want to eat some Nutella. Full stop. Life’s short. Maybe you sneak a bite of your kid’s toast, maybe you scrape it directly off a large spoon with your bottom teeth. Maybe, like me, you use it in one of your cake truffles recipes. No judgment. When partaken with joy and presence, the sweet stuff (Nutella or otherwise) is always a part of a balanced diet as far as I’m concerned.
However. To the extent possible, I work very hard to make my cakes and fillings from scratch: vibrant, seasonal jams, tart citrus curds, and yes, chocolate hazelnut spread. Among other things, I like being able to control the amount of sugar and I love simple, transparent ingredient lists. So yeah, I reach for the Nutella sometimes, but when I can do without the extra sugar, palm oil, soy lecithin, artificial flavors, etc. I’ll make a version from scratch. Here’s my favorite recipe, developed by the brilliant Alana Chernila (Eating From the Ground Up):
½ c unsweetened cocoa powder
¾ c boiling water
1/3 c maple syrup
5.25 ounces milk chocolate
1 c hazelnuts, toasted skinned, and cooled
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil (this ups the flavor although any neutral oil will work)
Add the cocoa to a medium saucepan and whisk in the hot water until smooth. Then the maple syrup. Cook on medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture comes to a low boil. Reduce heat to medium and stir until sauce thickens (about 30 seconds). Remove from heat. Stir in chocolate until melted. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Put hazelnuts into bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Process until you have a thin nut butter, 2 or 3 minutes, slowly adding the oil as you go. Scrape the butter into a measuring cup with a pouring spout, then pour the cooled chocolate syrup into the processor bowl. With the machine running, pour butter back into chocolate until you have a creamy spread. It will thicken in the fridge.