It's the darndest thing, I don't even particularly like Nutella. I've never been able to figure out what all the fuss is about. At least not until today.
My kids love it, so we've always had a jar hanging around. But to me it has a slightly 'processed' flavor, and since I'm a dark chocolate fan, the milk chocolate just doesn't do it for me. For some reason, though, maybe it's all the chocolate hype on the Internet in anticipation of Valentine's Day, I got the urge to try and make it myself.
The interesting thing is, once you start looking at recipes for Nutella, no two are alike. Some recipes use milk powder, others use condensed milk, some use fresh, and some use no milk at all. They can call for butter, or hazelnut, palm, or coconut oil. Some use only cocoa powder, some incorporate melted chocolate as well. Some use sugar, others honey. With such a huge discrepancy in the ingredients I decided the best way to do this was through a taste-as-I-go method.
Nutella was invented in Italy in the 1940s when cocoa was in short supply due to the war. An enterprising pastry maker used ground hazelnuts as a way of stretching the cocoa and it quickly became a staple in Italian kitchens, and eventually throughout Europe. It came over to the US in limited markets during the 1980s. In Europe it's traditional to eat it on bread for breakfast, but Nutella lovers have found many many ways to enjoy this chocolate hazelnut spread.
This whole experiment didn't take long at all. I read as many recipes as I could find while my hazelnuts were roasting in the oven. Then I assembled the likely ingredients, added a little here and a little there as I went, following my tastebuds towards the perfect flavor and consistency. I used my new favorite extra dark cocoa powder, and not too much sugar, so mine is deeper and richer than the original, but you can use regular cocoa powder and a little more sugar if you love classic Nutella.
After reading all the online recipes I was prepared to have to settle for a grainy texture in my Nutella...I read over and over again that unless you had a commercial grade processor the nuts wouldn't grind finely enough to get that creamy texture that Nutella is famous for. I was surprised when my trusty old Cuisinart processor that I've had forever transformed my 2 cups of hazelnuts into a smooth liquid in under 5 minutes. When in doubt, keep processing. You can actually hear the grittiness fade away as you process.
I love roasted hazelnuts so much I was really tempted to stop right there, add some salt, and enjoy my very own hazelnut butter. But I pressed on in the name of chocoholics everywhere.
Homemade Dark Chocolate Nutella
oven to 400
2 cups raw hazelnuts
1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 cup extra dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey's Special Dark)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (I used almond)
- Spread the nuts in one layer on a baking sheet and toast for 15 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally.
- Put the nuts on a clean kitchen towel. Fold the towel over the nuts and rub off the skins with a back and forth motion. (They don't have to be completely bare, a little skin is fine) Put the skinned nuts in a small food processor.
- Process the nuts for about 5 minutes, until you have a smooth paste. Stop the machine to scrape down the sides several times. The butter will go through a grainy paste stage, then it will get smoother, and finally it will break down further to a shiny, almost liquid stage.
- Add in the rest of the ingredients and process until smooth. If it seems too thin you can add more cocoa or sugar, and if it seems to thick you can add a touch more oil.
- Store in a clean jar in the fridge.
I try to reserve my high praise for recipes that truly deserve it. It's true that I usually only post about successful dishes, I don't really see the point in sharing something that doesn't work. But every once in a while something turns out better than expected. This is one of those times. This is wonderful, if you like Nutella you will love this.