Reading through cookbooks helps me feel like I am close to normal, seeing that other people also willingly devote precious hours of their lives to food preparation. Some would say I am obsessed with food, but I take pride in what I cook and bake, with just about everything made from scratch. I confess to spending hours in the kitchen and I feel healthy and virtuous as a result.
But, even I have my limits, parameters outside which I do not venture: Homemade sodas? Nope. Handmade pastrami. I'll pass on that one. Smoke my own jalapenos? Canned chipotles en adobo are just fine. But something about buzzing up some made-from-scratch chocolate hazelnut spread sounds like a project I would joyfully tackle, falling within my paradigms of normalcy. I can easily roast hazelnuts and quite enjoy the sweet aroma they serve up. I have a food processor and know how to melt chocolate. That's basically all the skill you need and, half an hour later, you can be the proud owner of a large crock of better-than-Nutella spreadable decadence.
Now, you are probably thinking, there IS nothing better than Nutella. That's a tough argument to speak against, but here I go: Do you like eating modified palm oil and chemical emulsifiers? I didn't think so. Imagine using the best quality European chocolate in a nutty spread, with pure vanilla extract and freshly roasted hazelnuts. Where you control the amount of sugar and salt and toss in some real butter too. Yes? Are you in?
Photo courtesy of bakecookeat.blogspot.com
Karen Solomon's new cookbook can it, bottle it, smoke it and other kitchen projects has lots of projects for the devoted foodie, many of them quirky and fun, like blueberry lemon syrup, pickled grapes, plum catsup, preserved lemons, little gourmet treats I would prepare on a proverbial rainy day. But chocolate hazelnut spread cannot wait for a rainy day. I am jumping right in, right now. Care to join me?
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
recipe courtesy of Karen Solomon
3 cups hazelnuts; 3/4 cup best quality unsweetened chocolate; 3 tbsp. butter; 3/4 cup sugar; 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract; 2 tbsp. flavourless vegetable oil such as canola; 1+1/2 tsp. kosher salt or to taste.
Place a metal mixing bowl in the freezer to chill. Toast nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until light golden brown, about 8 minutes. Pour them into the cold bowl and stir for 2 minutes. When they are cold enough to handle, rub the nuts to remove the outer skins. Don't worry if they don't all come off. Discard the skins and allow the nuts to cool.
In a small saucepan over medium low heat, melt the chocolate with the butter and sugar, stirring frequently, until smooth and well combined, about 3 minutes. The sugar will still be somewhat coarse. Take the pan off the heat and continue stirring for about 30 seconds. Stir in the vanilla extract.
Transfer the nuts to a food processor fitted with the metal blade and whirl for 1 minute to make a thick paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and process again. With the machine running, stream in the oil slowly and continue to process for a full 5 minutes, until very smooth. With the machine still running, stream the chocolate mixture into the nut butter. Stop the machine a couple of times and scrape the sides of the bowl. Reprocess for a few more minutes until everything is well blended and smooth. Add salt and blend to incorporate.
The mixture is ready to eat but is better if left to rest for a day. It is best to store the spread in the fridge but you may want to remove it for an hour before eating and stir it well right before use.
You may have thought you were in Nutella heaven before, but imagine the uber-intense chocolate-hazelnut paradise that could be yours. You may not have ventured into these waters before, but it sure feels normal now.
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