Monday, September 20, 2010

Feel like a kid: Nutella

Nutella is one of those modern miracles I had always put into the same 'Food' category as Cheese Wiz and  Fluff. A non-food food. A caloric intake vehicle void of any nutrition whatsoever. That is certainly true for what is awaiting you today in that oddly shaped plastic jar sitting on the shelf in your local grocery store...beckoning you to take it home, like a 1 year old Labrador puppy who has found himself at the the dog pound pleading with his big brown eyes: 'you'll like me, really you will...and you won't regret this!'. And so you grab the jar and feverishly open it in the car on the way home, but inevitably there is regret because today it is basically flavored sugar mixed with ingredients not commonly found in your average kitchen, like soy lecithin.
Whatever that is.

However, it didn't start out that way. Seventy years ago it was created by the resourceful Italian choclatier named Pietro Ferrero during WWII when cocoa was difficult to come by. He took stock of what was available, {hazelnuts in this case} and unknowingly created a chocolaty spread that would be become a favorite treat internationally for both the young and the old experienced.

As a kid, I would have made it a staple, had I been allowed, but since my parents deprived me of this, I had to wait until we visited my family in Germany before I could bask in the glorious ooey gooey ambrosia. With the stealth of a sniper, my cousins, my siblings and I would surreptitiously enter the kitchen, huddle under the table  and we would stick our fingers into the jar. The older cousins knew to crook their forefinger so as to get the highest finger:nutella spread ratio. (They also taught us lots of German swear words and other inappropriate things to's true that kids pick up foreign languages quickly). We'd leave the pantry a brown, sticky mess...the evidence written all over our faces.

I'd like to tell you that as I have matured so have my tastebuds. But that would be a lie. If I am in the same room as a jar of Nutella I'm probably going to stick my finger in it.
Unless someone is watching me.
Then I'll just wait until they leave.

Though my love for all that is rich, sweet and decadent hasn't changed much over the years, my interest in more sophisticated foods has, so I left nutella behind in my past for many, many years.
Then we found each other again.

It was a beautiful moment full of love and warmth, longing and nostalgia.
I was whisked back 25 years into the kitchen of my Oma's house. The smells, the emotions, the memories all came flooding back. 
It was powerful.
I offered some to my 8 yr old, J. He gave me that sly smile, peered inside the blender, and moments later had a two person serving resting comfortably in the crook of his finger.

Recipe (adapted from Nuts in the Kitchen by Susan Hermann Loomis)

2 cups whole hazelnuts
1/2 cup powdered sugar
5 Tb. good-quality unsweetened dark cocoa powder

Toast hazelnuts on a baking sheet at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes...until you can smell them and the skins are dark. Transfer them onto a towel and wait for them to cool.

Unless you like holding scorching hot things.

Grab a handful and rub them between your hands as though you are washing with a bar of soap. The skins come off easily, but don't worry if you don't get every little piece.
Transfer them into a blender. 
{just an aside: I LOVE my blender.  It has more horsepower than my first car and made a butter out of the hazelnuts in no time. I don't know if all blenders can do this.}

Mix in the sugar & cocoa powder. 
Voila! Done!

If you have any self control whatsoever, this will last for about a month in your pantry. However, I like to store it in the fridge. This makes it thicker...more like frosting.

See? I told you my tastebuds haven't matured.

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