Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Happy Nutella Day!

Today, February 5th, is Nutella Day. Hoorah! I wasn't planning on doing anything special for this faux holiday but I have a snow day (damn you and thank you Mother Nature at the same time) so I decided to try my hand at making my own Nutella from scratch.

Nutella is pretty perfect but if I could change it, I'd make it a little less sugary sweet and give it a more pure hazelnutty and chocolatey flavor and both these qualities are reflected in my recipe.
Ingredients:
½ cup hazelnuts
4 ounces dark chocolate (I love Ghiradelli's 60% cacao)
½ cup half & half
¼ cup icing sugar (a.k.a. powdered sugar, a.k.a. confectioner's sugar)
2 tablespoons canola oil (or vegetable oil, something mild)
1 teaspoon salt

First things first, roast and toast the hazelnuts in a 350F oven for about 10 minutes or until the nuts turn golden brown. Your kitchen will smell lovely and hazelnutty. Let the nuts cool completely.
While the nuts are cooling, heat up the half & half in a saucepan over low heat just until scalding. Watch this pot carefully, as milk/cream/half & half can boil over and cause quite a mess. If you're a neglectful chef, I suggest placing a wooden spoon across the top of the pot. The spoon will attract the bubbles so if the dairy boils over, it'll cause a less intense mess.
While the half & half is warming, chop up some chocolate.
Place the chocolate in a bowl and pour the hot half & half over top. Use a whisk to gently stir. The heat of the half & half will melt the chocolate. This is a ganache - a really liquidy ganache.
Stir the sugar into the ganache and then set aside to cool.
Add the completely cooled nuts to a food processor along with the oil. Grind it up until it forms a paste. It'll start off kind of chunky and then all of a sudden it'll turn into a nut butter.
Add the salt and the chocolate ganache to the food processor and pulse to combine.
At this point, you can strain the mixture if you want a completely smooth spread. I chose to leave it a little chunky because I actually like the bits of hazelnut. I'm allergic to peanuts but I have a feeling that if I weren't, I'd be a chunky peanut butter fan.
Pour the spread into an airtight container and keep in the fridge. Nuts - because of their high fat content - can go rancid pretty quickly so I keep mine in the fridge or freezer to prevent them from going bad. So, I feel like this spread should also be stored in the fridge. It should stay good and fresh for about 3 weeks, but hopefully you'll use it all up before then. If it gets a bit too thick to be spreadable, warm it up in a pot of warm water for a few minutes (i.e. stick the entire jar in a saucepan with hot water) or pop it in the microwave for a few seconds. But honestly, that milk content will prevent it from turning into a rock-hard blob. I promise. However, you could still warm it up to turn it into a more liquid-y consistency to drizzle onto ice cream. Yum.
What can you do with this homemade Nutella? You can make brownies, cookies, spread it on toast, spread it a piece of cake, the possibilities seriously are endless. But, I was in the mood for crepes.

By the way, almost everyone I know mispronounces "crepe." People always say "craype," as if it rhymes with 'rape' but it actually rhymes with 'pep.' If you want to be extra snooty, you can gargle the 'r' and make it all throaty but there's no need to take it that far.
Ingredients:
1/3 cup flour
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
(obviously these quantities of ingredients can be doubled or tripled or whatevered)
To make the crepes, just whip together the egg, milk, vanilla extract, salt, sugar, and melted (and cooled) butter.
Dump in the flour and whisk just until the ingredients come together. If there are a few lumps, don't worry about them. Just leave them be. The more you whisk the batter, the tougher and less tender the crepes will be, and that is not what you want.
Cover the bowl in plastic and then chuck it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Letting the batter rest will help the gluten to calm down and make a more tender crepe. This batter can be made the night before you want to serve it (if you're serving it for breakfast or brunch) and be left to rest overnight.
I used a tiny little nonstick skillet and a tablespoon measure for each crepe. Obviously with a larger pan, you'll need more batter.
To make the crepe, heat your pan over a low flame. If necessary, add a tiny bit of butter for the first crepe. Often times, the first one is sacrificial; it's almost like the pan needs to be seasoned or something. Lift the pan off the heat, pour the batter right in the center of the pan, and then swirl it around to coat the bottom of the pan in a thin layer of batter.

Let the crepe cook for about a minute. Then, use a knife to lift the edge of the crepe. Grab the crepe with your hands and quickly flip it over. Seriously, using a spatula will be pretty useless so just go for it with your fingers! It's not that hot, I promise. Let the crepe cook on the second side for just 30 seconds or so.
Plate up the crepe and spread on a little chocolate & hazelnut love.
I grabbed about three crepes for myself with a bit of chocolate hazelnut spread in between each layer. So tender, so soft, so buttery, so perfect for this stupid icy weather.
Here are the recipe pages for both the spread and the crepes:

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