I am kind of freaking out at the moment. In a good way. Freaking out because I have a ton of posts lined up, and I want to show them all to you NOW. I sat at my computer this morning, downing coffee and staring at all of my unpublished image folders, contemplating which one to choose. Should I sneak some syrup from one of the three shrubs that are steeping in my pantry at the moment, and photograph it before the season has passed for its star fruit? Or should I snap some pictures of the recently bottled homemade version of everyone’s favorite spicy sauce? They were all so tempting, but this nutella won out in the end. And that’s because there’s a follow-up post. One that involves nutella contained within something. And pumpkin. And maybe also the words “doughnut” and “muffin.” OH YES. Pumpkin fever is upon us, and I’m ready to embrace the madness. So please, join me — let’s loosen our belts, hide our scales, and ready…set…TREATS!
Was nutella something that you grew up with? I didn’t even know it existed until I visited Germany the summer before my sophomore year of college. At the time, I was vegetarian. And my friend Fabian’s mother was pretty much mystified. (I remember she’d bought me this block of cheese filled with vegetables — I think it horrified both me and her equally.) So for the two weeks I was there, I lived off of yogurt (that came from a room-temperature cabinet), strawberries, grey bread, veggie-free cheese, and nutella. When I returned, I excitedly recounted tales of this delicious nutty chocolate spread in a white-labeled jar with red letters, until someone finally realized what I was talking about and said, “uh, yeah, we have that here too.” Really? It’s here? Where do I get it? The grocery store?! Seriously?!? TAKE ME THERE AT ONCE.
I bought a jar the next chance I had. As soon as I got back from the store, I popped it open, spread a healthy dollop over a slice of bread, took a bite, and…it wasn’t as good. I didn’t understand. Why was it not as amazing as I’d remembered? Was their nutella different in Germany? Did it simply seem delicious in comparison to scary vegetable cheese? And then I realized, it was the bread. Sturdy, hearty, slightly sour grey bread. That’s what was missing.
UPDATE: A reader has since informed me that American Nutella is, in fact, different from European Nutella! (This is good news, because I remember being very confused when I bought the American version in a plastic container, when I could have sworn what I was eating in Germany was in a glass jar.) Read more about the difference here, and find a history and side-by-side comparison here. And, if you’re looking to get your hands on the real thing, buy it here! (Thank you again, Robi!)
With the excitement suddenly crushed by unexpected disappointment, nutella and I parted ways. I just couldn’t deal. But then, over the past few years, I’d seen recipes for homemade versions popping up on various food blogs. My intrigue returned. I’d bought hazelnuts for a batch of bitters, and when I realized I had far more than I needed, the obvious choice for the leftovers was nutella. I was excited! But I was also lacking ingredients (mainly, semisweet/bittersweet chocolate), and I couldn’t be bothered with running to the store. So I googled, “homemade nutella cocoa powder,” and found this recipe from The Kitchn. Alas, I had no canola oil. But then I realized I had something better: coconut oil. This was going to be the best pantry-friendly nutella EVER. And it almost was. Almost.
The hazelnuts were peeled and toasted with relative ease (thanks to this neat trick). Into the food processor they went, followed by the rest of the ingredients. I blended everything up, and it was looking great. I excitedly removed the lid of the food processor, stuck my finger a nice clean spoon in, tasted the end result, and…oh god…why did it taste like bitter chocolate chalk paste? What in the world did I do?? I frantically looked around at all of my ingredients, until my eyes settled on the jar of white, powdery stuff that I’d assumed was confectionery sugar. I unscrewed the cap, took a small taste, and yep…cornstarch. Awesome.
Despite the horrible, unsweetened chalkiness, I could taste the potential. Soon enough, I had more hazelnuts, a bag of confectionery sugar, and I was ready for round two. And this time, it was good. So good. I really think that the coconut oil plays a big role in taking this stuff to the next level. Oh and BONUS ALERT: It’s vegan! (Provided you can find vegan powdered sugar, which shouldn’t be too difficult to come by in any natural foods store, and possibly even in some grocery stores. Look for evaporated cane juice. If you can’t find a powdered version, you can always buy granulated and pulse it in your food processor to make it finer.) Just a note about consistency: This nutella has a tendency to become pretty solid in the fridge, but rather liquid-y if left at room temperature for too long. To get it to the perfect, spreadable consistency, I leave it out at room temp for around an hour, then give it a good stir.
(slightly adapted from The Kitchn)
makes: 6 ounces
- 1 cup of hazelnuts, peeled and toasted
- 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder (high quality cocoa powder is key! I used Valrhona)
- 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
Place hazelnuts in the food processor and blend continuously until a smooth butter forms (around 3 minutes). Add the rest of the ingredients and continue blending until the mixture is smooth and creamy.
Store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge. (I actually think it’s possible this could last longer, considering that there’s no dairy. But best to err on the side of caution.)
Enjoy on toast, waffles, spoons, fingers, etc.