by Malia Kirby L.Ac.
I had just turned seventeen when I first discovered the joys of Nutella over in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. Of course, leave it to me to leave the country in order to “discover” a product that had been processed stateside since 1983, but maybe I just needed a rose-covered, well-preserved, albeit touristy medieval town for scenery while smearing it over a small chunk of bread remaining from my breakfast. Before that point, I had only been introduced to the ubiquitous peanut butter—and a fairly unnatural one at that—so, while I was a little disturbed by the prospects of chocolate in a spread, I figured that chocolate and hazelnut was a winning combination, so why not? After all, it was summer and I was a teenager in Europe without parental supervision. What could possibly go wrong?
Little did I know, that would be the start of a torrid Brokeback Mountain-style love affair with chocolate and hazelnut anything. I quickly became dissatisfied with the texture and overt sugar content of the original Nutella in favor of chocolate and hazelnut truffles, but coming back to the States, it was difficult to find dark chocolate combined with hazelnut. Finding sickly-sweet milk chocolate and hazelnut, well, that was like falling off the proverbial log, but…you know, I just wanted what I wanted. I was willing to wait for that next mountain trip, which I soon discovered in Justin’s Nut Butter, picked up as a sample while grocery shopping some years ago. There was a distinct hazelnut flavor. It wasn’t too sweet. It was less like cake frosting or ganache (which, by the way, cake frosting, ganache, and I are all friends, just not breakfast or eat-it-straight-out-of-the-jar-on-a-spoon friends in case you’re wondering) and more like a true nut butter, rather than a thick, plasticky mess.
Then, we started seeing reports of salmonella-tainted nut butters in the news and, most recently, ones you’ll find on the shelves at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods (not Justin’s, for the record), two places I’ve been able to reliably count on for bulk nut butters for use in vegan cooking, spreading over my morning seven-grain waffle topped with fresh fruit, and fooling the Wondermutt (who doesn’t partake in chocolate hazelnut spread for obvious reasons) into taking his seasonal allergy script. Fortunately, it’s ridiculously easy to make your own nut butters at home, not to mention insanely cost-effective and encouraging for those of us who are a little control-freaky in the kitchen regarding what we’re eating. Today’s recipe is a little more in-depth than what you would want to do for your average run-of-the-mill peanut or almond butter, but it should give you an idea of what to do if you’d like to experiment on your own with other nut butters. Just remember that you’ll have additional fat content from the dark chocolate (note that I’m calling for dark chocolate and not bittersweet or baker’s chocolate for the fat and cane sugar content), and adjust your oils appropriately.
So, chocolate hazelnut spread? Maybe I won’t need to quit you after all.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Makes just under 2 cups
1 ½ c hazelnuts
1/3 c almonds
1 T hazelnut oil
8 oz dark chocolate, melted
½ t vanilla extract
¼ t kosher salt
1-2 T honey (optional)
Preheat an oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or with a silpat liner.
Spread the hazelnuts and the almonds over the lined baking sheet and toast at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for 2-3 minutes, then transfer to the center of a clean white dishtowel. Fold the ends of the towel over the nuts, then gently roll to remove the skins.
Transfer the nuts to a food processor and process until as smooth as possible, scraping down the sides as necessary, approximately 5-8 minutes. Add the hazelnut oil and process until fully combined, followed by the melted dark chocolate, vanilla, and the kosher salt. Process until smooth. Taste the spread for sweetness, then add honey to taste if desired and process until fully combined.
Transfer the chocolate hazelnut spread into jars, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Enjoy as often as your conscience will allow.
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