I remember the first time I had Nutella, during a visit to England. My friend’s mother was serving breakfast, and brought a jar of the deep, dark chocolate paste to the table. “It’s for your toast,” she said, and placed it next to the jar of English orange marmalade. Frosting? For breakfast? Why hadn’t I visited Europe sooner?
Since then, Nutella-mania has finally arrived in the Americas. Usually found next to the peanut butter in the grocery store, Nutella is swiftly becoming a staple in most US pantries.
Made of chocolate and hazelnuts, Nutella was originally called Pasta Gianduja or Gianduja paste. During the Napoleonic era, chocolate was in short supply. In order to stretch their precious ingredients, chocolatiers added inexpensive, locally grown hazelnuts to their chocolate confections. During Carnaval time, right before the Christian season of Lent, traditional Italian Commedia dell’Arte clowns known as gianduja would distribute samples of these locally made chocolates, hence the candy became known as Pasta Gianduja.
Nutella is manufactured by the Italian company of Ferrero S.P.A., confectioners who also make Ferrero Rocher and Mon Cherí chocolates (and Tic-Tacs breath mints). The year 2014 marks the 50 year anniversary of Nutella, as it was developed in 1944 by Pietro Ferrero. Originally assuming the traditional name Pasta Giaduja, the name was changed to Nutella in 1964.
Making your own Nutella-like chocolate hazelnut spread is a pretty easy task. The most difficult part will be finding fresh hazelnuts. Check your local natural grocery store, as they may have them in their bulk section. If hazelnuts are not available, you can always substitute filberts, but make sure that they are blanched, raw, and unsalted. Toasting the hazelnuts gives you the depth of flavor that you need to make a good approximation of Nutella, but keep an eye on them as they can burn quickly. Once it's done, store your homemade Nutella in the refrigerator, and bring to room temperature before use.
Many people enjoy Nutella on a simple piece of hot, buttered toast, but there are no limits to what this delicious chocolate spread can do. A small amount warmed in the microwave makes a quick fruit fondue or an excellent hot fudge sundae. You can always use it as a substitute for jam in peanut butter sandwiches or even as a snack on salty crackers. And of course, it makes an excellent frosting or cake filling. Or, if you’re like me, a quick spoonful can satisfy your daily chocolate fix.
My kids have now become quite obsessed with Nutella, and make sure that we always have it next to our loaf of bread. In fact, my son from college called and wondered what I was doing with my fresh batch homemade Nutella. Hmm, why hadn’t he visited sooner?
Here's how to make your own.