I do not have many memories of my great grandfather, as he passed when I was about nine and I would not see him often when we were not living in the farmhouse. But, if there is one thing I do remember about him, is how he bent to collect hazelnuts falling from the tree we have in our vegetable garden and, one by one, break them on an anvil with an old iron hammer.
After many years, the anvil, the hammer and the tree are still there in the same spot, patiently waiting for late August to come and offer their service again.
This one has been a lucky year: our trees are loaded with hazelnuts, and the basketful I got today is just a small part of what our amazing tree has to offer. There are so many things to make with hazelnuts that I don’t even know where to start!
Still, of all the things I could do with hazelnuts, homemade ‘Nutella’ seems like a no-brainer.
The famous choco-hazelnut spread was born well over a hundred years ago, when, in mountainous Piemonte, hazelnut trees flourished and chocolate was so heavily taxed that it could not meet popular demand. This is how Gianduja was born: by trying to make up the lack of chocolate with hazelnuts, one of the most delicious recipes ever invented was born.
Years later, an entrepreneur named Pietro Ferrero, who resided in the Langhe, a wonderful part of Piedmont famous for hazelnut trees, came up with the idea to make this hazelnut-chocolate concoction viable for mass distribution, and produced the first hazelnut spread, that was sold in solid chunks. Years later, his son transformed into the spread we all know. And, today, said spread is nothing but a spread that contains a whopping 56% refined sugar and 19% palm oil.
Chocolate spread was the protagonist of many a breakfast and snack when we were kids, and the reason why we weren’t all rolling sacks of fat is that we ate quite well overall and biked a lot. Real Nutella holds a dear place in our hearts, but, like all things that belong to the past and are not part of our everyday lives anymore, they should remain in the past as treasured memories.
this hazelnut spread does not claim to be any similar to the real one, but I do think this is much better. It has a deep, earthy dark chocolate flavor, and is luscious and creamy of a slice of dark rye bread for a special breakfast. Just like we did as kids, bread with chocolate spread is meant to be dunked in a nice glass of milk, so I am also offering you a healthy, insanely creamy guide to make hazelnut milk. And, because I do not like to waste the pulp, I also made hazelnut fig cookies (or truffles, to keep things raw). So let’s get started!
HOMEMADE CHOCOLATE-HAZELNUT SPREAD
Italy’s favorite spread is surely good, but it’s pretty much only sugar, palm oil and…more sugar, I guess. This one is not very similar to the original one, and it does not claim to be. Rather, it is more similar to a dark chocolate gianduia: a creamy, dark, intense spread with a strong hazelnut presence. I love a teaspoon of this on a slice of fresh rye bread with a little raspberry jam for a special breakfast.
Do add that pinch of salt – it makes all the difference.
1.5 cup hazelnuts, roasted
1/3 cup dark muscobado sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened, unprocessed cocoa powder or raw cacao powder
1-2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract or powdered vanilla
A pinch of salt
Add the roasted hazelnuts to a (preferably powerful) blender or food processor. Blend until they turn into butter, scraping down the sides every now and then. Depending on how powerful your processor is, it could take anytime from 5 minutes to 15. Just be patient.
Once you have hazelnut butter, add the sugar and blend to combine. Then, add the cocoa, oil, vanilla and salt. Blend/process until smooth. If the spread does not seem like it’s going to come together, add a bit more oil. Store in a glass jar. Because it contains no water or milk, it keeps well outside the fridge.
HOW TO MAKE HOMEMADE HAZELNUT MILK
Homemade hazelnut milk is the bomb with fall/winter ingredients, like figs, pears and apples. I like to use it every now and then instead of almond milk.
1 part hazelnuts
3 parts pure filtered water
(extra) vanilla extract or a piece of vanilla bean
(extra) maple syrup or sugar to sweeten
Soak the hazelnuts overnight, or at least for a few hours. Rinse and drain well, then add to a blender with double the amount of water. Blend on high until very creamy. lay a cheesecloth or very fine fabric over a bowl, and pour on the milk. Close the cheesecloth and squeeze, twisting it, as if you were ‘milking’ the hazelnuts. Keep at it until every drop of milk is out – be patient and squeeze well!
Transfer to a clean glass bottle. Keeps in the fridge for a couple of days.
The more powerful you blender, the finer you will be able to blend the nuts, and the more milk you will get out of it. I use a Vitamix and the pulp I get is extremely fine, and less than when I used a cheap blender. The pulp keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for a day, maybe two.
HAZELNUT PULP & FIG COOKIES
These cookies are all sorts of wonderful, not only because they are soft and delicious – they are also totally vegan and gluten free! It’s a great way to not waste the hazelnut okara (pulp). I wanted to try a different recipe and keep these flourless, and this one is adapted from a recipe from the blog Against all Grain.
Otherwise, you could just add the pulp to make my Wholesome Oat ‘Grancereale’ Cookies!
Makes about 12 cookies
1/2 cup hazelnut pulp (okara)
1/2 cup dried figs (or Medjool dates)
1 heaping tbsp Hazelnut Chocolate Spread
2 tbsps maple syrup
1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla extract
A bit of cinnamon if you like it
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender until all ingredients are smooth and combined. Form into a ball, and make 12 single balls.
Preheat the oven to 350 F˚ (175 C˚).
Prepare a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Flatten the dough balls into cookies and shape them into a circle, and line on the baking tray.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until they darken up a bit. These cookies tend to remain quite soft, so check them often after the 15 minute mark to make sure they do not burn.
VARIATIONS: Add a tbsp of cocoa to make them chocolate-flavored, or add a scoop of vanilla protein powder to make them a perfect pre- or post-workout snack.
HAZELNUT PULP TRUFFLES
To make truffles, follow the directions for the cookies, but do not bake them. Form the dough into individual balls and roll in raw cacao or hazelnut flour.
What’s your favorite way to use hazelnuts? :)