The One and I first went to Paris on December 30, 1993, to ring in the New Year. As a couple, we were barely three months old, so everything we did was met with our mutual smiles and contented, self-satisfied sighs. It was as if no other couple had ever taken a picture on the Pont Neuf, strolled through the Tuileries, scratched their heads over the surprisingly miniscule size of the Mona Lisa, or eaten a Nutella-filled crêpe in the street.
When the street cart crêpier tossed his chin out to us, his way of asking what kind of crêpe we wanted, I hesitated. Ever since seventh grade, when I began studying French, I’d dreamed about biting into a crêpe, à la the dogs in “Lady and The Tramp,” with The One. Not this One, mind you; in my imagination, it was a lady. (What can I say? My hormones hadn’t kicked in yet.) Still, to make this as perfect a moment as possible, as new lovers are wont to do, I had The One order a jambon et fromage and I chose au Nutella. We sat on the wall of the Seine passing the hefty ham and cheese crêpe back and forth. Then, being the gentleman I am, I passed the Nutella crêpe to The One so that he could have the first bite. I waited for that sigh, that beautiful sigh that no one else who was in love had ever sighed. And there it was. Then he handed it back to me and I took a bite. My sigh came fast. What have the French bewitched me with? I thought. What is this food of the gods?
If ignorance is bliss and love is blind, then falling in love in Paris makes you a blind idiot. I lived with that memory of Nutella, thinking it was some ancient French concoction, until we visited Rome years later and saw rows and rows of it in a supermarket. “It’s Italian?” I asked The One. “And it’s processed?” I felt duped by the Nutella corporation. It tricked my brain into pumping phenylethylamine through my body, making me think I was having a moment unlike any other experienced by man when I was nothing more than a puppet to sugar, modified palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skimmed milk powder, whey powder, lecithin, and vanillin. As a silent protest, I have steadfastly refused to buy a jar of the stuff.
Then this recipe came along. I sniffed at it for a long time, still feeling the fitta di dolore, or stab of Italian pain. Getting a Vitamix is what finally got me to try homemade nutella. That machine could grind an entire bag of peanuts into the most amazing homemade peanut butter, so I was intrigued in terms of what it could do with hazelnuts and chocolate. I veered from the recipe as written, using 1 1/4 cups hazelnuts, grapeseed oil, 7 ounces milk chocolate, and 4 ounces 65% dark chocolate. The V-mix tore through the ingredients in no time, netting me 2 cups of the most nutty, lappable homemade Nutella I’d ever imagined. I felt redeemed. I had created a treat that was special, personal, and utterly unprocessed.
This morning when I asked The One if he’d like crêpes with homemade Nutella, a subtle nod to our Parisian past, he just said, “Nah,” oblivious to the meaning of my request.
Wounded, I gave the remainder of the homemade Nutella to Annie, my assistant. Her son, Luca, is a Nutella fiend, and giving him a natural version of his favorite spoonful snacks wasn’t a half-bad idea. The next day Annie came in raving about how much Luca loved it–which is evident.
The One, I have a new man in my life–and he might not remember our Nutella moment either, but he has a real excuse: he can barely count to three.
For some people, Nutella—a smooth chocolate-hazelnut spread found in the peanut butter aisle in most supermarkets—is a nostalgic childhood treat. But I didn’t taste it until college, when a friend who’d been living in Europe introduced me to it, so I may always think of it as a more sophisticated sweet. The stuff from the jar is pretty darn good, although the fabulous pastry chef Gale Gand taught me how to make it from scratch, and that’s now my favorite version. You can really taste the hazelnuts and feel some of their texture. I’ve been known to eat it with a spoon, as anyone else who’s honest will admit to doing.–Christie Matheson
LC Deliver Me From Temptation... Note
No longer can you consider yourself safe from temptation just because you mustered the wherewithal to walk on by the Nutella aisle at the grocery store. Nope. Temptation lurks in your very own pantry, every second of the day, with this made-from-scratch rendition. Should you succumb to the craving and find yourself standing at the counter, spoon in hand, not quite certain how to stop spooning it up, author Christie Matheson offers up a novel way to put the rest of it to use: perhaps the most lust-inducing frosting that cake has ever known. (That’s the frosting that you see in the bowl above. You can bet your sweet bejeebers we’re going to be licking that spatula.)
Homemade Nutella Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 20 M
- 30 M
- Makes about 2 cups
- 1 cup hazelnuts
- 12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped
- 2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil or coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, more or less depending upon your preference
- 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C).
- 2. Spread the hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they’ve browned a little and the skins are blistered a little. Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible. (Some skin will cling to the nuts when you’re done. It’s okay—not to mention inevitable.) Let cool completely.
- 3. Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over gently simmering water or in the microwave. Stir until smooth. Let cool completely.
- 4. In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste. Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible–or as smooth as you like. Add the melted chocolate, blend well, and then strain the mixture to remove any chunks of hazelnut that remain. The resulting homemade Nutella will be thin and somewhat runny and maybe even a little warm but it will thicken as it cools. Scrape your homemade Nutella into a jar or other resealable container and let it cool to room temperature. Cover the container after snitching several spoonfuls. The Nutella will keep on the counter at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. (Hah! In theory, anyways.)
Nutella Frosting Variation
- Here’s what you do. Just grab your stand mixer and beat 1/2 cup homemade Nutella, 3 tablespoons room-temperature butter, and 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar until creamy. Crank up the speed to medium-high and slowly, slowly drizzle in 2 tablespoons heavy cream, beating just until smooth and fluffy and irresistible. Immediately slather over cake and lick the beaters.
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