I’ve been on a hazelnut kick recently. I love the rich, slightly bitter flavor that sets them apart from most nuts in recipes. Or maybe they just make me think of Oregon. Did you know in Oregon is one of the top five hazelnut producers in the world? At least that’s what the Oregon ODA would have you believe. Hazelnuts and Christmas trees…but that’s what you get with a climate perpetually stuck in late autumn.
I’ve had a couple bags of hazelnuts laying around for a couple weeks from various recipes when I had the idea to make chocolate hazelnut spread (read: “rustic” nutella) instead of chocolate pots de crème (see below). Now I don’t use chocolate that much so it has always a bit of a mystery to me how to manipulate it. Maybe that sounds a big ridiculous but there’s so much wonder and magic around chocolate I just assume there’s a lot more complication to cooking with it than there actually is. I read a bunch of recipes, trying to figure out which would give me the thickest, creamiest consistency, or which fancy chocolate to use. In the end I discovered a simple rule of thumb that I’m going to go ahead and share with you right now, just as I wish someone had done for me:
How to make delicious, chocolate hazelnut spread:
Food process some toasted hazelnuts for a long time, thereby making hazelnut butter. Melt some chocolate. Add to hazelnuts. Mix. Voila.
By the time I realized the simplicity I’d also realized that I could have hazelnut butter on hand whenever I want. And a brand new life of fresh, nutty, chocolaty spreads unveiled itself before me. The following was my first attempt at this, still thinking that darker, chocolatier, less sweet chocolate would be the most compelling taste but in the future I think milkier chocolate (at least just a bit), a bit less oil and a bit more sugar will make welcome improvements. The beauty of this game though, is that you can taste and tweak until it’s juuust right. Or until the nutella is gone, either way.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
200 g of hazelnuts
200 g of dark chocolate
50 g of light extra virgin olive oil (such as the one from Liguria)
100 g of unsweetened cocoa powder
100 g powdered sugar
First toast the hazelnuts by placing them in a 350 degree oven for 8-12 minutes until dark brown and the skins are starting to blister. Let cool and rub off the skins between your fingers.
Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and blend for several minutes. The whole nuts will turn to powder (you may need to push down the sides with a spatula at this point) and then slowly, very slowly, to creamy nut butter. The longer you blend, the smoother the butter will be.
In a double boiler melt the chocolate, stirring frequently. When smooth begin to add the oil, cocoa powder and powdered sugar. When you’ve reached a taste and consistency to the chocolate you like (remember you will be adding it to oil, and also that hazelnuts have a very strong flavor) pour the chocolate mixture into the food processor with the nut butter and blend to combine.
Tweak your spread for taste and consistency (it will thicken as it continues to cool, and leave to blend and smooth a bit more. Or add a few more coarsely chopped hazelnuts for a chunky spread.
Many recipes call for sieving the spread once complete but I didn’t do this. My spread did have a bit of a grainy texture (one I think could have been avoided by adding the sugar sooner and melting it longer) but it didn’t bother me too much.
Pour the spread into jars and store at room temperature.