Nutella. I first had it at twenty, and what a revelation it was, spread on toast in the little flat I was visiting outside London. In the ensuing decades this chocolate-hazelnut treat remained a sweet memory along with Aero bars. When it finally hit North American grocery stores I read the label and was deterred by the hydrogenated oil.
Ferrero has since reformulated Nutella to eliminate hydrogenated oil, and the company is ahead of the Girl Scouts in trying to source its palm oil from sustainable sources. You could do worse than to buy the commercial version. Just think of either the store or homemade varieties as special occasion food, not a regular breakfast item.
I made it for a weekend brunch when my whole family was home, adapting the vegan chocolate-hazelnut spread recipe I found at Kelly Brozyna’s The Spunky Coconut. The family loved my version of Nutella spread on slices of freshly-made French toast and topped with sliced bananas. The idea of the French toast-Nutella-banana sandwich came from Tastefully Julie.
Next time I make this I may add hazelnut oil, which would intensify the nut flavor and soften it a little. It gets quite firm in the refrigerator but spreads fine as it is. It could also be made with cocoa powder instead of chocolate, adding additional sweetener and coconut milk to replace the chocolate’s sugar and cocoa butter. The LA Times has a recipe using cocoa powder, though it seems to me that it would need additional liquid.
This recipe uses one full can of Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk. Though the cans aren’t BPA-free, it’s a good quality milk without preservatives or additives. The recipe makes a big batch of spread, which has to be eaten fresh because of the coconut milk. Fortunately it freezes well. I froze half but admit that it came back out of the freezer more quickly than I’d anticipated. Maybe I’d better wait a while before making that next batch.
For unrefined sugar I chose fair trade Sucanat, while Kelly’s Spunky Coconut recipe calls for low-glycemic index coconut sugar. Here’s the coconut milk and sugar simmering on the stove:
I put in a quarter cup of sugar compared to Kelly’s half a cup, but we both used similarly sweet chocolate bars with around 70% cocoa, with my choice being Trader Joe’s well-priced Pound Plus Dark Chocolate. I’m kind of lazy on the chocolate-melting front. I zap it in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds, which I find works as well as melting it in a double boiler with less effort.
I prefer toasting nuts in a pan on the stove under my watchful eye, instead of in a oven where I can sometimes make the expensive mistake of burning them. You could do it my way, or you could toast the nuts in the oven at 350 for about fifteen minutes.
I used Holmquist Orchards DuChilly hazelnuts, which are sweeter than round hazelnuts and have a very thin, non-bitter skin. They’re a local farmer’s market producer for me, but DuChilly hazelnuts are otherwise hard to find– in fact, Holmquist is the only source I see online. You can get their nuts online through them or from Amazon. Most recipes for homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread call for rubbing the hazelnuts with a towel after toasting to remove the skins. If you are using regular round hazelnuts, which have a bitter skin, you might want to try that (without driving yourself crazy if they don’t all come off).
Enjoy! And if you try the recipe please leave your suggestions and ratings in the comment section, I love to hear from you!
Update: I will now be buying chocolate from this list of sources of slave-free chocolate.
- 1½ cups DuChilly hazelnuts
- ¼ cup unrefined sugar (coconut, Sucanat, or other)
- 10 oz. sweetened dark chocolate (I used Trader Joe's 72% Pound Plus Dark Chocolate Bar)
- 1 can Thai Kitchen coconut milk (13.6 oz) or just over 1½ cups of full-fat coconut milk
- ½ tsp. vanilla (optional)
- salt to taste (optional)
- Toast hazelnuts in a large pan over a medium flame until they start to smell fragrant and turn brown, about 2 or 3 minutes. If you use round hazelnuts instead of DuChillys, rub the nuts with a towel after toasting to remove most of the skins.
- Melt the coconut milk with the sugar in a pot, stirring over a low flame until the sugar has completely melted.
- Put the toasted hazelnuts in a food processor or a high-powered blender like a Vitamix. Process or blend (using the tamper) until the nuts are finely ground.
- Add the coconut milk-sugar mixture. Blend again until smooth.
- Add the melted chocolate, blend until smooth.
- Taste. I did not add salt or vanilla but you can if you wish, or increase the sweetness with a liquid sweetener that can be blended in.
- This makes a large batch and coconut milk is perishable: put into small jars and freeze whatever you won't eat within several days.