Today is World Nutella Day. Hoorah.
I admit that for a nanosecond I considered writing a post about the other celebration I spotted on the National Day Calendar: National Shower with A Friend Day. But lucky for you, I thought the better of it.
Nutella seems to be soaring in popularity again in recent years, with even sensible health-conscious adults confessing to eating it straight from the jar when no one is looking. It pops up in many recipes and always draws Oohs and Aahs from the crowd when used in cakes, bakes and desserts at potluck parties.
The ingredients list is not for the faint-hearted though: Sugar, vegetable oil, hazelnuts (13%), cocoa powder (7.4%), non-fat milk solids, emulsifier (soy lecithin), flavour (vanillin).
Now I don’t know about you, but when I eat a chocolate and hazelnut spread, I prefer the main ingredients to be, well, chocolate and hazelnuts. Not sugar and vegetable oil.
Thankfully the magical interweb is brimming with recipes to make your own healthier alternative at home. As long as you have a decent blender or food processor, you’re all set. I’ve tried various recipes with coconut oil, raw cacao, unsweetened cocoa and even some of the naughtier ones with butter or cream such as the epicurious one.
But I keep coming back to the one from the Minimalist Baker. It’s has no added fat or refined sugar and it can be made raw, vegan and/or dairy free. Make it with real chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder or raw cacao.
Obviously with my Belgian background, I tend to opt for the real thing, my beloved Callebaut No.811 Belgian chocolate chips. Although this chocolate is “only” 54.5% cocoa solids, it still has a glorious dark quality about it without being bitter. And it melts to a luscious glossy oozing mass that’s perfect for bowl-licking.
It’s traditional to add a dash of vanilla, but try changing things up with some pure orange extract or even a few drops of peppermint oil.
This home made chocolate and hazelnut spread isn’t just delicious on a slice of bread or a croissant. It’s great in donuts, on pancakes and waffles (add bananas or strawberries!) but also with (poached) pears, macerated strawberries, baked apples or BBQ-ed bananas. Enjoy it with ice cream or turn it into an ice cream, use it in a cheesecake or as a cup cake topping, or to sandwich meringues or shortbread cookies together. You can even swirl it through your favourite cream liquor or mix it into a chocolate martini.
Or use it in a mug cake, yet another trend that’s making headlines. Whole books and internet sites are now dedicated to meals and cakes in a mug that get zapped in a microwave. I’m a relative newcomer to this phenomenon, but I’m enjoying the journey of discovery.
I even got myself a dedicated mug.
Home-made “Nutella” – Chocolate and Hazelnut Spread (makes 1 small jar – GF DF LC V Vg RSF)
Double or triple the recipe for a family-sized jar. Use raw cacao to make it dairy free, fully refined sugar free and vegan.
150 gr blanched, raw or roasted unsalted hazelnuts (I used ready roasted skinless nibs)
20 gr good dark chocolate or 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
1/4 tsp vanilla paste or extract
Agave, maple syrup or (raw) honey to taste
a good pinch of sea salt
If using skin-on nuts, roast them in a 175 C oven for 12-15 mins. Let them cool a bit and then transfer the nuts to a clean tea towel. Roll them around in the tea towel to loosen and remove the skins. Pick out the nuts and discard the skins.
Place the nuts into a blender or mini food processor. Blend on low to medium speed until the nuts are transformed into a creamy hazelnut butter. It will take 10 mins or so for the natural oils to release and the nuts to become a smooth nut butter. You’ll need to occasionally scrape down the sides.
Meanwhile (if using) melt the chocolate in a medium microwave or in a bowl set over simmering water (bain-marie).
You’ll find the nut butter may be quite warm after all that blending. Wait until both the nut butter and the chocolate have cooled down a bit before the next steps.
Add the melted chocolate or cacao to the hazelnut butter, together with the vanilla and salt. Blend briefly until smooth and combined. Sweeten with agave, maple syrup or honey to taste. Warning: the more liquid sweetener you add, the thicker the mixture will be. So go easy.
Transfer to a clean jar and store in the larder. Use within a month or two.
Healthier “Nutella” Brownie Mug Cake (pp – GF DF V Vg RSF)
Don’t be alarmed by the addition of avocado in this beauty. Avocado is often used in healthier chocolate desserts to add a rich buttery creaminess that would otherwise come from butter or other naughtiness. Trust me, you won’t taste it.
Use a raw cacao version of “Nutella” if you need this brownie to be fully dairy free, refined sugar free and vegan.
You can replace the extra tsp of “Nutella” with a jam, fruit compote, apple butter or a good nut butter such as peanut or more hazelnut.
1 tbsp home made “Nutella”, plus 1 extra tsp or 2
2 tbsp brown rice flour or an all purpose GF flour suitable for baking
1 tbsp ground almonds (almond flour)
1/2 tsp GF baking powder
1 ½ tbsp Erythritol or unrefined sugar such as coconut palm sugar
2 tbsp smooth mashed avocado (mash the avocado first, then measure out 2 tbsp)
1 tbsp coconut cream thinned out with 2-3 tbsp filtered water, or 3-4 tbsp coconut milk or other milk of choice
2 tsp raw cacao powder
Coconut oil for greasing (if you want to turn your “cake” out, not needed if you’re going to eat it straight from the mug)
Optional for garnish: extra spread, hazelnut nibs, cream, creme fraiche, a sugar dusting or chocolate shavings
Lightly grease the inside of the mug with coconut oil if you aim to turn it out later (optional).
Mix all the ingredients except the extra tsp of Nutella together until smooth. You can do this in the mug to save washing up, but I find it easier to do in a separate bowl or, even better, a mini food processor., and then transfer to the mug. Check the sweetness and adjust if needed.
Push the extra tsp of Nutella into the middle of the cake mix.
Zap in the microwave on medium in 30-40 sec intervals, checking progress in between each blast. I find a lower temperature for longer results in a “brownie” that resembles the oven baked variety better and prevents the risk of overcooking.
But if you’re in a hurry, you can just zap it in one go on high or medium-high for 1-1 1/2 mins or so depending on the size of the mug and the wattage of your microwave.
This will not rise much and is quite dense, so be sure not to overcook it, so it stays moist. Remember it will continue cooking while you rest it. Better underdone than overdone for this one.
Let the “brownie” rest for a couple of minutes, then gobble straight from the mug or turn it out onto a plate and decorate however you like.