Some things are best left to the cold and faceless experts. Such is the case with Nutella, my favorite before-bedtime spoonful of sweetness.
Ferrero, Nutella's multinational manufacturer, is a far more reliable source for the creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread than I will ever be.
Not that I haven't tried. In the past several weeks I have made two different batches of homemade Nutella, thank you very much. One was a disaster, the other an acceptable imitation but not in the slightest way memorable.
Coincidentally, and as fabulously idiotic luck would have it, I learned just last week that Saturday, February 5, will mark the fifth annual celebration of World Nutella Day. The event, concocted by a couple of Americans living in Italy, appears, as best I can tell, to call upon cooks around the globe to, well, cook something, anything using Nutella. If you are in Texas this weekend, do not be surprised if you are offered a Nutella enchilada, or perhaps a barbecued Nutella cheeseburger. If you are in Krakow, rest assured there is some person nearby who has just slaved over a batch of Nutella-filled pierogi. Traveling the South East Asian Peninsula, are you? Maybe you can score a few bites of banana-Nutella tempura.
I had never heard of World Nutella Day before either, but it seems that a lot of other people have. I checked over on Facebook where, as you might expect, the "event" has its own page; nearly 17,000 people "like" it. Over on Twitter, WND has more than 2,000 followers. (I am positively green with envy on both these points, I'll have you know. As of this writing, a mere 54 Facebook users "like" Mister Meatball and there are even fewer Twitter "followers" than that.)
So, what was the point of attempting a homemade version of the Italian condiment? I could say that the holidays, when the first batch was attempted, might have had something to do with my enthusiasm. But do you want to know the truth? It beats the absolute hell out of me what the point of all this was.
I like the stuff. I saw a recipe. It happens.
You start with lightly roasted and skinned hazelnuts.
Work them in the food processor until they liquify. (This will take some time, so be patient. I was not at all patient the first time and it proved my undoing.)
Vanilla, confectioner's sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder and hazelnut oil are next up.
Mix them together and add to the liquified hazelnut mix.
Process about a minute more.
And there you go, homemade Nutella.
Well, sort of. The real Nutella is on the left, mine's on the right.
Not bad. In fact, pretty tasty, if coarser in texture than the real stuff, and not as sweet.
On the other hand, I still know how to get my hands on the real Nutella, the one that's made in Italy (it's produced all over the world, you know), and so I'm not sure what the point would be of going through all this again.
Maybe I'll just stick with meatballs.
Recipe adapted from the Los Angeles Times
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
2 cups raw hazelnuts
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons hazelnut oil, more as needed (I had hazelnut oil in the house, but if you don't, and don't want to buy it, I'd think canola oil might do.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the hazelnuts evenly over a cookie sheet and roast until they darken and become aromatic, about 10 minutes. Transfer the hazelnuts to a damp towel and rub to remove the skins. (I went with already-skinned hazelnuts on my second try, and roasted them a little less time.)
In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts to a smooth butter, scraping the sides as needed so they process evenly, about 5 minutes.
Add the cocoa powder, sugar, vanilla, salt and oil to the food processor and continue to process until well blended, about 1 minute. The finished spread should have the consistency of creamy peanut butter; if it is too dry, process in a little extra hazelnut oil until the desired consistency is achieved. Remove to a container, cover and refrigerate until needed. Allow the spread to come to room temperature before using, as it thickens considerably when refrigerated. It will keep for at least a week.