Hard to Resist

hazelnuts

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One of the things I enjoy about working from home is the occasional blurring of lines between what I might consider work and what is more geared toward home “work.” Sometimes I feel like my kitchen is a laboratory with various projects underway. While I work at my desk or sewing machine in the other room, there might be bread rising on the counter, beans soaking before cooking for dinner, ingredients waiting to be made into a meal, and of course dishes that pile in the sink as the day goes on.

Most days, I am in and out of the kitchen, not spending much time there until late in the afternoon when I usually prepare dinner. When I find myself getting more involved in the kitchen than I usually do during the day, I feel a bit like I’m putting on a lab coat, instead of an apron, and performing experiments. I am clearly not a scientist, but as I dabble with kitchen experiments and tend to food in progress there are always new possibilities and I am endlessly intrigued.

This week I finally got to a recipe that has been in the back of my mind for a long time. Even though I never think to buy Nutella, I have been wanting to try making it. The first time I tried hazelnut and chocolate together was during my semester in Italy. The chocolate bar was cheap but the combination of the rich chocolate and the distinct flavor of hazelnuts was captivating. I ate many more of those chocolate bars before I came home. While Nutella has great appeal, in reality I often find it too sweet and shiny and not as appealing as it should be. This homemade version is also quite sweet but hard to resist. I don’t plan to make it regularly but it is no longer a mystery and I have some ideas for using it which I hope to share next week.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and the LA Times.

2 cups hazelnuts
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt
3 tablespoons (or more as needed) neutral vegetable oil (you could use hazelnut or peanut oil, I used grapeseed)

Toast the hazelnuts until they are browned and fragrant. Let them cool for a few minutes and then rub off the skins. Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and run for several minutes, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary until the hazelnuts have turned into a smooth, oily nut butter. Add the powdered sugar, cocoa, vanilla and salt and process to combine. Add the oil and continue processing. Ideally you will have a smooth, spreadable, spoonable paste but if this does not happen right away, add more oil to achieve the right consistency. 

The spread will keep for a few days at room temperature. Refrigerated it will keep longer, though it will thicken slightly. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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