Grown Up Nutella

Homemade Nutella

Nutella?  That’s for kids right?  And you can just pick up a jar in any food shop so why on earth would you want to make your own?

These are good and valid questions but I think I also have some good and valid answers to them.

First of all no.  Just no.  Nutella is NOT just for kids – why should they get all the good stuff?  Call it hazelnut and chocolate spread and it already sounds more grown up.  And don’t pretend you don’t eat it yourself.  By the spoonful.  When no one is looking.

So, that brings us to the next question “why would you make it yourself?”.  Well, when I started seeing lots of “make your own Nutella” recipes on Pinterest I asked the same question.  Then I looked at the ingredients in the original:

The main ingredient is sugar, lots of sugar, nearly 57% to be exact.  That’s more than half the jar.  That’s followed by Palm Oil.  Lots of people have a problem with palm oil because demand has led to large areas of deforestation across Indonesia which, in turn, has destroyed the habitat of the orangutan.  Both species of orangutan are now endangered, the Sumatran orangutan is listed as critically endangered.

Next on the list are hazelnuts and cocoa (as you might expect) followed by skimmed milk powder and whey powder (which you might not), lecithin (a stabiliser made from soya) and finally vanillin (a synthetic vanilla flavouring).

Well, I guess you never thought it was a health food – nothing that tasty ever is.

My next question was “can I make a version that is tasty and a little healthier?”  So I started looking for recipes.  I found about 12.  All of them were different.  Some used sugar, some used maple syrup, some added milk powder, some added condensed milk, some used plain chocolate, some used milk chocolate, some used raw cacao, some added vegetable oil, some didn’t bother.  They all used hazelnuts though!

I started thinking about what I wanted from my nutella.  I wanted it to be simple and I wanted it to be grown up.  I decided to start with the simplest of recipes knowing I could add to it later if necessary.

So I started with hazelnuts and plain chocolate in a 2:1 ratio. It was rich and bitter (in a good way) and I loved it.  However, I decided that it could be improved bythe addition of a little sea salt and some vanilla.  That made it perfect for me.  If you want yours to be a little sweeter add some honey, or maple syrup or maybe some agave.  If you want it to be a little runnier (and sweeter) try adding some condensed milk (a tablespoonful at a time until it suits you).  If you want it to be vegan use vegetable oil instead.  If your kids don’t like the bitterness of plain chocolate try making it with milk chocolate.  Experiment, it’s worth it.

However you make it you will need a a really good food processor / blender.  Mine is a little on its last legs and it left the nuts slightly grainy.  I don’t actually mind a bit of texture but if smoothness is important to you just be warned.

In the interests of fairness this is still a high calorie, high fat (nuts are always high in fat) product but the sugar content is significantly reduced – just 10% in this recipe.

And it is perfect for putting in your pancakes on Tuesday!

Grown Up Nutella

Ingredients

200g Hazelnuts

100g Plain Chocolate (75% cocoa solids)

A pinch of Sea Salt

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

Method

Roast the hazelnuts for 10 minutes at 180 C until lightly toasted.

If you bought blanched hazelnuts you can blend them straight away, if not you will need to remove the skins by rubbing the nuts vigorously in a tea towel whilst still hot.  They don’t need to be perfect but the effort is worth it as the skins can be bitter.

Place the nuts in a food processor or power blender and turn it on full.  After a few minutes you will have ground hazelnuts – keep going.  After a few more minutes you will have a thick paste which clumps around the blade (you could turn this into hazelnut butter) – keep going.  Eventually the paste will become more liquidy – be patient – it’s worth it.

Meanwhile, melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water).

When the nuts have reached the desired consistency pour in the melted chocolate and the vanilla and add a pinch of salt.  Blitz until well blended.

Taste before you take it out of the food processor.  If it’s not quite to your taste add some more stuff (see above) until it is.  Pour into a sterilised jar and keep in a cool dark place.  The fridge is too cool and it will get a bit too stiff to spread*.  Just remember that it contains no preservatives so it won’t last more than a week.

Good luck!

*nb – if you add dairy products such as condensed milk it is probably best to keep it in the fridge.

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Chocolate & Cherry Brownies

Cherry, Chocolate Brownie Recipe

I made these brownies as little gifts for some friends. Being a fan of black forest gateaux I already knew that chocolate and cherries is a great combination but I was less sure about the coconut. I like coconut a lot in both sweet and savoury dishes but I was a little bit concerned that it might affect the texture of the brownies.

I needn’t have worried. The coconut flavouring was actually very subtle and, although these brownies were a tad less gooey than usual they were still soft and wonderfully moist and the coconut probably stopped them from being too wet.

The ultimate test? My lovely friends opened and tried them before they even got them home and they either really loved them or else they are very polite and extremely good liars.

Ingredients

200g / 7 oz Dark Chocolate (75% cocoa solids is good)

150g / 5 oz Butter

200g / 7 oz Soft Brown Sugar

3 Eggs

150g / 5 oz Plain Flour

85g / 3 oz Desiccated Coconut

425g Can Black Cherries (drained)

Method

Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Lightly grease a 20cm x 20cm (8” x 8”) cake tin and line with greaseproof paper.

Break up the chocolate and chop the butter into small pieces. Place them both in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water until melted. Mix well.

Mix the sugar into the chocolate mixture, stirring well to dissolve any lumps. Beat the eggs and stir into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour and coconut and the gently fold in cherries.

Pour mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40 minutes. Leave in the tin to cool before cutting into squares to serve.

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Black Forest Gateau

The recipe below makes one large, traditional gateau. If you would rather make individual gateaux try baking the cake mix in 2 Swiss roll tins – when cool you can use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds and sandwich them together as below. Freeze the left over sponge bits and use them to make a black forest trifle at a later date. Alternatively you can use a sharp knife to cut out squares.

Be creative when decorating individual gateaux.

 Ingredients

 For the sponge

Butter for greasing

9 free-range eggs

9 oz / 255g caster sugar

7 ½ oz / 200g self-raising flour

1 ½ oz / 40g cocoa powder

For the filling

1 x 15 oz / 425g tins black cherries

A generous splash of Cherry brandy or brandy

2 tbsp arrowroot

1 ¼ pint / 750ml double cream, whipped

Method

Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4.

Grease and line a deep 10” / 26cm/ spring form cake tin.

Put the eggs and sugar into a large mixing bowl and whisk until light and fluffy and a trail forms when the whisk is removed.

Fold in the sieved flour and the cocoa powder. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, transfer to the oven and bake for about 55 minutes, or until risen and cooked through. Turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

For the filling, drain the cherries, reserving the juice. Place the cherries into a bowl with the Kirsch. Place the cherry juice from the tin into a pan and bring to the boil. While the juice is heating, mix the arrowroot with a little water in a small bowl to make a paste. When the juice is boiling, mix the arrowroot paste into it, then strain through a sieve into the bowl with the cherries and leave to cool.

Whip the cream until it is soft and holding its shape. Cut the cooled sponge into three layers using a sharp bread knife. Sandwich the three layers together using the whipped cream and the cherries in their thickened syrup mix.

To serve, top with the grated chocolate. You may also want to reserve a little of the cream and a few cherries for decoration.

 

 

A Bit of Kitchen Labour

My youngest daughter, Lyssa Fêe is expecting our first grandchild and we are all incredibly excited and eager to meet her. Lys has just passed her due date and, if memory serves me well, at this stage, every day feels a week long. The bump is weighing heavily, the back aches and the waddle is really something to behold. When all else fails it’s time to draw on some age old advice (also known as old wives tales!):

Exercise is supposed to help so I have been accompanying her on daily walks on the beach – walks which require an uphill stomp back to her house. However, Lyssa has (wisely in my opinion) been studiously ignoring her dad’s suggestion that she gets on a trampoline.

There is another category of advice that should probably never be discussed by your mother and certainly not somewhere as public as a food blog so we’ll draw a discrete veil over that…

There are numerous food based suggestions – cod liver oil is currently being ignored and half a pineapple caused a sore mouth and “epic” heartburn – so goodness knows what would happen if she indulged in the 7 or 8 supposedly needed to have an effect.

Lyssa’s friends are all recommending a hot curry but she has a low tolerance for spicy food and I remain unconvinced that last night’s korma will do anything at all to help! Being my daughter, she has a decidedly sweet tooth so it occurred to me to help her by stealth by adding chilli to my favourite chocolate cookie recipe.

I don’t know if this will help (I’ll let you know) but I suspect it would stand a better chance if I gave Lyssa more cookies and ate less myself! My guess is that the baby will come when she is good and ready, and not a second sooner, but if there is a bit of a wait then a cup of tea and a cookie is as good a way to pass the time as any.

Chilli Chocolate Cookie Recipe

 

 

Chilli Chocolate Cookies

Ingredients

225g softened butter

100g caster sugar

175g dark muscovado sugar

2 eggs

300g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

1 tsp baking powder

1½ tsp cayenne pepper

½ red chilli pepper

100g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.

Beat the butter and sugars together – muscovado sugar has a tendency to clump into lumps – make sure you break it up thoroughly before you add the butter as it is a much messier job to do it later.

Mix in the eggs.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, a pinch of salt, baking powder and cayenne pepper then mix them into the sugar/butter mix. This will form a thick mix – more like a dough than a batter.

Finely chop the chilli pepper and roughly chop the chocolate. Add both to the cookie mix and stir through until evenly distributed. You can buy chocolate chips instead if you prefer.

Take dessert spoonfuls of the mixture into your hand and lightly roll into a ball.

Place, well spaced, on baking sheets lined with baking parchment.

Bake in batches in the centre of the oven for 10-12 mins. Leave to cool on the baking sheets for a minute or two before removing to a cool flate surface (a plate or worktop) to cool completely. Don’t place on a cooling rack as these cookies are a bit soft when warm and will break up easily.