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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Toffee Apple Slice

Last weekend saw a wonderful seasonal celebration at one of our local pubs.  The Driftwood Spars hosted Apple Fest – a day (and night) to celebrate the humble apple.  Locals could bring their apple harvest to the pub to pressed, there was entertainment for the children, a barn dance and the best stocked cider bar you are ever likely to see.

But for me, the highlight of the day was the Great Apple Bake Off – not because I was entering – but because I was privileged enough to be asked to be a judge along with the lovely Lisa from Vanillaboo.

What with all the other delights of the day it’s fair to say we weren’t inundated with entries (next year will be better) but we did have one clear winner:  Christine Ettling made a scrummy Toffee Apple Slice and this is her recipe.  The original came from the BBC Good Food magazine.

 Ingredients

950g / 2lb 20z Eating Apples

A Squeeze of Lemon Juice

A little Caster Sugar to taste

For the Base

100g / 4 oz Caster Sugar

250g Pack of Butter (diced)

100g / 4 oz Ground Rice

200g / 7 oz Plain Flour

For the Topping

397g Can of Condensed Milk

85g / 30 z Butter

100g / 4 oz Light Muscovado Sugar

25g / 1 oz Cornflakes

A Pinch of Salt

100g / 4 oz Pecan Nuts

100g / 4 oz Toasted Whole Almonds

 Method

Put the apples in a saucepan with a good squeeze of lemon juice and 4 tablespoons of water.  Cook, partly covered, for 10 or 15 minutes.  Add sugar to taste but try to keep some sharpness to counteract the sweetness of the topping.  Leave to cool

For the base, whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor.  (If you don’t have one rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs then stir in the ground rice and the sugar).  Line the base of a rectangular tin (18 cm x 28 cm) with baking paper and press the dough into the base.

Heat the oven to 180 °C / Gas Mark 4.

Bake the base for 20-25 minutes until golden.  Spread the cooked apples over the base.

For the topping put the condensed milk, butter and sugar into a saucepan.  Heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves then continue to simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes or so until a pale fudge colour.  Stir in the salt, cornflakes and nuts.  Spoon it over the apples.

Return to the oven for a further 15-20 minutes until the topping is golden and crisp.  Cool in the tin and then cut into squares.

Can be stored in an airtight container for a day or two.

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Baked Camembert with Nuts and Toffee Sauce

I quite often see photographs of food on Pinterest which look amazing but, when I read the recipe I kind of go off the idea.  This one, however, intrigued me.  Could a toffee sauce work with cheese?

The original recipe used brie but I happened to have some wonderfully ripe Cornish Camembert so I used that instead – you could use either.

The recipe also called for a sauce made from brown sugar and Kahlua but I really thought the coffee flavour might be a step too far – if you disagree give it a go and let me know how you get on.  I made a simple brown sugar and water syrup but it definitely lacked a little umph.  Next time I’ll try using the soy caramel sauce that I served with the mushroom custards to add a salty dimension to the flavours.

The original recipe also used pecan nuts whereas I chose mixed nuts – on balance I think it only needs the slighly bitter edge of walnuts – brazil nuts were definitely not quite right.

My original thought was that it looked somewhere between dessert and a cheese course so it could be a good way to end a meal.  In reality it is very sweet and very rich so it would probably be better served as part of a buffet or with nibbles for a girls night in – that way everyone can dunk in crackers or crudites and really enjoy the flavours without being over faced.

I will definitely try this again because it is great but not yet perfect.  Try experimenting with it yourself and let me know how you get on.

Ingredients

A round of Camembert or Brie in a wooden box – size to suit you.

A handful or two of (unsalted) Nuts – Walnuts work well.

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespons Water

Method

Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4

Remove the brie from the box and open (but do not remove) the wax paper wrapping.  Replace the cheese and the paper wrapper in the base of the box – open side up.  Fold back the paper to reveal the top of the cheese.

Trim the bloom (white rind) from the top edge of the cheese all the way around.  Place the cheese, in its box, on a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven.  Leave for around 5 or 6 minutes until the inside of the cheese is soft, gooey and runny.  Place the nuts on an oven tray and put them in the oven to toast for a few minutes – keep an eye on them as they can burn easily.

In the meantime make the sauce.  Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar has melted (do not stir).  Turn up the heat and boil until you have a thick syrup.

Remove the cheese from the oven – you can serve it in its box and paper but place the whole thing on a serving plate because it can be messy.  Remove the top layer of bloom.

Stir the nuts into the sugar syrup until well coated and then spoon over the cheese.  Serve with oatcakes, crackers or crudites for dipping.  Or, if this is lunch, serve with hunks of crusty bread.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog and would like to receive updates please “like” the bun scuffle Facebook Page or follow bun scuffle on Twitter using the links below. If you don’t use social Media you can email me fiona@bunscuffle.co.uk and I will send you updates by email.