Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

I used to love Nutella as a kid, and I remember buying it in little tubs with tiny spoons from the school tuckshop. I know it’s supposed to be spread on toast, but if I’m being honest with myself, it’s more often eaten straight off the spoon. However, as great as the stuff out of the jar is, I beg you to try making it yourself. It somehow tastes both more like chocolate and more like hazelnuts. You can spread it on toast, use it as a truffle filling, or macaron filling, or as an icing base for a cake. I should warn you though, after you make this version, the Nutella you buy from the shop will taste plastic…

Luckily, homemade hazelnut chocolate spread is not difficult to make. Cracking and skinning the hazelnuts is the hardest part by far, and you could easily skip this step by buying shelled and skinned nuts ready to go.

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To shell the nuts:

There really isn’t any easy way to do this, you just need some time and a nutcracker. I find that shelling them over a bowl helps to stop bits flying all over the kitchen, and I watch TV while I’m doing this step as a distraction.

After you crack the nuts open, spread them out on a baking sheet. Don’t worry if some crack into pieces – they will be ground down later!

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To skin the nuts:

Some say that you don’t need to skin the nuts, but I find that they add an unpleasant bitterness. There are several methods to skin the nuts, including boiling them in a baking soda and water solution. The baking soda method is great for removing absolutely all of the skins – and the creates an amazing natural purple dye , but makes it difficult to roast the nuts afterwards as they are a bit soggy.

Instead, I think the best way is to simply roast the nuts in the oven, and then rub the skin off. When the nuts have cooled a little, tip them onto a clean tea-towel and vigorously rub until the skins come off. You may need to replace the tea-towel halfway through as the skins form a powder.

 

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Ingredients:

1 ½ cups shelled and skinned hazelnuts

1 can condensed milk (395 grams)

Pinch salt

Splash of milk

150 grams of good quality eating chocolate (I prefer half 70% cocoa dark choc, and half milk choc)

 

If you haven’t roasted the nuts already during the skinning process, spread the nuts on a baking tray and roast for about 15 minutes in an 180c oven. The nuts are ready when they have nicely browned and are starting to fill your kitchen with a hazelnut smell – mmm!

Place the hazelnuts in a blender, and blend on a medium speed until they have broken down and start to form a paste in your blender. My blender never gets them all completely ground, but I actually enjoy the texture of a few bits.

 

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Pour in the condensed milk, and pinch of salt, and keep blending. You will end up with a delicious hazelnut crème, and you could totally stop here and use it in icings, to fill biscuits or truffles, or even just spread on toast. But to make Nutella – we have to add chocolate.

 

 

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Break chocolate into chunks, and melt over low heat in a double boiler. Pour into blender with hazelnut crème and blend up. If the blender struggles a bit (which mine does) add in small splashes of milk until it comes together. The final mix will be a little runny, but will set in the fridge.

 

 

 

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Pour the mix into clean jars or containers, and store in the fridge. It will last up to a month in the fridge (but mine has always been eaten long before then).

Spread on toast. Sandwich between cookies. Mix with icing. Stir through ice-cream mix. Yum!

 

 

 

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Childhood hates revisited

I hated maths in school. HATED it. I don’t remember early primary maths, but when my family moved to Sweden and I was enrolled in a correspondence programme, I know I avoided it, and did as little work as humanly possible.

When we returned home to New Zealand a few years later, I was far behind. I was put in the ‘dummy maths’ class. Obviously that’s not what the teachers called it, but the kids sure did. And then I went to intermediate school, and for complicated reasons, ‘dummy’ level in primary was somehow ‘advanced’ at intermediate and I was again in special classes. Classes that were often unsupervised, and so again, I did as little maths as humanly possible.

By the time I got to high school, I had gained enough skills to scrape through maths classes, but I sure hated the subject. My mum tricked me into going to a maths tutor and I was so angry at her for doing that to me. The day I passed the minimum level of maths to finish school with, I was so happy. Never again I said.

So it is slightly hilarious that I ended up in a job 12 years later that required me to TEACH first-year university maths. It certainly hadn’t been in the job description when I applied, but I was assured by my employer that I could manage it.

I panicked.

And then I forced myself to pick up the damn textbook and just try to solve the first problem. And it was ok. So I tried the next. And it was ok too. Huh.

This thing that had scared me for so long? Well I still didn’t love it. But I could do it. I had to write my lesson plans as scripts, but I did manage.

Who knows what younger Jess could have done if she’d conquered maths earlier – become a lawyer or doctor? Taken physics classes? But then I wouldn’t have taken as many arts subjects and I really believe there is value in them too.

Anyway, what I learnt most is that I can still surprise myself. And just because I hated something earlier if life? Well that doesn’t mean I have to hate it forever.

I wonder what else I should try out again?