Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Chocolate and Hazelnut spread

Chocolate & Hazelnut spread

Christmas is approaching very fast, as usual...and these last days are typically spent by many visiting shops, malls, markets, etc. to find the last Christmas gifts for relatives and friends; and for those who - like me actually - don't think to Christmas presents in advance, this is the busiest shopping period of the year. To be honest, I don't like spectacular, impressive Christmas presents...I prefer smaller things, not original maybe, but chosen with care and affection. And among my favorite kinds of gifts are edible things, and in particular homemade edible gifts (the other favorite category is that of small, high-value, not edible stuff). The time and passion spent for preparing, packing and wrapping any edible thing always deserve great appreciation. But, beside this emotional component which makes homemade presents always much valuable, what I like most of edible gifts is that they are usually of better quality and taste than the same shop-bought foods (of course if good quality ingredients are used). And this is the case, for example, of this chocolate and hazelnut spread, which is the homemade version (actually... one of the many possible versions) of a worldwide renowned, iconic spread that everybody knows and most of the people like. Frankly, I am not a fan of this product - the commercial one I mean - because I have many doubts regarding what it is made of; the list of ingredients printed on the label is not comforting: I would expect to find just chocolate or/and cocoa, hazelnut and not much more; on the contrary the list of ingredients is quite long and some of them ...ehm ...of questionable nature and origin. I know that probably somebody will hate me from now for this radical statement, but this is my real, actual opinion (in fact when I was a child - and of course guided more by the good taste and popularity of the product than by health issues - I ate jars of this cream, in several possible ways: spread on bread or toast, as an ingredient for other desserts, eating spoon of it directly from the jar or even - I shouldn't say this but I'm sure that many others do the same - taking it with fingers).
Since now I prefer to be sure of the quality, and possibly of the origin too, of what me and my family eat, and I pay particular attention to the food I give to my son (and in general to children), I like to make the chocolate spread (but also cookies, cakes and many other foodstuffs that are easily available in all supermarkets) on my own, especially considering that only few ingredients and a basic equipment are necessary. The ingredients? Chocolate (a mix of dark and milk), some cocoa powder, a splash of neutral vegetable oil and hazelnut paste (or simply hazelnut if you don't find the paste or want to make everything on your own). Equipment? A couple of bowls, a pan, some spoons or spatula and, only in case you have to make the hazelnut paste, a good food processor or blender; a thermometer would be of help but is not strictly necessary.. And the preparation is also easy and relatively fast.
A perfect Christmas edible present! That will be for sure much appreciated. I'm still in time to share the recipe for this year... But if you don't have time to make the spread for Christmas, any other time of the year is perfect as well.
The recipe here is one of the many possible recipes for making chocolate - hazelnut spread: the main reason why I chose this one is that, since it doesn't contain any liquid ingredient (like milk or cream or dairy substitutes) it keeps quite long in the pantry, at room temperature (do not be tempted to refrigerate or even freeze the cream as the low temperature would badly alter both the texture and the taste). But I'm sure it won't last long...
Chocolate & Hazelnut spread

Chocolate & Hazelnut spread
250 g dark chocolate, 50% solid
250 g good quality milk chocolate
390 g hazelnut paste *
20 g unsweetened cocoa powder
85 g vegetable oil (as neutral as possible, rice bran oil is the best)
1 vanilla pod
Melt the two types of chocolate: chop the chocolate bars into small pieces and put in a heatproof bowl, then melt in the microwave or putting the bowl over a pan of barely simmering water (be careful as the bowl does not have to touch the water). While the chocolate is melting, add the cocoa powder, sifted, to the hazelnut paste and mix; then slowly add the oil and amalgamate. Pour the hazelnut mixture over the melted chocolate; split the vanilla bean in half lengthways and, using the tip of a sharp knife, scrape the seeds into the bowl with chocolate. Let the temperature of the mixture lower to 31°C (better to use a chocolate thermometer, but if you do not have, whisk the mixture with a spatula until it becomes lukewarm). At this point the cream has to be tempered lowering the temperature to 22 - 23°C; this operation can be done on a marble work surface or, more simply, by putting the bowl with chocolate in another bigger bowl filled with water and ice cubes. When the mixture reaches the temperature of  22 - 23°C (it takes few minutes), pour it through a strainer into sterilized jars (cold). Place the filled jars in the fridge for few minutes  - just the time for the spread to set - then store in your pantry.  Since this spread doesn't  contain any liquid (water, milk rt other) its shelf life is relatively long (at least a couple of months at room temperature - DO NOT refrigerate or freeze).
* If you do not find ready-made hazelnut paste (or want to make a  100% homemade product) you can make it on your own. Buy good quality hazelnuts, already blanched, and toast them in the oven at 200°C until they start releasing oil; at this point transfer, still warm, in the bowl of a food processor and mix at the maximum speed until you obtain an almost liquid paste (if the machine gets too warm, stop, let it cool for few minutes then start blending again); with a good machine it should take only few minutes. In any case it is likely that the paste is not completely smooth; if so you can sift the paste through a very fine strainer before using.  
Chocolate & Hazelnut spread

1 comment:

  1. Wow! This looks amazing. Popping by via #simpleandinseason
    Love this recipe. I had a few toasting hazelnut disasters over Christmas trying to make hazelnut brittle - it all worked out well in the end though :)
    Bonjour from