If you like hazelnuts, chances are you love Nutella. And honestly, who doesn’t? The genius of mixing chocolate and hazelnuts into a delicious paste was necessitated by chocolate shortages in Italy during the Napoleonic wars, when a blockade was imposed making cocoa hard to come by. This practice of stretching chocolate by incorporating hazelnuts was first marketed as Gianduja by the Piedmontese chocolatier, Michel Prochet in 1865. Jumping forward almost a century, Italian baker Pietro Ferrero brought his own chocolate-hazelnut paste to the market in 1946, in the wake of another war-time chocolate shortage. A few years later, he hit the jackpot with a creamy version that was called Supercrema (like some kind of delicious superhero). By 1963, it was re-branded as Nutella and the rest is history. Twenty years ago, all I needed was a baguette, a Eurail pass, a jar of Nutella, and I could survive for weeks. Now that would just make me cranky. People do crazy things for Nutella. Earlier this year, German thieves stole $20,000 worth of it off the back of a truck. And students at Columbia University are said to go through almost 100 pounds a day, reportedly stealing it from the cafeterias and hoarding it in their rooms, costing the school upwards of $5000/week. Maybe Nutella is actually the secret to academic genius? Or at least high tuitions.
My children love it too, and would eat it every day if they could. But let’s face it, with it’s two main ingredients being sugar and palm oil, it’s not really good for you. In fact, Nutella’s parent company was sued in April 2012 for false advertising, because apparently it isn’t really the healthy part of a healthy breakfast. You might as well be eating chocolate frosting every morning, which doesn’t sound all bad, come to think of it – but no one really likes hanging around the under-10 set when they are all amped up on sugar. So, would it be possible to make a version that was actually healthy? Or at least better than frosting? Making a hazelnut butter with some cocoa in it seemed easy enough, the challenge would be to come up with alternatives to the sugar and palm oil to make it sweet and creamy.
There have been a number of things I have tried to make from scratch that were just not worth the effort (remember the DIY gin?), but chocolate-hazelnut spread – which I like to refer to as No-tella (for clarity) – is not one of them. As long as you have a food processor, all you need are a few basic ingredients and about a 1/2 an hour. I was first inspired to do this when I read this post on the blog, Chocolate Covered Katie, which is devoted to making healthy desserts. Over the past year or so, I have pared the recipe down to just four added ingredients.
Here’s how you do it:
Now, you might be thinking, “does this maple syrup/almond milk concoction really taste like Nutella?” I’ll be honest with you, it doesn’t taste exactly the same. It’s much, much better. Seriously. Sure, it might not be as cloyingly sweet, but the maple syrup adds just the right counterpoint to the cocoa, making it more like Nutella’s vegan cousin, just in from Brooklyn and raving about the latest locally -sourced chocolate. If you want something a little sweeter or creamier, you can play around with adding various sweeteners (agave, stevia, or even sugar) and a couple tablespoons of oil until it’s perfect for your taste.
Now you’ve got yourself something worth putting on a crepe. If you want to go extra healthy, I recommend this simple Buckwheat crepe recipe that I found in Bon Appetite. The recipe makes over a dozen crepes and they are easy to freeze by layering them with waxed paper and placing them in a freezerbag. On a weekday morning, it takes almost no time to pull out the frozen crepe, heat it up in a skillet, add some no-tella and call it breakfast. Once you roll it up, it’s the perfect thing for your kids to eat while they run down the street after the bus.