The Nutella King Has Passed

nutellaMichele Ferraro changed my life, although he never knew it.  Mr Ferraro was the creator of Nutella, and he passed away this weekend, on Valentine’s Day.  Born of post war necessity, Nutella was created when chocolate was scarce, and it made good business sense to combine it with abundant hazelnuts.  The resulting spread became a world wide taste phenomenon, and it was the start of a confectionary empire that made Mr Ferraro one of the richest men in the world.

I first tasted a homemade version of Nutella when I worked as a prep cook in the kitchen of Kibbutz Urim, in Israel.  I was a teenager who had little exposure to sweets, and that chocolate- hazelnut spread was a kibbutz staple.  Made by the bucket full, it was kept in the kitchen and served at every breakfast, ready to  schmear on bread or toast. Its exotic flavors opened culinary worlds to me, and creating it for the hungry hordes introduced me to large scale food preparation.  At the time, I had no idea that making Nutella from scratch would sow the seeds of my future as an avid consumer of all things delicious, and for my career as a chef.

So many years later, a version of that homemade spread appears in our cookbook In a Nutshell: Cooking and Baking with Nuts and Seeds, published in August 2014 by W. W. Norton.  As great and as universal as commercial Nutella is, our easy -to- prepare homemade version has remarkable depth of flavor.  We use it as a spread as I did in the kibbutz days, but also as a base for ice cream, as a topping for waffles, and as a dip for pretzels or fresh fruit.  I believe our recipe would have made Mr Ferraro proud.  Its inspired combination of chocolate and hazelnuts piqued my interest in all things culinary, and for that, I thank him.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

2 cups blanched hazelnuts, toasted

1 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/3 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

2 tablespoons hazelnut oil or canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

  1. In the work bowl of a food processor, process the hazelnuts until a paste forms, about 2 to 3 minutes. Stop the processor, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and continue to process for 3 additional minutes.  The hazelnuts will have the texture of sand, with a little remaining graininess.
  2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa and pulse repeatedly until everything is well mixed, about 1 minute. Drizzle in the oil and add the vanilla and salt.  Process until the spread is smooth, about 5 minutes.  Using a spatula, place it in a clean airtight container and refrigerate for up to one month.

Recipe reprinted from In A Nutshell: Cooking and Baking with Nuts and Seeds by Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian. Copyright © 2014 by Cara Tannenbaum and Andrea Tutunjian. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.