Hazel is deeply wise. She holds the secrets of the earth within her. Love her and she’ll tell you where to quench your thirst… for water and for knowledge. What’s more, she’ll bless you with a silver tongue for telling others what you’ve learned.
So it’s said. But is there any truth behind the power of our elf Hazel?
Here’s what we know for sure: Hazel harnesses the power of the nut. And nuts are powerhouses of nutrition. Eating a handful of nuts a day can help prevent heart problems and weight gain. That’s why nuts are key players in many popular weight-loss programs these days.
Would you believe there are 130 hazelnuts in just one of those giant kilogram jars of Nutella? There is also a heap of skim milk and cocoa powder thrown into the mix. How can anything with so much fiber, vitamins C, B, and E, protein, folate, and calcium be anything but good?
Well, Nutella has its detractors. For one, there is a large dose of sugar – 11 grams in one tablespoon. And then, there is the whole palm oil thing. This vegetable oil has 41% saturated fat (the bad kind, but just half what palm kernel oil has….) and no trans fats (the worst offender). So maybe palm oil is only half bad? The jury is still out, but I think there could be a place for modest amounts of palm oil in our food.
However… health is not the only concern opponents to palm oil have. Over-farming of the rainforest is threatening endangered animals, like the gorgeous orangutan. Our elf Hazel would definitely be sympathetic to this cause!
I just LUV Nutella, though, and I’ve even used it as an ingredient in my healthiest cookies ever (the recipe is in my book). So what is a nutty orangutan-loving Nutella fan to do? Well, if you have the time and the inclination, you can make your own hazelnut spread. It’s not hard if you have a food processor. You get to say how much sugar is enough, and you can simply leave out the palm oil or use olive oil instead.
Vinny’s Homemade Hazelnut Chocolate “Nutella”
1 1/2 cup whole hazelnuts
1/4 cup (50 grams ) cocoa (dutch-processed is less bitter)
1 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup skim milk powder
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional, use stevia instead and unsweetened chocolate rather than bittersweet to lower the sugar by half again)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 heaping cup (200 grams) chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, or chips
3/4 cup (125 grams) chopped milk chocolate, or chips
On a rimmed baking sheet, toast the nuts in a 400ºF oven for 10 minutes, or until their skins begin to pop. Shake them up half way through. Then keep an eye on them, because they burn easily. Burnt hazelnuts taste yucky!!! Pour the hot nuts onto an old (but clean) tea towel, gather the corners into a bundle and rub the nuts together like mad. You want to rub off as much of their skins as possible. This is hard work. Maybe that’s why the roasted nuts were twice the price! While they’re warm, blend the nuts in a food processor until they go from finely ground to pasty.
Meanwhile, warm the milk, powdered milk, maple syrup, cocoa, cinnamon, and salt in a small saucepan. Watch it and stir, because the milk can easily burn on the bottom. Remove from heat as soon as it starts to boil.
In a glass or stainless steel bowl set over a pan of simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until smooth. Take off the heat a little before it’s completely melted, because you don’t want it to curdle.
Add the melted chocolate to the ground nuts and process the mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the warm milk mixture bit by bit, and process until the sauce is well blended. It will be more liquid than Nutella, but don’t worry. It gets thick when it is thoroughly cool.
While it’s still warm, you can strain it into jars if you like it smoother rather than nutty. But I like the extra fiber. Makes about 2 1/4 cups. Keep it in the fridge.
Vinny served the hazelnut sauce on eggy pancakes and poured some over strawberries. He also uses it in his chocolate cookies, melting moments. The spread works fine without palm oil. Hazel the elf, in her usual charming, understanding, socially conscious, honest and tolerant way… says, “Enjoy!”
Yield: About 2 1/4 cups or 36 tablespoons.
Nutrition information per tablespoon (From eaTracker, by Dietitians of Canada):
6 g fat (including 1.8 g saturated fat, no trans fat)
9.6 g carbs (including 1.2 g fibre and 7.6 g sugar)
2.4 g protein
19 mg sodium (salt), 116 mg potassium, 53.8 mg calcium
21.5 RAE Vit A, 7.4 DFE folate
Recipe adapted from The Family Kitchen. If you want to compare nutrients with the commercial Nutella by Ferrero, here’s their nutrition label.