Homemade Nutella

We're on day 14 of the complete lockdown in Italy, or rather, it's been two weeks since life as we knew it here (daily commute, morning cappuccino, trips to any other neighborhoods and all) was put to a halt, turned upside down. In my last post, I mentioned how I was grateful to have my sister with me, not to mention the decent-sized balcony we have that allows us to get some sun -- the weather in Rome has been beautiful -- and to take in the evening 6pm flashmob, usually a booming rendition of Italy's national anthem. As the quarantine continues -- most likely stretching way past April 3rd -- we're all feeling out of sorts and a little down, so, if it's any consolation in what is otherwise a dark time, here's a few more bright spots this week from my side,  ok? 

Last year Olivieri 1882 -- a bakery in the town of Vicenza -- won best colomba in ALL of Italy. If you're not familiar with colomba, it is a fluffy, sweet, dove-shaped cake (dove=colomba in Italian), topped with almonds and pearl sugar. It is sort of the Easter equivalent of panettone and pandoro, and I look forward to it every year. Easter in 2020 will be a little different, but master baker Nicola Olivieri himself was kind enough to send us a colomba to enjoy this year, again making room for a little normalcy to creep back in in such a strange time. Good to know as well: for every colomba sold, Oliveri 1182 donates a sum to their local hospitals battling COVID19. For anyone who would like a colomba this year (and an effing delicious one at that), you can order an Olivieri one here. Important: Olivieri 1882 ships to the States, if you're a reader in the U.S!
Thank God for the inventions that are Skype and FaceTime! A day in lockdown is always much improved by a call from a friend, and -- I think this is becoming the running theme in this post -- makes things feel a little more normal. This has been everything from morning coffee with my BFF Lavinia, a quick "how are you holding up?" with my cooking buddy Sarah, a group call with Cipro Dorm/Bruzzese Bunker, and a weekend chiamata with my friend Kristin and her adorable 7 month old son. Being in quarantine means that you have time to call and check in with people you haven't in a while, but have been meaning too, and I've found that in these first 14 days I've reconnected with people who I love, care about, and miss, and am able to focus on them fully without the distraction of what is usually a busy schedule. I've also realized how incredibly grateful I am to have my friends here in Rome, who are all going through the uncertainty of a lockdown as well, and I truly believe that our group chat on Whatsapp (thank God for the invention that is Whatsapp as well) full of funny videos, jokes, recipes, and overall support for one another -- will keep me sane in all this. 

I'm cooking every day, which always makes me ridiculously  happy. This was actually the case pre-pandemic -- this isn't a very surprising bright spot, I guess -- but I think one of the reasons why it cheers me up so much is because it makes things feel like they are as they were and as if it's just another weekend where I'm working on recipes for this blog. After all, its easy to distract yourself (at least fleetingly) from what's going on outside when you're frying slice after slice of eggplant, or rolling out pasta by hand, or making a batch of those pecan sticky buns you hadn't had time to get around to until now (recipe soon). In this same culinary vein, I've also started a little poll, i.e “Are there any recipes in particular you’d like to learn to make/see on the blog”? Requests have been for everything from "plant-based recipes!" to "pantry-friendly recipes" to "easy desserts" to more specific things like potato gnocchi, parmigiana di melanzane, and homemade Nutella, or rather the star of today's post. 

So! let's start with the obvious: making a homemade version of Nutella means getting a dose of that famous chocolate-y hazelnut goodness without all the other stuff that goes into the store-bought version; it's super simple to make, and it's only got a handful of ingredients, all of which are pantry-friendly if you too are in lockdown. And the taste! It's more intensely chocolate-y than your typical Nutella -- pure cocoa powder and dark chocolate here, no distractions in between- with undertones of roasted, slightly smoky hazelnuts. It's smooth and dreamy and perfect on toast, or on a banana, or if you're us, just out of the jar. Adding this to the Bright Spot list in this quarantine. Stay safe everyone!

A couple of notes: I bet this could be made with peanuts, almonds, pecans, or any other kind of nut in place of the hazelnuts. This stays in the fridge, covered, for a month, but should be brought to room temperature to make it more spreadable. The recipe can easily be doubled if you want a bigger batch. Finally, the recipe as written called for 1/2 teaspoon of salt, which I think could've been decreased; here I recommend a generous 1/4 teaspoon to be on the safe side, and then you add as you see fit. If you've only got milk chocolate on hand, I think that could be added to the mix (instead of semi-sweet) with good results too. 

Looking for more chocolate-y recipes? I have these Brownie Cookies, this Brownie Pie, these Fudge Brownies, this Hot Fudge Sauce, this Pecan Chocolate Pretzel Pie, this Cioccolata Calda, this Chocolate Tartthis 1940s Wacky Chocolate Cake, this Wellesley Fudge Cake, this Chocolate Fudge Souffle Cake, these Chocolate Lava Cakes, this Chocolate Loaf Cake, and this German Chocolate Cake

Recipe barely adapted from Crunchy, Creamy, Sweet
Makes about 1 cup of nutella. 

4 ounces (112 grams) hazelnuts (buy them skinless if you can)
1/2 cup (50 grams) powdered sugar 
2.5 tablespoons (25 grams) cocoa powder 
1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 rounded teaspoon salt
1/4 cup (25 grams) finely chopped semi-sweet chocolate 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Place hazelnuts on the sheet. Roast for 10-12 minutes until they are lightly browned and fragrant, watching to make sure they don't burn. Remove from the oven and transfer onto a clean kitchen towel. Let cool until safe to the touch. If you have hazelnuts with the skin on, rub them hazelnuts with a clean tea towel until the skin comes off.

Place the hazelnuts in a food processor and process until finely ground. Scrape the sides of the food processor bowl as needed. Process nuts until the start to liquify (this can take about 5 minutes, especially if you have a mini food processor like mine). Stop the food processor as needed to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Add the powdered sugar and cocoa and process until well combined. Next add the oil and vanilla (process until smooth) then the salt and process for 5 seconds or so. Next, add the chocolate and -- you know the drill -- process until smooth. You may need to add more oil if the mixture clumps up. Taste and see if the Nutella needs more salt or vanilla (mine was alright, but up to you!) and that's it! Scrape the spread into a jar and there you have it.

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