Confectionately yours

3.19.2012

I have a terrible weakness for Nutella. So it was a happy coincidence when I moved right next door to the village in Northern Italy where this super spread was born. During the years I worked for the Slow Food movement in Piedmont, I drove past the Ferrero factory almost daily, winding down my windows to inhale the almost cloying sweet smell that carpeted the valley whenever the factory was roasting nuts. You’d think I’d get sick of the smell, taste and sight of the stuff. Sadly no. Such proximity only served to elevate my weakness to an often unchecked addiction. 

Since moving back to Australia I went cold turkey on Nutella, not allowing it anywhere near our house. But a recent trip to our local hazelnut orchard and purchase of a kilo of their beautiful, aromatic nuts wavered my resolve. I figured that if I made Nutella myself, using the best possible ingredients, it couldn’t be all bad. And it wasn’t. It was fantastic! Plus I reason that as far as treats for the kids (and us) go, home-made nutella on nice bread isn’t a total nutritional disaster. The remaining nuts went into a batch of hazelnut shortbread and have to say, the 'Nutella' was pretty fantastic across that too. But maybe that’s my sweet tooth failing to censor the hazelnut overload here. 

The aforementioned orchard belongs to the Baldwin family of Fourjay Farms. Basil and Jean Baldwin (above) have about 500 trees in their orchard and just over the hill their daughter and son-in-law have another 4500 (give or take). They are right in the middle of harvest at the moment so the kids and I visited last weekend. Freshly harvested nuts need to be dried on big wooden racks for a few weeks before being shelled so Jean kindly gave us a stash of roasted nuts from last season.  Fourjay Farms Hazelnuts are available at the Orange Farmers Market, by appointment from their farm directly and also at some of Orange’s best food stores.   

The ‘Nutella’ recipe below is loosely based on one given by David Lebovitz in his blog and I highly recommend giving it a go. Try it on nice warm bread, smeared across a banana, spread on warm pancakes or just straight from the spoon. And  if you really like somebody, make a jar for them and they’ll know it. 


 

Home-made Nutella
2 cups hazelnuts
1 3/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup powdered milk
pinch of salt
200g dark chocolate, chopped
100g milk chocolate, chopped 

Preheat the oven to 180C. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes or until the hazelnuts are browned. Meanwhile, warm the milk and milk powder in a saucepan until just at boiling point, remove from heat and set aside. Melt the chocolates together in the microwave or a double-boiler. Once the nuts are ready, tip them into a tea towel and rub vigorously to remove most of the skins then into a blender or food processor they go. Blitz until you have a fine meal. Add the chocolate and blitz again until well combined. Then add the warm milk and process until smooth. Transfer into jars and keep in the fridge for up to one week. Makes about 2 cups.



Hazelnut Shortbread

1 cup raw hazlenuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons rice flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
225gm butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 180C and place a rack in the center of the oven. Lightly butter a tart tin with a removable base. Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 10 minutes, or until brown and fragrant. Remove, place in a clean tea towel and rub to remove the skins. Tip these into a food processor and blitz until the nuts are a fine meal. Add half of the brown sugar and blitz again. In a separate bowl mix the flour, rice flour and salt. Cream the butter and remaining sugar together until pale and creamy. Add the vanilla and then the flour mixture. Finally fold through the nut and sugar mixture. Press this into the prepared tart tin making sure the ‘dough’ isn’t more than about 2cm thick and bake for 24 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely, cut into about 16 wedges and serve with a cup of tea.



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