Just mention nutella to anyone who’s tried it and their eyes will light up and you can feel their fingers itching to grab a spoon and dig in. That’s what inspired me to try my hand at a homemade version of this addictive chocolate hazelnut spread. I had visions of slipping a jar into gift boxes imagining the delight it would inspire on Christmas morning. I wish I could say that I have half a dozen jars, all neatly tied with a festive red ribbon but that’s not how my vision turned out. I’m writing this not to discourage you (or myself) from giving it another go but to tell you where I went wrong and hopefully save you from making the same mistakes I made.
First I watched an online video on how to make your own homemade nutella based on a recipe from the L.A. Times. She made it all seem so easy-breezy, said it takes 20 minutes to make. I was thinking an hour, max and I’d have several more gifts checked off my list. I was using local (and expensive) hazelnuts from Holmquist Hazelnut Orchards so I thought I was off to a good start. The recipe says to roast them at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. First mistake — this was way too long and they were burnt but I couldn’t tell because the skins were so dark. Next they tell you to rub the nuts together in a damp tea towel to remove the skins. I tried this and ended up with a badly stained white linen towel and only a couple of the skins removed. It was time to consult another recipe. It turns out there are two methods to remove hazelnut skins, one works, the other, not so much. I then dunked my already-over-roasted hazelnuts into about a quart of boiling water with 3T baking soda, boiled them for 3-5 minutes, then ran cold water over them in a colander. This method, called blanching, removes the skins but by now the nuts were soaking wet and too far gone to roast any longer so I stuck them in a warm oven to try to dry them out.
My next mistake was thinking that my 20-year-old-duct-taped food processor was strong enough to make the creamy hazelnut butter shown in the video. Nevertheless, I gave it a whirl and ended up with something that resembled and tasted very much like coffee grounds. I kept going thinking maybe adding the oil at the end would bring it all together. Adding the dry ingredients (unsweetened cocoa, powdered sugar and salt), some vanilla and now the whole thing was incredibly dry so I started adding oil, first a little, then a lot. After 10T, I gave up, grabbed a carton of milk and started splashing and stirring until I ended up with something at least spreadable — no longer vegan, which at this point was the least of my problems. You may be wondering how it tastes and I’d have to say, it’s really not bad considering. I even attempted to make some hot chocolate using a couple of tablespoons stirred into hot milk. It wasn’t pretty, sort of grainy and definitely not gift-worthy.
After this attempt, I snuck outside with what was remaining after I filled a small jar and tossed it into the yard waste feeling like I was destroying the evidence. At least it was good for a laugh when Charlie got home from work and he so sweetly agreed to eat the rest, but he’s just like that. You don’t have to worry though, you won’t be receiving any in your gift box this year unless I get inspired to give it another try.
Here, instead, are some tried-and-true recipes that make excellent gifts:
Happy holiday gift-making!