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Nuts for Nutella

| Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011

The animosity about the Euro might just be mitigated if European community leaders broke bread together -- and topped the bread with chocolate-hazelnut spread.

In America -- and indeed, across Europe and elsewhere in the world -- the best-known version is Nutella. The Ferrero company traces Nutella's origins to Pietro Ferrero, who formulated a loaf form of what was then called pasta gianduja to extend war-rationed chocolate during World War II.

Yes, this is the same Ferrero company that now makes Ferrero Rocher candies -- and also, oddly enough, Tic Tacs. The original loaves evolved into a jarred cream, which was branded as Nutella in 1964, and first sold in America in 1983.

But other chocolate-hazelnut spreads are manufactured in countries across Europe. We collected several of these -- and one from the United States -- to see how they compare with Ferrero's standard-bearer.

The classic way to enjoy Nutella is slathered on bread (or crepes), often topped with banana slices. For variation, we've provided recipes for Nutella Tartine (an open-face Nutella-and-marmalade sandwich), Nutella Ice Cream and (why not?) Sweet and Spicy Nutella-Coated Bacon.

And mark your calendar: Feb. 5 is World Nutella Day. The website NutellaDay.com already has more than 500 recipes from its readers. Perhaps, you'll create and submit a masterpiece of your own before then.

Nutella Ice Cream

Using the full amount of sugar results in a sweetness similar to most supermarket ice creams. Using 1/4 cup sugar -- or even omitting the added sugar -- results in dessert closer to a dark-chocolate ice cream.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe on the Carrie's Sweet Life blog ( carriessweetlife.com ) linked from the World Nutella Day website ( nutelladay.com ).

  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 3/4 cup sugar or less to taste (see above note )
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 11/3 cups heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Mix the Nutella and sugar until combined, then add the milk. Mix until the mixture is smooth and the sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla. Cover and chill until cold.

Transfer the mixture to an ice-cream maker and process according to manufacturer's directions. For a firmer texture, transfer the ice cream to a small freezer-safe container, press plastic wrap against the top of the ice cream, and freeze for at least 4 hours.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 865 calories, 54 grams fat (27 grams saturated), 115 milligrams cholesterol, 10 grams protein, 87 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 85 milligrams sodium

Sweet and Spicy Nutella-Coated Bacon

This recipe was adapted from a recipe on the bell'alimento blog ( bellalimento.com ) linked from the World Nutella Day website ( nutelladay.com ).

  • 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 thick slices bacon ( 1/2 to 3/4 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons Nutella
  • Fleur de sel or another coarse salt

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine the brown sugar, chile powder and pepper in a small bowl and set aside.

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange the bacon slices on the baking sheet, making sure they do not overlap. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, depending on the desired doneness, then remove from the oven and carefully flip the bacon slices.

Sprinkle each slice of bacon liberally with the sugar-pepper mixture. Return to the oven and bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. Cool the bacon slices on paper towels until they are at about room temperature.

When the bacon has cooled, place the Nutella into a small bowl and microwave on high for about 15 to 20 seconds, until softened. Transfer the bacon slices to a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet or large plate. Using a silicon brush or icing spatula, lightly spread the Nutella onto the top of each bacon slice. Place the plate into the refrigerator and allow the Nutella to harden. Afterthe coating is firm to the touch, sprinkle with fleur de sel and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 150 calories, 10 grams fat (3.5 grams saturated), 15 milligrams cholesterol, 7 grams protein, 8 grams carbohydrates, 0 dietary fiber, 355 milligrams sodium

Variations:

• Reduce the amount of black pepper to 1/2 teaspoon and add 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the spice mixture.

• To make a European Elvis sandwich, spread the top of one slice of bread lightly with honey, top with the coated bacon and thin slices of banana, then, close with a second slice of bread.

Nutella Tartine

This recipe was adapted from "Around My French Table," by Dorie Greenspan (Houghton Mifflin, 2010).

  • 1/4 cup Nutella
  • 4 slices brioche or challah bread
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup orange marmalade (preferably the bitter kind made from Seville oranges)
  • Fleur de sel or another coarse salt
  • About 12 hazelnuts, toasted, skins rubbed off and coarsely chopped or crushed

Turn on the broiler. Line a baking sheet or broiler pan with aluminum foil.

Put the Nutella in a small, microwavable bowl. Heat for about 15 seconds, just until the Nutella is softened and warmed. (Alternately, heat in the top of a double-boiler.)

Brush one side of each slice of bread with melted butter. Put the bread, buttered side up, on the baking sheet. Broil the bread until the tops are golden.

Spread the marmalade over hot bread. Using the tines of a fork, generously drizzle the bread with warm Nutella. Top sparingly with fleur de sel, then sprinkle with hazelnuts.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving : 475 calories, 25 grams fat (12 grams saturated),105 milligrams cholesterol, 9 grams protein, 55 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams dietary fiber, 260 milligrams sodium

More Nutella ideas

• Make a banana Nutella trifle by layering banana pudding and cookie sandwiches made with vanilla wafers, Nutella and banana slices.

• Soften Nutella in the microwave, and use as an ice-cream topping.

• For French toast sandwiches, spread a thin layer of Nutella and a thin layer of orange marmalade between two thin slices of bread. For two sandwiches, whisk together 2 eggs, about 1/4 cup milk and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Dip the sandwiches into the liquid, saturating the bread. Fry in butter over medium heat until browned, turning as needed.

• Use Nutella to make hot chocolate, shakes or smoothies -- or dilute it with milk or cream and flavor your coffee.

• Stir Nutella into partially whipped cream, then finish whipping.

• Use Nutella to flavor milk- or cream-based cocktails.

Taste test: hazelnut-chocolate spreads

We sampled seven Nutella alternatives, all of the single-color variety. (Some of the spreads available in stores were swirls of dark and light; we omitted them to keep the sample manageable and consistent.)

Overall, we found that those with sugar as the first listed ingredient (usually followed by some sort of oil) were unsatisfactory. The best had a listed percentage of hazelnuts in excess of 10 percent.

All except the Justin's were purchased at Global Foods Market; Justin's was purchased at Whole Foods Market.

RECOMMENDED

Excellent Crunchy: $4.79 for 200 grams. Darkest color, aromas of chocolate and nuts. Nut chips in the paste (which has hazelnuts and almonds), excellent balance of distinct nut and chocolate flavors with almonds most notable on the finish.

Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend: $9.95 for 16 ounces/454 grams. Sandy, textured surface. Dominant aroma is of nuts; least sweet. The best of those we sampled in a basic sandwich.

Ulker Golden: $4.69 for 350 grams. Creamy, with an excellent balance of major hazelnut flavor and minor chocolate flavor.

ACCEPTABLE

Franck Eurocrem: $4.89 for 400 grams. A touch of oiliness, but reasonably close to Nutella in texture and flavor.

NOT RECOMMENDED

Alpella: $5.19 for 500 grams. Creamy, but with almost no discernible nut flavor.

Armella: $5.19 for 750 grams. Film of oil on the surface. Only a hint of nuttiness, with a main flavor like the cream filling in an Oreo.

Spar: $4.19 for 400 grams. Aroma and flavor each have a vague chemical touch. Almost no chocolate flavor, and even less nut flavor.

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