This version contains no added sugar or oil, and yet it tastes fantastic.
To say my little brother loves Nutella is an understatement. He is wild for the stuff, utterly obsessed with it, which is why I decided to make a batch from scratch for his Christmas gift. But I also had a personal motivation for this culinary project. Ever since I learned about palm oil's role in rainforest deforestation, I haven't allowed myself to buy the decadent chocolate-hazelnut spread. I figured that learning how to make an oil-free version would be a good way to get around that ethical issue and satisfy my Nutella cravings.
Since hazelnuts are expensive, I did a lot of research online before starting to cook. I wanted my homemade Nutella to contain dairy for its rich creaminess and no added oil, since the nuts would provide oil. The best version appeared to be David Leibovitz's adaptation of a recipe from the Encyclopédie du Chocolat. It has no added white sugar, only a bit of honey; all the sweetness comes from the chocolate. This is a significant improvement over store-bought Nutella, made by Ferrero, which is known to be more than half sugar (56.3 percent, to be precise).
Here's the recipe, with my added thoughts. I measured all ingredients by weight, since it's more accurate than measuring cups.
1/3 cup (40g) whole almonds
1-1/3 cup (160 g) hazelnuts
1-3/4 cup (60g) whole milk
7/8 cup (60 g) powdered whole milk (I used powdered skim)
3 tbsp (40 g) mild-flavoured honey
pinch of salt
6 ounces (170 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
5 ounces (140 g) milk chocolate, chopped (use one that's at least 30% cacao solids)
1. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet, keeping the almond separate, and toast the nuts in a 350ºF (180ºC) oven, stirring a few times, for 10 to 15 minutes, until the hazelnuts are browned.
2. While they are roasting, warm the whole milk and powdered milk in a small saucepan with the honey and salt just until it starts to boil. Remove from heat.
3. In a clean, dry bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, or in a microwave oven, melt the chocolates together until smooth.
4. Once the nuts are well-toasted, remove them from oven and use a spatula to place the warm hazelnuts in a clean tea towel, then fold them inside the towel and rub them vigorously to remove any loose skins. They don’t need to be pristine; just try to get as much off as possible.
5. In a food processor, grind the warm hazelnuts and almonds until they’re as fine as possible. You may not be able to get them completely smooth, depending on your food processor. (My blender struggled a bit with this, tending to overheat. I continually scraped down the sides and pulsed till it was very fine, though not smooth.)
6. Add the melted chocolate and continue to process the mixture, stopping to scrape down the sides of the work bowl, as necessary. (This is when I blended for a long time to get it as smooth as possible.)
7. Once the mixture is smooth, add the warm milk mixture and process until everything is well-combined. (It will look excessively watery, but remember it has to chill.)
8. Leibovitz writes, "The original instructions here said to strain the paste, which I didn’t do because I don’t mind the little bits of toasted nuts, but you can." I did strain it but very little nut mixture remained in the sieve.
9. Transfer the mixture into two jars and refrigerate until ready to use.
The batch made over 3 cups of spread that had a deliciously nutty, not-overly-sweet taste. It tastes more fluffy than creamy, almost like a dense chocolate mousse on a spoon It's utterly divine. Be careful: You might not be able to stop eating it straight from the jar.