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Homemade goodness: Chocolate-hazelnut spread, fresh from your own kitchen

Homemade Nutella makes a great hostess gift. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)
Homemade Nutella makes a great hostess gift. (Adriana Janovich / The Spokesman-Review)

I try not to buy the stuff. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love it – as much for the nostalgia as the thick and creamy chocolate nuttiness.

I first tried Nutella the summer I was 17, living with a host family in the southwest of France and riding on the back of a moped to the beach almost every day.

Back then, the rich hazelnut-chocolate spread seemed like some sort of miracle product. Adding to that miracle was the fact that it was somehow considered breakfast food.

Chocolate for breakfast followed by a day at the beach seemed like heaven to teenage me. Two decades later, a tablespoonful still makes me think of that time.

These days, Nutella is now readily available in America. But I’m not 17 anymore and those 100 calories, 6 grams of fat and 10.5 grams of sugar per tablespoon seem to somehow add up faster.

Sugar is the main ingredient in Nutella, followed by palm oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals, whey, soy and artificial vanilla flavor.

Why not make your own at home? It won’t taste exactly the same or have the same consistency, but making chocolate-hazelnut spread yourself lets you control the ingredients – and maybe even get more nuttiness.

Plus, this time of year, it makes a lovely hostess gift or stocking stuffer.

Be sure to toast the hazelnuts to bring out their flavor. Removing their skins improves the texture. The first time I made the spread, I skipped that step and the final product had a bit of graininess to it – even after extra processing in the food processor.

I made a vegan version with coconut oil that tasted good – like chocolate and toasted hazelnuts – but didn’t spread as well as I would’ve liked. It was dense and lacked creaminess – and heavy cream.

Of course, I preferred the version with the heavy cream.

I won’t be having it every day for breakfast. But when I have a hankering for chocolate-hazelnut spread – and, perhaps, a side of sentimentality for those summery days at La Plage de la Madrague – I’m going to opt for the homemade version. At least, I will most of the time.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

2 cups hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed

1/4 cup powdered sugar

Pinch salt

1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

1 to 1 1/2 cups cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup heavy cream

Process hazelnuts, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor until fairly smooth, about 1 minute. Pour in melted coconut oil and 1/2 cup of cocoa powder, and process. Add vanilla and another 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and process. Whisk in heavy cream. Taste, and mix in another 1/2 cup cocoa, if desired.

Yield: about 4 cups

Note: Rubbing toasted hazelnuts together in a kitchen towel helps remove the skins.

Vegan Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

1 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skins removed

2 tablespoons agave

2 to 3 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch salt

Process nuts in a food processor until fairly smooth, about 1 minute. Add remaining ingredients and continue to blend until smooth.

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