Nutella is a creamy, rich, chocolate and hazelnut spread that is popular all over the world. The first time I had it, I must have eaten a half-jar of the stuff with a whole baguette and probably would have finished off the jar if the bakery hadn’t been closed already. I would venture to say that it is more widely used outside the US than in it (possibly because of a major difference in the compositionof the US-produced Nutella and imported Nutella), which is a shame because real Nutella is a wonderful thing.
Nutella is also not exactly health food. The spread gets about half its calories from fat and, unlike peanut butter or other nut spreads, the rest is primarily made up of sugar. Fat and sugar together often taste good (especially here, where chocolate is also involved), but because Nutella happens to be one of the most perfect spreads for toast, they don’t exactly make for a balanced breakfast. As a result, I only have Nutella rarely when I can get a real – by which I mean imported – jar of the stuff.
Recently, I came across a recipe for a low fat chocolate hazelnut spreadthat sounded like it could be the answer to my breakfast dilemma – or could at least take the edge off the guilt if I decided to go back for a second slice. The spread is a lightened, homemade version of Nutella. It doesn’t quite have the ultra-creamy consistency of the original, but it is quick to make and tastes similar, with a nutty/chocolaty flavor. The spread is also not too sweet, so there is nothing to mask the natural flavor of cocoa or hazelnut. It worked out beautifully on toast spread with a little bit of butter and while I wouldn’t count on it as a full time substitute for Nutella, it’s not a bad option at all for something you can make at home to spread on crepes, bananas or to stir into oatmeal.
The recipe below calls for hazelnut meal, which you should be able to find at a natural foods store or, occasionally, in stock at Trader Joe’s. Hazelnut meal is just finely ground hazelnuts, so if you cannot find it, you can make your own by pulsing nuts in the food processor. If you’re taking this route, add in the cornstarch from the recipe below while you pulse the nuts, as it will help keep them grinding evenly and not turning immediately into a nut butter. Definitely eat the finished spread at room temperature. The flavor and consistency are the best when it is not chilled.
Chocolate Hazelnut Spread
1/3 cup hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)
1/2 cup dry nonfat milk powder
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 cup milk (low fat)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
In a medium saucepan, combine hazelnut meal, dry milk powder, brown sugar, cocoa powder and cornstarch. Add in milk and vegetable oil and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, whisking frequently, until mixture begins to thicken and just starts to bubble. Remove from heat and transfer to a heatproof container, preferably one with an airtight lid.
Cool to room temperature and, if not eating right away, store in the fridge with an airtight lid on the container.
Spread tastes best at room temperature and will keep for several days in the fridge.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups.