Archive for Nutella

Nutella-Swirl Banana Bread

Nutella-swirl Banana bread

Today is the 8th annual World Nutella Day. As if I needed an excuse to eat Nutella. But if you insist, I made banana bread with a tunnel of love. The trouble with baking Nutella though, is its smoothness and flavor degenerate with heat (as evidenced in my Nutella babka). It’s also candy sweet. So I added a bit of cream for smoothness and chopped chocolate for complexity.

World Nutella Day

Mission accomplished: my cake had lava-like craters of chocolate. I ate three pieces in one sitting, and someone else ate four. It was brown and caramelly because of coconut sugar.

Coconut sugar (my favorite new baking ingredient) is a whole, unrefined sweetener from coconut nectar. It has 412 times the potassium of cane sugar and also contains magnesium, zinc, iron, and B vitamins. It has a low glycemic index too: 35 compared to agave (42) and cane sugar (68). Most importantly, it tastes good, like a tropical toasted marshmallow. You can generally substitute it 1:1 for white sugar. Just know that coconut sugar has some moisture (add more cream of tartar to meringues), and while it resembles brown sugar, the latter has more acidity (adjust leavening accordingly, or only use in place of white sugar). I dig Big Tree Farms because it’s fair trade and not diluted with other sweeteners. Find it at Whole Foods, Amazon, or Vitacost (use the link for $10 off an order of $30 or more).

Thanks to Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso for hosting World Nutella Day. For 700 more recipes, check out the website. Remember, keep calm and eat Nutella.

keep calm and carry a spoon

Nutella-Swirl Banana Bread

Rating: 51

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Nutella-Swirl Banana Bread

Inspired by The Bake Sale Cookbook by Sally Sampson and the Nutella-swirl pound cake from Cake Keeper Cakes


1/2 cup Nutella or other chocolate-hazelnut spread
2 tbsp cream
4 medium overripe bananas, the blacker the better
1 cup coconut or granulated sugar
scant 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips or finely chopped dark chocolate (60-70%)


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour a 9"x5"x3" loaf pan.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the Nutella and cream. If mixture is stiff, microwave for 10 seconds at 50% power.
  3. In a large bowl, mash the peeled bananas with the sugar. Beat in eggs, oil, and vanilla with an electric mixer on low speed.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to banana mixture and beat on low speed just until combined.
  5. Pour 1/3 of batter in pan. Take half of the Nutella and cover the batter with tablespoon-sized dollops. Sprinkle half of chocolate on top. Add 1/3 more batter and layer again with remaining Nutella and chocolate. Add the rest of the batter. Zig zag a knife through the pan (just once through, so chocolate streaks remain).
  6. If pan is more than 2/3 full, place a piece of foil below the pan to catch drippings. If pan is more than 3/4 full, prepare for major spillover or add excess to another pan.
  7. Bake for one hour, or until the top springs back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out without batter (melted chocolate may stick). Chocolate may ooze out, and center may sink when cool. Don't worry, your cake just has character.
  8. Cool and serve from pan (cake will be too delicate to unmold).

Related Links:
Homemade Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread
Pierre Herme’s Nutella Tart
Nigella Lawson’s Nutella Torte
Full Nutella Coverage

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Fancy That, It’s the 2009 Fancy Food Show

At the Fancy Food Show, virtually everything you’ve ever seen on the grocery store shelf is yours for the taking, plus unreleased products and the rarest foods: jamón Ibérico (the porcine equivalent of Kobe beef), fresh mangosteens, black garlic (I don’t know what the big deal is: it tastes like salted prunes) and crudo from David Burke Townhouse.

When I was young (relatively speaking; I’m 27), I tried hundreds of samples and had the clarity of mind to describe almost everything I ate. Clearly I’ve abused my tastebuds; this year, I got palate fatigue at sample #2. But this is what I do to in the name of research.

The Chocolate (this is what we’re here for, after all)

Amano, Domori, Valrhona and Pralus were at the top of my list in years past, and I don’t see anyone replacing them any time soon. But here’s some more standouts.

Better Than Nutella

Pralus chocolate-hazelnut spread

Chocolate-hazelnut spread is my favorite condiment, and I sought out ones that were better than Nutella and my homemade version. A half dozen of them were too sweet, resembled a ball of shortening or were just underwhelming.

The winner by far was Pralus. The deep, toasted hazelnut flavor could only be matched by their exquisite chocolate. They also debuted two single-estate Venezuelan chocolates (Sorry I can’t remember the names. Blame it on the fatigue.). One tasted like raisins, and the other had soil notes that morphed into coffee. Amazing what a couple degrees in latitude can do to chocolate. The chocolate-hazelnut spread is available at Zingerman’s and Murray’s Cheese (Greenwich Village only). They run out quickly, but I think it’s worth checking back everyday. While you’re there, also pick up the Infernal Bar, a brick of chocolate-covered chocolate-hazelnut spread.

Sunland organic chocolate peanut butter

Coming in a close second is Marco Vacchieri from Italy. The poor man’s version is Sunland’s chocolate peanut butter (a paltry $5 for top quality stuff). Because it’s made with Valencia peanuts, which are naturally sweet, there’s very little added sugar.

Top Chocolate Bars

Pacari chocolate

I actually tried Pacari last year but didn’t include them in my roundup. I’m usually not fond of Ecuadorian chocolate because it tends to be neutral. Pacari, however, is strong and fruity. They also don’t use vanilla (only the bravest chocolate makers attempt this).

Claudio Corallo chocolate

It’s one thing for a chocolate maker to personally source his beans, but Claudio Corallo is the only one I know who actually grows them. When they’re harvested, they’re fermented for nine to 17 days (instead of the usual two to seven) and not conched. Conching makes chocolate smooth, but Corallo insists that it sacrifices flavor. As a result, his chocolate is among the most complex I’ve had.

chocolate ice cream

I’m going to break the rules and promote something that’s inaccessible to 99% of the population. For the best ice cream OF YOUR LIFE, you need to get a $4,000 Pacojet, 80% Claudio Corallo chocolate and a killer recipe or pastry chef. The Pacojet makes ice cream in reverse: instead of churning a liquid base, you start with a rock-hard frozen mass, and the blades shave it till it’s literally smoother than silk. It’s eons ahead of gelato and frozen custard. The machine’s been around for 20 years. Where have I been all this time?

Some practical applications: if you know of a restaurant with a Pacojet, run there as fast as you can. And only use the best ingredients in your ice cream recipes.

Askinosie white chocolate

White chocolate doesn’t hold the same value as the dark stuff (it’s not legally chocolate anyway), but I think it’s because most people haven’t tasted good white chocolate.

Most white chocolate is made from deodorized cocoa butter, which gives the bar its characteristic paleness. Deodorizing masks inferior cacao, but you also lose subtle flavors. Even if you find white chocolate without any vegetable fat (avoid “white coating” and palm kernel oil), most likely you’re only tasting the milk and vanilla.

El Rey Icoa is made from non-deodorized cocoa butter, and it shows in the flavor. Coming in second place is Askinosie (read my review of their 70% chocolate). It’s the least sweet white chocolate I’ve had, and the goat’s milk adds a mellow note. The San Jose del Tambo with cocoa nibs is a winning combination: sweet and bitter.

Honorable Mentions

Madecasse Malagasy chocolate

Madécasse’s (aka Malagasy) entire chocolate-making process, from growing to packaging, is done in Madagascar to benefit the locals. The chocolate has a long finish and is favored by pastry chef Pichet Ong.

Ezcazu chocolate

Escazú, of Raleigh, N.C., debuted two years ago and shows promise as another small-batch chocolate maker. I’m fond of the 60% dark chocolate with goat’s milk. It has a sharp flavor, and the goat’s milk doesn’t taste like hay (in lesser brands it does, though).

Coming up in part two: everything else.

Related links:
Dispatches from the previous years’ Fancy Food Shows
How to judge cacao by its origin, and why it matters
Chocolate Show coverage

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Nutella for Nerds

Will Goldfarb

If making your own chocolate-hazelnut spread weren’t enough, check out for some molecular magic. Chef Will Goldfarb demonstrates how tapioca maltodextrin turns this creamy spread into “soil.” He also provides a recipe for a Nutella knock-off, but I like mine better. My version is healthier and uses more common ingredients.

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One Person’s Trash is Another’s Nutella Bread Pudding

Nutella bread pudding

When eating out, I am notorious for bringing home every piece of uneaten food. I’ve asked waiters to wrap cranberry compote (what else will go with leftover pumpkin pancakes?) and the bread basket. This weekend, I took home leftover bread cubes from the fondue at Artisanal. If you’re paying for quality, why let it go to waste?

Laugh all you want, but if you threw that bread in the trash, you would have missed out on Nutella bread pudding. It’s like baked French toast with swirls of chocolate. Bread pudding is perfect for stale artisanal bread, the kind that’s marked 50% off at the end of the day (although white sandwich bread will do). Hot out of the oven, you get the contrast of a jiggly, spongy bottom and a crunchy, crouton-like top. Bread pudding is also divine cold, in a cold pizza/morning hangover type of way. Not that I would know.

In New Orleans, my friend Erik spent a grueling night scrubbing burnt bread and custard off a pan because we didn’t use a water bath. At the risk of offending Erik, I never use a water bath for bread pudding at home. I like the crusty edges.

Not only is this recipe a delicious way to clean out your pantry (I used soy milk and leftover Nutella babka), but it’s low in fat, too.

Nutella Bread Pudding

Adapted from Emeril Lagasse and Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich

Oil, for greasing pan
1/4 cup Nutella
8 slices day-old crusty bread or Nutella babka (about 4 cups when cut into 1/2-inch cubes)
4 large eggs
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups milk (soy is fine)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease an 8 by 8-inch square pan with oil.

Spread Nutella on four slices of bread and top with remaining pieces of bread. Cut the sandwiches into 1/2-inch cubes.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar and vanilla until very smooth. Stir in milk and add the bread. Let the mixture sit for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until the pudding is set in the center, about 55 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Slather the top with more Nutella, if desired. Bread pudding is best hot out of the oven, or refrigerated after a day. Microwaving it makes it rubbery.

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Happy Nutella Day

World Nutella Day Today is World Nutella Day, my favorite food holiday of the year! It’s a day to cook with, eat and fantasize about chocolate-hazelnut spread. Try making your own or putting some in babka. Don’t forget to vote for my chocolate-hazelnut butter in Culinate’s Death by Chocolate contest. Everyone who votes can win a free trip for two to Napa’s Chocolate Festival on Feb. 23.

For more Nutella recipes, see the roundups, part one and two.

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Nutella Babka

Babka muffins

For years, I’ve fantasized about the perfect chocolate babka. Maybe it’s because my parents always packed me plain Cheerios and All Bran sticks for breakfast. Babka would have been out of the question. Too much chocolate. Too much sugar. Too much butter.

But anything else would be poser babka. My idea of babka involves a danish-like dough and layers of chocolate in every bite. There’s so many versions of babka, though, that it’s easy to get lost. The Russians, Polish and Jewish all have their variations. Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen pointed me to Martha Stewart’s recipe, which has 2 1/4 pounds of chocolate and 5 sticks of butter. It makes three loaves, so one loaf “only” has 3/4 pound of chocolate and a 1 2/3 sticks butter.


World Nutella DayI know I wanted chocolate and butter but not that much. I significantly reduced the butter, but to keep the dough moist and soft, I added mashed potatoes. (You can enrich any bread with mashed potatoes, as long as it’s about 1/3 the weight of the flour. Potato starch works magic in the dough.) Since World Nutella Day is Feb. 5, I attempted a Nutella babka.

This recipe is a work in progress. This potato bread version isn’t as rich as danish, but with all that chocolate, I don’t mind. If you want real babka, by all means, use 1 2/3 stick of butter (and omit the mashed potatoes.) Also, baking Nutella breaks down its smooth texture and hazelnut flavor, so the filling wasn’t quite how I wanted it.

The version pictured above was baked in muffin tins, but I recommend using a loaf pan. You want the filling to stay moist, and if it’s exposed to too much heat, it will turn grainy and possibly burn.

Nutella Babka

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 1 loaf

This babka has never-ending folds of chocolate. I like to unravel every spiral and chew through the long strip. It’s more fun to eat, and it lasts longer that way. Please excuse the funny measurements; I scaled down the recipe so it makes a more manageable amount.

For dough:
1/2 cup cooked mashed potato (see instructions below)
1/2 cup lukewarm buttermilk or potato water, 110 degrees
1 2/3 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/4 cup plus a pinch of sugar
1 large egg, room temperature
2/3 large egg yolk, room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, room temperature

For filling:
7 ounces (about 1 1/6 cup) very finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (or 6 ounces 60% chocolate and 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Nutella
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For glaze:
1 teaspoon milk
Some reserved egg from the dough

For streusel:
1/2 cup powdered sugar (or 1/4 cup granulated sugar)
1/3 cup plus 1/9 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup lightly toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

Make dough:
Peel, cube and boil (until soft) one small potato, weighing about 3 ounces, in just enough water to cover. Strain out the potato pieces and mash them with a fork. Set aside the potato and water to cool. Freeze any extra water in ice cube trays. Use potato water in place of the liquid in any bread recipe. It’ll make the dough soft and sweet.

Pour lukewarm potato water or buttermilk into a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and pinch of sugar over milk; let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk together sugar, 2/3 egg, and 2/3 egg yolk. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture, and whisk to combine.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour and salt. Add egg mixture, and beat on low speed until almost all the flour is incorporated, about 30 seconds. Change to the dough hook. Add 2 tablespoons butter, and beat until flour mixture and butter are completely incorporated, and a smooth, soft dough that’s slightly sticky when squeezed is formed, about 10 minutes.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few turns until smooth. Butter a large bowl. Place dough in bowl, and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.

Make filling and shape dough:
While the dough is rising, place chocolate and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir to combine. Stir in the Nutella until well combined.

Generously butter a 9x5x 2 3/4-inch loaf pan line with parchment paper. Beat remaining 1/3 egg with 1 teaspoon milk; set egg wash aside. Gently punch down the dough, and transfer to a clean surface. Let rest 5 minutes. On a generously floured surface, roll dough out into a 16-inch square; it should be 1/8 inch thick.

Brush edges with reserved egg wash. Crumble the chocolate filling (reserve 2 tablespoons) evenly over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border. Refresh egg wash if needed. Roll dough up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch ends together to seal. Twist 5 or 6 turns. Brush top of roll with egg wash. Carefully crumble 2 tablespoons filling over the left half of the roll, being careful not to let mixture slide off. Fold right half of the roll over onto the coated left half. Fold ends under, and pinch to seal. Twist roll 2 turns, and fit into prepared pan and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

Make streusel:
In a large bowl, combine sugar, flour, salt, hazelnuts and butter. Using a fork, stir until fully combined with clumps ranging in size from crumbs to 1 inch.

Squeeze the streusel in the palm of your hand so large clumps remain. Uncover the loaf and brush the top with egg wash. Sprinkle the streusel on top. It will seem like you have too much streusel, but pack it in there. The dough will expand later. Re-apply the plastic wrap and let stand until the dough reaches the top of the pan and is about doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Bake loaf:
Fifteen minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 350F. Bake until the top is golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaf is removed from pan), about 40 minutes. If the top browns too quickly, cover the loaf with aluminum foil.

Transfer to wire rack and cool for at least 30 minutes. Remove from pan. Serve slightly warm. Babka freezes well for up to 1 month.

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New Gianduja (Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread) Recipe

the new homemade chocolate hazelnut butter

After some teases here and there, here’s the new, improved recipe for homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread. Finally! While the original version was delicious, it tasted faintly chalky. The culprit was the powdered sugar, which has added cornstarch (to keep the sugar from caking). Unfortunately, raw cornstarch is as appetizing as raw flour.

I tried making my own powdered sugar by whizzing granulated sugar in a food processor, but it never came out fine enough. It was like crunching on sand. I even tried sweetening it with fruit paste, which split the mixture into a tough, chocolate blob and an oil slick. So that’s what happens when you mix oil and water…

It was time to go the route of the pros and make praliné (caramel powder). The combination of browned sugar, toasted nuts and cocoa powder put it worlds above Nutella. With this method, I didn’t have to add oil to make it a spreadable consistency. Not only was it healthier, but the flavors were more concentrated.

This caramel base is fool-proof. You don’t need a thermometer, and you don’t need to worry about stuff crystallizing. The finished product is so good that you’ll swear you jacked it from a French pastry chef.

For instructions, check the amended chocolate-hazelnut butter recipe.

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Serving chocolate on a Menu for Hope

homemade chocolate-hazelnut butterIf you lost out in my chocolate-hazelnut butter giveaway, here’s your second chance. I’m throwing in the aforementioned spread, plus all-natural peanut, cashew and walnut butters. Each variety is full of freshly roasted nuts and has no trans fats. How do you use them? You can make a deluxe PB&J, rich walnut pesto, pumpkin hummus or a fragrant swirl-in for coffee. Of course, you can always dip your finger in the jar, too. Don’t forget, the chocolate-hazelnut butter has a new caramelized sugar base with three times the nuts of commercial Nutella.

Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbookBecause it’s the holidays, I’m also offering another gift, the Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbook, by Dominique and Cindy Duby. These Vancouver pastry chefs are renowned for using chocolate in both the savory and sweet realm. Fueled by imagination and science, their recipes include slow-roasted salmon with cocoa muscovado consommé and milk chocolate caramel confit. The book’s stunning photography and detailed steps guide you through more than 150 recipes. It’s a must for anyone interested in unusual flavor combinations and molecular gastronomy. The Dubys’ first book, Wild Sweets: Exotic Dessert and Wine Pairings, won Best Book in the World for Food and Wine Matching from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Menu for Hope runs from Dec 10-21One or both of these prizes can be yours if you participate in Menu for Hope, an online charity campaign that Pim Techamuanvivit (of Chez Pim) organizes every year. Five years ago, the tsunami in Southeast Asia moved her so much that she had to help. She rounded up bloggers around the world and asked them to contribute food-related prizes for an online fundraiser. Every year, the prizes get bigger and better. Last year’s Menu for Hope raised $60,925 for the U.N. World Food Programme, which seeks to fight hunger worldwide.

This might be wishful thinking, but let’s see if we can raise $100,000 this year. For every $10 you donate online, you get one virtual raffle ticket toward the prize of your choice. Please remember to specify prize code UE27 for the nut butters and UE26 for the Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbook. Here’s more detailed instructions.

How to Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

  1. Pick a fabulous prize from this list. I recommend my homemade nut butters (prize code UE27) and the Wild Sweets Chocolate cookbook (prize code UE26). 🙂
  2. Go to First Giving and make a donation from Dec. 10-21.
  3. Specify which prize you’d like in the “Personal Message” section on the confirmation page. You must write in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. For example, if you want one chance at chocolate-hazelnut butter, enter “1xUE27.” Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. You can also split up your choices, so a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UE27 and 3 tickets for UE26. You would write, “2xUE27, 3xUE26.”
  4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information.
  5. Please check the box that says, “I’m happy for the page owner to see my email address…” so that we can contact you if you win. Your address will not be shared with anyone.

Check back on Chez Pim on Wednesday, January 9 for the results of the raffle.

Thanks for your participation, and good luck in the raffle!

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And the winners are…

Congratulations to Christina, Lesha and Danielle (of the food blog Habeas Brulee) for winning a jar of homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread and agreeing to “pay it forward.” Everyone who responded impressed me with their kindness. You had great charity ideas, from foregoing Christmas presents and instead giving gifts to the poor, to lending money to a mother of 11.

For those who didn’t win, here’s a second chance. Drop a donation in the Menu for Hope raffle from Dec. 10-21, and you can win your own chocolate-hazelnut spread, plus three other gourmet nut butters. Be sure to specify prize code UE27 in the comments section of the form. May the best bidder win!

And don’t worry, there will be more Pay it Forward giveaways in the future.

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Holiday giveaway: Chocolate-hazelnut spread

homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread

This December, I’m giving away three batches of homemade chocolate-hazelnut butter. You might enjoy this spread as Nutella, but mine’s more sophisticated. I caramelize the sugar and add three times more hazelnuts. If you’re looking for the recipe, the new version’s not online yet… But the basic version has gotten rave reviews.

To win, be one of the first three people to answer this question below: what’s your favorite way to use chocolate-hazelnut spread? The only thing I ask is that you pay it forward. In my version, you must promise to do a charitable act.

Some ideas: volunteer for the relief efforts in New Orleans, because it’s still bad down there. Or donate money to worthy causes, such as CulinaryCorps, UNICEF (they have programs for the cyclone in Bangladesh and the genocide in Darfur), and a Menu for Hope. Or, go green by recycling more, using compact fluorescent lightbulbs and eating less animal products. I would appreciate it if you let me know your good deed, because I love to know about random acts of kindness.

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