Archive for Chocolate

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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Truffle Showdown: Simple is Best

chocolate truffles

At its simplest, chocolate truffle recipes are like this: Pour hot cream over chocolate. Stir. Roll into balls. Eat. If only it were that simple. Some recipes include corn syrup, butter or egg yolks for richness. There’s also the mysterious water ganache, where you combine hot water with chocolate. It breaks all the rules, since recipes warn you that one drop of water will ruin an entire bowl of chocolate. This is true, but if you have a lot of water (1 tablespoon of water per 2 ounces of chocolate), it’s not a problem. In some cases, it’s advantageous, because water doesn’t distract from the chocolate flavor like cream can.

To find the best truffle recipe for Valentine’s Day, I tested three recipes: vegan truffles adapted from Enlightened Chocolate, Alice Medrich’s truffles that started her chocolate empire, and Robert Linxe’s cream truffles (of La Maison du Chocolat, my favorite chocolate shop in New York).

The vegan truffles were six ounces of semisweet chocolate combined with 1/2 cup hot water, 1/4 cup oil (unrefined nut oil was recommended, but I used olive oil) and 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract. Since I was curious whether this water ganache thing would work, I tasted the mixture before adding the oil and vanilla. Not bad, but it was plain. After adding the rest of the ingredients, it tasted funky. The alcohol flavor from the vanilla extract lingered. Note to self: never eat “raw” vanilla extract.

Alice’s truffle recipe from Bittersweet was the richest, since it contained egg yolks and butter (but water instead of cream). It was very good, but not necessarily worth the trouble of cooking and straining the yolks.

Robert’s recipe was the simplest: pour 2/3 cup hot cream over 8 ounces finely chopped chocolate. I skipped the chocolate coating and just tossed the truffles in cocoa powder. They had the freshest and truest chocolate flavor, even though I used sub-par cream that was several months old. It just goes to show: sometimes simplest is best.

Simplest Chocolate Truffles

Adapted from Robert Linxe of La Maison du Chocolat
Makes about 60 truffles (do not double recipe)

These truffles are very soft, so store them in a cool area.

8 ounces chocolate (preferably 60% cacao)
2/3 cup heavy cream
Cocoa powder for dusting (about 1/2 cup)

Finely chop the chocolate.

Bring heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy saucepan. Make sure your pan is small, so you’ll lose the least amount of cream to evaporation, and heavy, which will keep the cream from scorching. Linxe boils his cream three times — he believes that makes the ganache last longer.

Pour the cream over the chocolate, mashing any big pieces with a rubber spatula.

Then stir with a whisk in concentric circles (don’t beat or you’ll incorporate air), starting in the center and working your way to the edge, until the ganache is smooth. Pour into an 8″ x 8″ pan lined with wax or parchment paper.

Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to hold a shape, about 1 hour.

Turn out the ganache on a cocoa-dusted cutting board. With a sharp knife, slice the ganache into half-inch cubes. Dust your palms with cocoa powder and roll the ganache balls. Toss the truffles with more cocoa powder. Shake truffles in a sieve to eliminate excess cocoa. Store in a well-sealed container.

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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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Chocolate No-Knead Bread

chocolate no-knead bread

Chocolate bread is nature’s perfect food. Bread is basic nourishment for the body, while chocolate is nourishment for the soul. Think of pain au chocolat (chocolate croissants) and chocolate toast, which prove that chocolate and dough just go together.

When I was a teenager, I saw Martha Stewart make chocolate bread from Balthazar Bakery. It was real artisan bread, not a muffin, with Valrhona cocoa powder and chocolate chunks. It sounded so naughty, yet so good.

When I moved to New York and finally tried that coveted bread, I was disappointed. While it was carefully crafted, the dough tasted bitter and wasn’t chocolaty enough for me. Fortunately, Au Bon Pain had crusty chocolate-cherry-walnut bread, and Fresh Direct distributed Ecce Panis’ bake-at-home chocolate rolls. When the rolls were fresh out of the oven, the chocolate oozed out of the feathery insides. (Note: Au Bon Pain no longer makes chocolate bread, and Fresh Direct only has chocolate bread pudding now. Boo!)

Since chocolate bread is going extinct, I compiled recipes from reputable sources, such as Balthazar, Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery, and the Institute of Culinary Education. I then made a lazy version by throwing cocoa and sugar into Sullivan Street Bakery’s famous no-knead bread recipe.

This is dessert for breakfast. I love toasting this bread, slathering on peanut butter and sprinkling bittersweet chocolate on top. The chocolate immediately melts into sweet lava. S’more sandwiches, filled with graham crackers and marshmallows, are especially good.

I realize that people are trying to eat healthily since it’s New Year’s, but this bread isn’t that bad for you. It’s low-fat, has a fair amount of fiber and has a little more sugar than commercial bread (and fortunately no high-fructose corn syrup).

For more no-knead bread, try my 100% whole wheat variation.

Chocolate No-Knead Bread

The sugar makes this bread chewy and moist, but it’s not too sweet for a good old peanut butter sandwich. If possible, use the metric measurements, as they’re more accurate.

Adapted from Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery
Time: About 1 1/2 hours plus 14 to 20 hours’ rising

2 1/3 cups (287 grams) all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup more for dusting
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (143 grams) whole wheat flour (recommended brand: King Arthur)
1/3 cup (31 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder, preferably natural process (not Dutch-processed)
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (75 g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1 gram) instant yeast (or 1/4 plus 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast*)
1 ¼ teaspoons (8 grams) salt
Scant 1 3/4 cups (387 grams) water
Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed
1 tablespoon milk, for brushing
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for sprinkling

1. In a large bowl combine the flours, cocoa powder, sugar, instant yeast, and salt. Add the water and stir until blended. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Liberally flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball. Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes. Brush the top of the loaf with milk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.

Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.


Double chocolate-cherry-walnut bread: After the first rise, pat the dough into a large rectangle on a well-floured surface. Sprinkle 1/3 cup each of good chocolate chunks; toasted, chopped walnuts; and dried cherries on top. From left to right, fold 1/3 of the dough over like a book. Fold over the other side of the dough and pat down into a tall rectangle. From top to bottom, fold 1/3 of the dough down. Fold the remaining bottom 1/3 to meet the top. Using your fingers or the heel of your hand, pinch the seams closed. Continue on with step 3 and let rise until double (it may take longer than the usual two hours, because of the weight of the mix-ins).


  • * If substituting active dry yeast, proof it in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water (reserved from the total water) for 10 minutes. Add the yeast with the rest of the water when mixing it in the dough.
  • To make a sandwich loaf, turn out the dough on a floured board after the first rise. Gently pat the dough into a 5-by-9 inch rectangle and roll up the length of the dough. Pinch the seam closed with your fingertips or the heel of your hand. Rock the dough to even it out. Cover it with an inverted mixing bowl and let rise, seam side down, for about two hours. A half hour before baking, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F, with a standard 9-by-5-inch loaf pan inside. When ready to bake, brush the pan with oil and generously dust with corn meal or wheat bran. Drop the dough in the pan, seam side up (it’s okay if it looks messy). Shake the pan to even out the dough. Brush the top with milk and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Cover the loaf loosely with aluminum foil (leave room on top for the dough to rise) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 15-30 minutes more.

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Reminder: 2 days left to win chocolate-related prizes!

cocoa nibs nougatine

Did you ever think you could make this? In Wild Sweets Chocolate, you’ll get a breakdown of the components (chocolate nut cream, chocolate sucree and cocoa nibs nougatine), plus these tempting recipes:

  • Parsnip white chocolate milk/coffee mousseline/chana cake
  • Peanut butter milk chocolate/soft peanut meringue/peanut tuile
  • Ancho truffle/balsamic cherries/crispy bacon
  • Mahi mahi with cocoa oatmeal granola, red swiss chard and cumin crunch

You have until this Friday, Dec. 21, to win this book in the Menu for Hope campaign. To refresh your memory, every $10 donation (which will feed school children in Lesotho, Africa) gives you a virtual raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. As of writing, only two tickets have been sold for this book. You have a very good chance of winning if you donate and specify prize code UE26. Did I mention that it’s valued at $40 and comes all the way from Canada?

Don’t forget, I’m also giving away all-natural, homemade nut butters (prize UE27). If you like Nutella, you’ll love my chocolate-hazelnut, cashew, walnut and peanut butters.

There’s two days left to win “free” prizes and fight world hunger. Last year, Menu for Hope raised more than $60,000 for the U.N. World Food Programme. This year, founder Chez Pim wants to raise $100,000. We’ve got $48,000 so far. We can do better than that!

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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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