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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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Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America 2012

Sometimes I’m a glutton for punishment. Last night, Dessert Professional presented the 19th annual Top 10 Pastry Chefs in America awards. This ain’t no Oscars, where you sit back and clap; you get to eat all the creations. Since they’re overachievers, some chefs presented more than half a dozen desserts. It was enough to make the biggest sweet tooth go rabid.

Indeed, that happened. Guests crowded around a server carrying savory food, toppling h’ordeuvres over the poor guy. This was my version of a wild night. And I’m thankful some familiar faces joined in the debauchery: Robyn and Max from Serious Eats (two sweet people), fellow dessert nerd Niko from Dessert Buzz, Kempie from Gourmet Live, Melissa from The Spatula Queen, and Kirsten from the Food Network.

Here’s tasting below (several desserts were so complicated they were only known by their components). Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Marc Aumont, The Modern, NYC

The pistachio cake with milk chocolate layers was an architectural wonder, each layer giving way to contrasting textures.

The citrus(?) “boats” with cream and crispy shells offered a tart contrast to other rich desserts. The space-age caramel verrines in the back faded in my memory. Too “ordinary.” Ha!

Aumont’s assistant has a death-grip handshake.

Sally Camacho, WP24, Los Angeles

A complicated contraption of sorbet, cookie crumbs, chocolate cream, and mango-passionfruit jelly, and lychee-passionfruit sorbet

Craig Harzewski, Naha, Chicago, IL

Milk chocolate complexite, molten milk chocolate beignets, pinot noir, and cocoa.

Nathaniel Reid, Norman Love Confections, Naples, FL

Petit pastries

Sandro Micheli, Daniel, NYC

Deceptively simply looking, this almond dacquoise, milk chocolate parfait, salted caramel tuile was my favorite. It struck the right balance of textures and flavors.

Chris Hanmer, The School of Pastry Design, Las Vegas

Refreshing tapioca, pineapple confit, lime, passion and mango cremeux, and lime coconut creme. Complete with a syringe.

Angela Pinkerton, Eleven Madison Park, NYC

Lavendar meringue with cocoa sorbet and orange

Damien Herrgott, Bosie Tea Parlor, NYC

Mini pastries infused with tea and macarons

Christina Tosi, Momofuku Milk Bar, NYC

Tosi’s desserts are satisfying the way bar food is: fiendish and salty. The pretzel and chocolate chip cake truffles overpowered me last night, but they’re suited for a late-night snack.

The 10th chef, whom I sadly have no pictures of, is Jean-Marie Auboine of Jean-Marie Auboine Chocolatier, Las Vegas.

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New Favorites from the Fancy Food Show

It’s been a while, but here’s another list of my favorite finds from the Fancy Food Show. Look for these up-and-comers at a store near you.

Askinosie chocolate-hazelnut spread

Askinosie’s Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

No matter how hard I try, I could never produce this spread at home (even though I have an excellent recipe for a Nutella knockoff). The hazelnuts are a rare variety from Washington, known as DuChillys (pictured). Because of their oblong shape, you might mistake them for almonds. But once you taste their sweet flesh, you won’t forget them. The hazelnut butter, cocoa powder and nibs (from the Philippines), and organic sugar are mixed in a melanger for nine days. It tastes fruity (like raspberry) and is worth every penny. $13 for 6.5 oz, available at

Comptoir du Cacaco little crusties

Comptoir du Cacaco flaky pralines

Comptoir du Cacaco

Comptoir du Cacao, a family-run chocolate factory in France, is finally coming to the states. I first tried their products in 2007, during an otherwise bum year at the Chocolate Show. I’ve been dreaming about them ever since (they weren’t available via mail order). Their signature “flaky pralines” contain nuts and/or caramel that are finely ground with single-origin chocolate. The texture’s like a Kit Kat to the nth degree. I also love the “little crusties,” which come in dark chocolate with candied oranges, chocolate-hazelnut with salted butter caramel, and white chocolate with coconut. Visit for more info.

Zingerman's Zzang Original candy bar

Zingerman’s Candy Bars

Zingerman’s, the famed specialty-foods store in Ann Arbor, Mich., has made candy bars for several years, but they started their dedicated candy business a year ago (which means wider distribution). Each bar is made when it’s ordered, and stores can only display them for 60 days. The freshness, as well as the high quality ingredients (Valrhona chocolate, for instance), is evident when you taste the bars. The Zzang Original is what a Snickers was meant to be: crunchy nuts, soft nougat, and not too sweet. About $7 each, available at specialty stores and

La Tourangelle oil

La Tourangelle Oil

This California-based company makes some of the most intensely flavored oils I’ve tried. I wouldn’t recommend baking with them (the heat will destroy the delicate flavor), but try using it in homemade chocolate-hazelnut spread, or drizzling it on vanilla ice cream. My favorites are the pecan and sesame oils (custom made from Japan, and the seeds are roasted at a low temp so they don’t burn). From $8.99 for 8.5 oz, available at specialty stores;

Raw IceCream

Talk about a conversation killer. Just say the words “raw” and “vegan,” and people will run away from you. But wait, I promise this tastes just as good as traditional ice cream. I asked them how in the world they get it smooth instead of grainy, and they aren’t talking. All I know is that they use cashews, coconut, agave nectar, cocoa butter, vanilla beans, salt, and other ingredients based on the flavor. The company is truly eco conscious, making carbon neutral and compostable packaging. Available at specialty stores in New York;

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Menu for Hope Winner

Wow, where has the time gone? Last Dec. I offered some of my favorite chocolate for a great cause. The winner was chosen on Jan. 18. Congratulations…Tracy Wang! Please contact me, and your chocolate will be on its way. Thank you for the reminder, Pim! And sorry everyone for being delinquent.

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Menu for Hope extended till 12/31

Merry Christmas/happy holidays, everyone! The Menu for Hope campaign is extended till New Year’s Eve. Every $10 donation to the World Food Programme enters you to win some outrageous chocolate (code UE18) or other prizes, if you choose.

Please donate today!

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Menu for Hope VI: Win Amano Chocolate

Menu for Hope VI

It’s my favorite time of year, when we remember our blessings and indulge in gifts! For me, the Menu for Hope charity campaign represents the spirit of the holidays. The idea is simple: for each $10 you donate, you’ll get one virtual raffle ticket toward the food-related prize of your choice. This year, bloggers are again raising money for the the UN World Food Programme, the world’s largest food aid agency.

Amano chocolate

For the campaign, I’m offering some of my favorite chocolates in the world. Amano is a small-batch chocolate maker in Orem, Utah, yet it holds its own against the heavy hitters (such as Valrhona). The cacao beans are carefully sourced and processed, resulting in incredibly complex chocolate. You can taste notes of lapsang souchong, lavender, and cinnamon. No kidding! Amano has donated four bars each of

the 70% limited edition Montanya, 70% Dos Rios, and 70% Guayas
the 70% Montanya, 30% Ocumare, and 30% Jembrana.

Winner’s choice! All together that’s 12 bars. If you’re having difficulty choosing, the first set is for traditionalists; the second is for those who like the creaminess of milk chocolate and the complexity of dark. Personally, I wish I could win the all-dark set. Please remember, this is prize # UE18.

Here’s how to win:

  • Browse the tempting list of prizes at Chez Pim.
  • Donate to the campaign at First Giving.
  • Each $10 you donate will count towards one raffle ticket for a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form. You must write-in how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code. For example, a donation of $50 can be five tickets for UE18. Please write, “5xUE18.”
  • If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.
  • Please allow us to see your e-mail address so that we can contact you if you win. Your e-mail address will not be shared with anyone.
  • Check back on Chez Pim on Monday, January 18 for the results of the raffle. Good luck!

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Amano Chocolate Winner

Hey everyone, thanks for entering the Amano chocolate giveaway! I enjoyed reading your responses, especially all the nice things you’re planning to do. The winner is…Ling Ling. Congratulations! The chocolate’s in the mail.

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Amano Chocolate Giveaway

Amano Ocumare 30% milk chocolate
Photo: Amano Chocolate

If you only associate American chocolate with gritty Hershey’s bars, you’re in for a big surprise. One of my favorite chocolates in the WORLD is made on a mountain top in Orem, Utah. When Amano debuted two years ago, they only made 70% chocolate, but the bars differed radically because of where the cacao was grown.

Now Amano is making “dark” milk chocolate. This is not your mother’s candy bar. In the U.S., milk chocolate only needs a minimum of 10% cacao solids; Amano’s is 30%. As a result, you have the creaminess of milk chocolate and the complexity of dark.

Amano’s PR people are offering three of their newest bars for free. You can win the limited edition 70% Montanya (notes of grass, apricot kernels and toasted marshmallows), 30% Ocumare (notes of coffee and peaches), and 30% Jembrana. All together, they’re worth $22.

To enter the giveaway, please pay it forward: promise to do a good deed (we’re working with the honor system here) and tell me what kind of chocolate you crave most (milk, dark, or white) in the comments below. Contest ends Fri., Oct. 30 at 9:00 PM EST, just in time for Halloween!

Related links:
How to judge chocolate based on its origin
First impressions of Amano
Amano website

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The 2009 Fancy Food Show, Part 2

One month ago, I promised to share more of my favorites from the Fancy Food Show. I don’t have an excuse for the delay, unless you count the many distractions I’ve had: a box of Parisian chocolate and three Amano bars (more on that later). Here are the last items that caught my eye.

Best Brownies

peanut butter brownies

New York City’s Peanut Butter and Co. is best known for its natural peanut butters. Here they branch out with a boxed mix. I normally bake from scratch, but these are just as good, and you can’t beat the rich peanut butter taste. Recommended for all baking phobes.

Best Confections

Amella caramelsPhoto: Amella

Amella cocoa butter caramels have unique flavors (carrot cake, black forest and passion fruit), and the packaging is beautiful. The true test, though, is the flavor: the black forest tastes like fresh cherries, and the texture is smooth and lingering.

Best Energy Bars

Element Bars - energy bars

Element Bars lets you customize your energy bars with a variety of fruits, nuts and grains, and it doesn’t taste like medicine. I suspect it’s because the default mix contains whole soybeans rather than soy protein isolate. Nutritionally, it’s like comparing white sugar to a piece of fruit. Soy protein isolate is processed at high temperatures (which renders most of the protein ineffective) in an alkaline solution, then an acid wash, and lastly neutralized in an alkaline solution. Appetizing, huh?

Best Coffee Cake

Jennifer’s Kitchen, a startup from Indiana, makes super moist coffee cakes, but the best part is all the crunchy streusel. 10% of each purchase goes toward a non-profit organization. Sorry, no pictures, although their site has lovely ones.

Related links:
Dispatches from the previous years’ Fancy Food Shows
Make your own energy bars: Chocolate-date “Larabars”

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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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