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Paul O'Brien Winery
 
February 5, 2018 | Paul O'Brien Winery

Nutella, Italy and Oregon Hazelnuts

 

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Northwestern Italy: an Agricultural Diversity     

by Scott Kelley

My first visit to Italy started in the Piedmont region where the great Nebbiolo, Barbera and Dolcetto vines line the hillsides of Alba and Asti. While my focus was on wine, I could not help but notice the orchards of hazelnuts planted on the valley floor. They are everywhere and a big part of the agriculture of northwestern Italy. Fast forward 20years and I am now settled in Oregon where 99% of the countries hazelnuts are grown. 

I have always been fond of hazelnuts as a snack but was amazed at the diversity of uses. My wife often makes macaroons or shortbread cookies with the ground up flour, we have crusted a local Elk tenderloin with chopped hazelnuts as well as crusted halibut. However my all time favorite has to be Nutella. Chocolate mixed with pureed hazelnuts makes chocolate and peanut butter seem like yesterday's news. 

Wine grapes line the hillsides overlooking a valley of Hazelnut groves in the Piedmont region of Northwestern Italy.

Italian Nutella Crepes
by Scott Kelley

I first came across Nutella while working in Italy during the Christmas season. Every year Florence hosts an amazing Christmas market in the Piazza Santa Croce. All around the market street food vendors line up to serve the captive audience. After having a Gyro from a Turkish food cart, I happened upon a crepe maker. Standing in the cool December night I ordered up the owners favorite, his choice. He made a perfect light pancake filled with this nutty chocolatey sweet stuff called Nutella. I was hooked. To this day it is one of my favorite food memories.

Recipe: Oregon Hazelnut Nutella
by Scott Kelley

With all the local hazelnuts in Oregon, we have the opportunity to try a lot of recipes. Here is a recipe for making your own "Nutella". If you can't find Oregon grown hazelnuts I am sure it will still turn out OK, but be sure to tell your grocer they are missing out. 

INGREDIENTS

1 Cup Oregon Hazelnuts

12 oz milk chocolate, chopped

2 TBSP mild vegetable oil, such as canola

3 TBSP confectioners' sugar

1 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Salt to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 F

Spread hazelnuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and toast them in the oven for about 12 minutes, until they've browned a little and the skins are blistered a little.  Wrap them in a kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove as much loose skin as possible.  (Some skin will cling to the nuts when you're done. It's okay - not to mention inevitable.)  Let cool completely. 

Melt the chocolate in a saucepan over gently simmering water or in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.  Let cool completely.

In a food processor, grind the hazelnuts until they form a paste.  Add the oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and salt and continue processing until the mixture is as smooth as possible - or as smooth as you like.  Add the melted chocolate, blend well, and then strain the mixture to remove any chunks of hazelnut that remain.  The resulting homemade Nutella will be thin and somewhat runny and maybe even a little warm but it will thicken as it cools.

Transfer to a resealable container and let cool to room temperature.  Your homemade Nutella will keep on the counter for up to 2 weeks.

 

 

 

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