November is the month of holidays in Brazil and thanks to that, one of by best friends came to Paris to spend two weeks with me. Of course we had planned a few gastronomic orgies that included an obscene amount on cheese – our shared sin. French, Italian, fresh, curates, homemade, industrialised… you name it. And don’t even get me started on how she was looking forward to throw herself at a few buttery croissants filled with chocolate, not to mention the yummy patisseries with a lot of cream.
No need to explain how frustrated we were when she got here and told me she was having trouble digesting milk. But le me tell you that we were not ready to give up without a fight. We started slow… Cancoillotte, pineapple cottage, homemade goat cheese………….. till the day that she felt confident, went crazy and her body cried for help.
She is going to see a doctor and a nutritionist once she gets back to Brazil and they’ll be able to help and guide her into what she can eat, how and when. Let’s not demonise the poor milk when we don’t have to, ok? However, she’s far from home and if we can avoid the public French heath system and the stress that must be trying to reach out for travel health insurance, is better, right?
With that, we have been avoiding milk and its derivates. Instead of cheese, I made a tuna paste for her to eat on our evening snack and the hot coco was replaced for caramel tea. I made a palm heart pie with a creamy filling made with mustard instead of cream and the pasta was topped with fresh basil and parsley. So pretty and tasty that she didn’t even miss the grated cheese.
Everything was going great until that night, after dinner, when she said “I wanted to have a tiny bite of that caramel chocolate that I bought, but I’m scared”. And that’s when it hit me and I said at once: “Paulinha! Let’s buy hazelnut and I’ll make you vegan Nutella”. I have an awesome 100% cocoa powder at home and the homemade vanilla extract that a friend made for me back in Brazil. Not to mention the crave to face a new challenge.
Well, after promising the moon and stoped and wondered that, oh my, now I would have to find the hazelnuts. And that I would have to start searching for a thousand vegan Nutella recipes and that they could include weird oils and creams that I would never know how to find. But well, I had already accepted the challenge and when you’re full of good will, the universe will conspire.
I got to the farmers market on Friday and the greengrocer of the stand in front of the restaurant I work at was so happy about the gorgeous hazelnuts he got that morning. I tried one and they were delicious. (note that I’m not nuts about nuts). OMG! Do you see the cosmos sending a sign? I ordered 100g and went home so proud and happy with my small pearls.
I saw a bunch of recipes and pondered a lot. Mixed feelings of wasting the hazelnuts and, even worse, disappointing the friend. Many recipes would use boiled water instead of milk, and others suggested vegetal oils (or even coconut oil, that I think would make my hazelnut cream taste like coconut). Some used refined sugar, others demerara and a few different kinds of sugar. I got a few references and decided to get to it. All I had to do was dance to the music.
Hazelnut chocolate cream could, very well, be made from just hazelnut and chocolate, right? Jugging by the result, I would say the operation was a success. So much that this blog post imposed itself at my and I saw myself forced to share this divine gourmet experience with you.
Hazelnut and chocolate cream
2 table spoons of 100% cocoa powder
1/2 tea spoon of vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
2 table spoons of sugar
(1/4 cup of water if necessary)
- First step is toasting the hazelnuts. Put them in the pre heated oven (120°C or 248°F) for about 15 minutes. It gets easier to peel them and it also makes them release their natural oil allowing it to become a paste once you beat them – that’s what makes that hazelnut turn into a paste.
- Place the hazelnuts into a clean cloth and press it gently. The peels will loose. It’s ok if some of them stick, you just want to get rid of the excess. – In case your hazelnuts are already peel free you can skip this step, but do grill them for that’s the best way to make them release the oil.
- Now it’s time to put the hazelnuts in the food processor and beat… beat… beat… beat… be patience. At the beginning you’ll have hazelnut flour. Don’t give up. Stop the processor and mix a little. Beat again, and again, and again. Some websites say it can take up to 10 minutes for it to turn into a cream. Mine took less than 2 minutes. But I think it may vary according to your hazelnut. Trust it! Keep going until the oleaginous release all its juicy oil and turn into a smooth cream.
- Once you have the paste here’s where the fun part begins. Add the cocoa powder, the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Beat again.
- I found that the consistence was creamy enough, but, in case you may want, here’s where you add boiling water till you reach your point of perfection.
*I placed a mark on the sugar part because I’m always up for the natural flavour of food. May I suggest something? Try the cream before adding sugar. I found that the hazelnuts, vanilla and chocolate misture were more than enough. As I was making it for my friend, I added 2 table spoons of brown sugar. She likes it sweeter and, let’s face it, if you don’t overdo it, that’s quite ok. Right?