Nutella: The duct tape of dessert condiments
Oh, good Christ, how I love Nutella. The creamy hazelnut and chocolate spread has a hold over me like no other. It is ambrosia. The gods smile down on me every time I scoop its velvety goodness onto whatever edible item I have in hand. I must lick the utensil afterwards lest I displease them; it shan’t go to waste.
I thought this delicious concoction came into being in the 1960s. No, it turns out the Italian food company Ferrero took an existing food and formulated it into their own proprietary recipe. Gianduja is a sweet chocolate containing hazelnut paste and was invented in Turin, Italy back in the 19th Century. They duped us with the Shroud, but appeased us with the inspiration for . . . the Nutella. You are forgiven.
Once I became ultra-health conscious, I stopped worshiping at the Church of Nutella because of its unfortunate ingredient: Hydrogenated oil. That stuff is just bad news. In 2005 I spent a month in Italy and was ecstatic to discover that the version of Nutella there was sans trans fat. I had a jar available at all times during my stay there. When I got back to the States, I would occasionally check the label to see if they had caught up with Europe in their ingredients. I believe the gods acknowledged that I was devoted to the cause, because eventually, my prayers were answered. Truth be told, I am not sure what the replacement—modified palm oil—really is. While not necessarily a euphemism for a similar process to what makes hydrogenated oil so damaging, albeit delicious, I suspect there are still some unknowns swimming around in there. No matter, I will bask happily in ignorance until some scientific research disenchants me.
Okay, enough with the history. Let me discuss the ways Nutella exponentially improves desserts. Apparently, Europeans like to spread it on their morning toast. Meh. As much as I love chocolate, for me it is meant as a dessert or snack, not the first meal of the day. That said, it is delicious on a sweetened bread, such as cinnamon raisin, especially so when toasted. Waffles and pancakes aren’t just for breakfast anymore when slathered with Nutella. Crepes? There is nothing quite so rapturous as slicing your fork into that light and fluffy cocoon to watch the chocolate river flow out onto the plate.
Those are obvious pairings with Nutella, but what does one do when met with a mediocre confection? Always, always have a jar on hand for those little emergencies. I would not be surprised to find a small one stashed in Batman’s utility belt. You never see him eating, but crime fighting is a serious calorie-burner, and requires refueling. Energy bars are bland, but dip them in Nutella? Well, I have not tried it, but I trust it would improve the flavor and potency greatly, and turn a utilitarian food into a treat.
Anyway, just to reiterate: Adding Nutella makes a dessert more decadent. Case in point. I got these packaged chocolate tarts from World Market. I was expecting a worthwhile investment; what I got was a dry pastry with a micro-thin layer of chocolate. Even heating them could not salvage these things, while technically tasting okay, they made me hiccup as I tried to choke them down. Bam! Out came Nutella to the rescue. A generous heaping on the tart was all it took to make those babies eagerly slide down my gullet. I couldn’t wait for the next bite.
Whole Foods has these Italian lemon cookies called pizzelles. They are glorified communion wafers. They are fairly edible and low in calories and carbs, but they are boring. Boom! A glob of Nutella did those suckers more justice than they deserved. The Nutella gods showed their compassion.
Here is a list of other items that cry for Nutella: Girl Scout cookies; biscotti; pound cake; angel food cake; rolled wafer cookies—any cookies really; dessert shells; filo dough . . . do I really need to continue this list?
Nutella can also make something that stands extremely well on its own, better. Observe, the Cadbury crème egg. This little nugget of heaven seems to be about the perfect candy, correct? I thought so too, until Nutella came into the equation. “But,” you may respond, “dipping a crème egg into a jar of Nutella would be just too much for me! I’d go into a diabetic coma for sure!” No, it does not have to end that way. I merely suggest that you replace the “egg” filling with Nutella. “How can I do such a thing? It is impossible!” you might say. It is not, I assure you, with a food syringe and patience. Simply poke a hole into the egg, place the syringe in that hole, and pull the plunger to extract the filling. Do this until only a chocolate shell is left. (What you do with the discarded filling is really your business). Then, do the reverse process and fill the egg with Nutella. Voilà! I challenge anyone, after that undertaking, to set aside the super crème egg to have sex. It must be eaten right then, and after the last morsel is savored, you will luxuriate in the afterglow. Think about it.
As with duct tape, I have not found Nutella’s Kryptonite. It appears to be awesome with just about anything. In the name of science, however, I will continue my research to find it.