I think this may be the surprise dish of the holiday season.  It’s mid-December but the February issue of La Cucina Italiana magazine is already here.  And I am very glad it is!  A past issue had a recipe for Nutella Cookie Sandwiches that seemed perfect as one of our  Christmas cookies this year.   But since Nutella is not on my regular shopping list, I just keep forgetting to pick it up.   Had I not come across this recipe, the cookies would have probably fallen into the ever-growing “I thought about making” category.

And to make good things even better, I just found out that this recipe and the cookie recipe both come from Pastry Chef Karen DeMasco. I’ve been checking her out online and really like her style.  I see more of her ideas coming to town!

Gianduja is a sweet chocolate and hazelnut  invented in Turin 1852 by Caffarel Chocolate Company.  The better-known to us Nutella came into being in the 1940’s in Italy.    Nutella is good.  This is nothing short of totally amazing.  And it literally took minutes to prepare.

I bought hazelnuts already hulled from Oh! Nuts in Brooklyn.  They are cheap at $8.99/lb!  Plus they arrived in just a couple of days!  The Demerara sugar came from Atlantic Spice.  I bought it a while back with no particular plan or recipe.  I just figured I’d use it, eventually…  Around here, nothing ever goes to waste.

One note…  since I bought hulled hazelnuts I didn’t have to go through the toasting-and-rubbing, but I did put the nuts in the oven for a few minutes to warm them before making the spread.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

Demerara sugar gives DeMasco’s Gianduja its signature “bit of crunch.”  Though loose when first made, the spread can be enjoyed immediately as a dip or drizzle.  Once thickened (after 2 to 3 days at room temperature or a few hours chilled), it makes a fantastic cookie filling.  Scoop chilled spread into balls and roll in cocoa powder or dip in melted chocolate to make decadent truffles.

  • 5 ounces hazelnuts (1 cup)
  • 8 ounces good-quality milk chocolate
  • 1/4 cup Demerara sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Heat oven to 350°.

Spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet and toast until fragrant and golden, 10 to 15 minutes.  Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and rub to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that won’t come off).

While nuts are warm, combine with chocolate, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth, adding oil in a slow steady stream.

Transfer to an airtight container.  Let stand at room temperature until thickened, about 2 days.  Spread keeps in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month or refrigerated for up to 3 months.  To loosen chilled spread, heat in microwave for about 5 seconds.

And now that the gianduja is done those cookies are going to be made in the next few days.