When it comes to holiday goodie-giving, you’ve got the go-to regulars, like fudge and sugar cookies, and you’ve got the last-minute, like store-bought chocolate bars, but sometimes you need something impressive.  Something extra special.  Something that says, I just ground my own hazelnuts for this stuff, yo.  When I was flipping through a recent issue of Bon Appetite and came across something titled “Better-Than-Nutella” I was intrigued.  Then I saw the ingredient list and I was sold.  This stuff is crazy good, sinfully decadent, and perfectly perfect for gift giving this holiday season.    Or for stashing in the back of your fridge for midnight snack binges.  Your call.

If you can find hazelnuts without skins, buy them!  I will not try to fool you by saying it’s no big deal to remove hazelnut skins.  It’s actually one of the most annoying things ever.  However, the finished product here is so crazy good that it’s worth the labor of love.
**EDIT:  Some readers have noted this easy way of skinning the nuts.   However, others who have tried it have found that boiling the nuts sometimes removes some of the natural oils and consequently the nuts don’t reach a creamy/buttery stage.  So keep that in mind if you try it!
I recommend buying the nuts in a grocery store that sells bulk items- they shouldn’t be too expensive there.  You only need 10 ounces and they were less than $5/lb at both stores I shop at.

First thing we’ll do is toast the nuts.  Toasting brings out the oils and adds flavor and depth.  Place the nuts (skins and all) in a dry skillet or baking pan and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.

Even if your nuts have skins on them you should be able to see some of the light colored nut so you can tell when they turn toasty brown.  After they come out of the oven, let them cool completely.

If your nuts have skins on them like mine, you’ll need to remove as much of them as you can.  Put about half at a time in a dish towl and rub them around vigorously.  You can kind of make a little pouch out of the town and rub the bundle between your hands.  When you open it up you can pick out the ones where the skins fell off easily and rub away at the rest.  You might have to do this several times and you may find yourself muttering naughty words under your breath.  Keep your eye on the prize, people. (And if you missed the edit above, check out these tips for easier skin removal!)

Once those are cool, pop them in a food processor, or high-powered blender (like a Blendtec or Vitamix).  I used the new twister jar Blendtec has and it worked like a charm.  You’ll notice I didn’t remove EVERY last spec of skin from my nuts- that’s nearly impossible.  Just get off as much as you can.

Blend those nuts up with a little sugar.  At first you’ll get a crumbly mixture

And the more you blend you’ll get a nice nut-butter consistency.  The original recipe calls for granulated sugar, but I found in some of my batches the sugar left a grainy consistency, so I used powdered sugar instead and it was perfect.

 Once you blend that up, set it aside while you melt your chocolate.  Place a metal or glass bowl over a pot of simmering water to gently melt the chocolate.  If you’re careful, you could melt it in a glass bowl in the microwave as well.

Remove the pan from heat and whisk in some room temperature butter.  If you use unsalted butter you’ll want to add 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt as well.  I just use regular salted butter and add no additional salt.

Once the butter is whisked and incorporated, you’ll add in a cup of heavy cream.

You know the Mom in the Nutella commercials who tells you that it’s made with healthy ingredients like skim milk and totally part of a nutritious breakfast when spread on whole wheat toast?  Yeah, don’t confuse me with her.

Add in your nut butter and that’s it.  While it’s warm it will be a pourable consistency; pour into jars.  This makes about 4 cups, so you can get four 8-oz jars, or 8 4-oz jars.

I love Weck Jars and was happy to see them sold at World Market recently.

Once the mixture comes to room temperature it will thicken and have the consistency of peanut butter (or Nutella).

This is to be served at room temperature since it will be too hard to spread once it’s chilled.  It can stay at room temp for 4 days, but I keep it in the fridge and then bring it to room temp before serving (or warm in microwave very briefly, like 5 seconds)

The chocolate is creamy and smooth, but there are small bits from the nuts in there adding awesome texture.

This is a gloriously decadent and impressive holiday gift.  It’s yummy on toast or with dippers like pretzels or graham crackers.  If you have a Fred Meyer store (or I believe Kroger sells this label)  these little buttery cookies are amaaaazing with this stuff.



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