I cannot remember a time when I did not love Nutella, or when I tasted it for first time. It was probably as a child when we were living in Spain in 1966... before Nutella first commercially crossed the Atlantic in 1983. I am sure that there were many others who carried Nutella in suitcases, purses, backpacks on trans- Atlantic transportation of many types. The history and derivation of the name is well told in their website, its modification from its original name, pasta gianduja, based on a well loved carnival character, and its development as a chocolate substitute in Italy when cocoa was in short supply during and after WWII. I have other stories to tell of this most sublime mixture of cocoa, sugar and ground hazelnuts.
I remember standing in line for up to an hour on the Ile St. Louis at the famous store Berthillon, just to get a scoop of their incredible gianduja ice cream. The incredible smooth, cool richness of that cone of two scoops, which only tasted better after the wait on the narrow Parisian sidewalk. Somehow they maintained the intensity of the flavor during the freezing process. Even today, I can summon that taste memory...and it makes me want to go speak French, or at least french kiss!
Recently I discovered that a friend shared my Nutella fixation...and I was able to give us both a supreme Nutella pleasure. It was at the end of a dinner that I prepared at his home, multiple courses of his favorite foods, paired with fine wines. He had requested chocolate souffle as the dessert, and I proposed a Nutella sauce to be served with the souffle. By email his partner let me in on his love for Nutella. And so I determined to serve the sauce in the only way that a true Nutella nut would really appreciate: from the jar, with a spoon! And so we went around the table, each guest poking a hole in the light, fragrant souffle and spooning in their portion from the jar to enjoy in sublime combination. I am also proud to report that the host had a second souffle, with double portion of Nutella, and saved the rest for his midnight snack!
Another of my favorite ways to eat Nutella is to take a spoonful and put it into the middle of a warm yeast roll, fresh from the oven if possible, but warmed in the oven or microwave works too. This makes me think back to the breads we used to eat in Spain as a child, warm, with the chocolate and nut inside...or to the pain au chocolat, the chocolate croissants, that were my favorite when I lived in Paris.
I have also used Nutella as the filling for the middle of a rich chocolate cake, putting a thin crumb coat around the edge and then finishing the icing of the cake with chocolate ganache, the same mixture I use to make delectable chocolate truffles. In fact, the same friend is having another party this next weekend, and I am thinking that he just may be having this cake as his dessert...But he and I really know that the best way to eat the Nutella is with a spoon, in solitary pleasure, at any time of the day or night. And I know that both he and I only control our Nutella nuttiness by not having it in the house; and that we will both hope for a special gift these holidays.
Gateau Gianduja (Nutella Cake)
Bake at least two layers of your most favorite rich chocolate cake, and allow to cool.
Make at least a double recipe of ganache (check recipe from last week) and chill.
Put as much Nutella in between the layers and around the cake as you can, resisting the temptation to eat the whole jar.
Chill the cake well. Ice the cake with the ganache, warming any leftover Nutella lightly in the microwave and drizzling over the finished cake.