Today makes you want to sit back in your chair and say Mmmmmm. The sun is so lovely, and the chill that was in the air this morning has disappeared without a trace. It was so warm that I even took my sweater off while I was digging potatoes in the garden this afternoon, and how nice it was to feel the sunshine on my bare shoulders, knowing I might not have the chance again for many long months.
At the moment, I am sitting here sipping ginger peppermint tea – trying to allay the excessively sated feeling in my belly brought about by chocolate hazelnut butter overindulgence. I knew I was in trouble when I scraped the finished butter into a jar and had considerably less than I was supposed to (I didn’t lick the spoon that many times did I?).
But besides the feeling that my stomach may explode at any moment, it really was worth every bite. The toasted crunch of roasted hazelnuts and cocoa nibs, the smooth bittersweetness of melted dark chocolate, the sweet ambrosia of honey and a pinch of sea salt, and you have something which is a work of art – a perfect melding of earthy nuttiness with sweetly decadent abandon. Slathered onto a crisp sliced pear, I think you be hard pressed to find a more perfect afternoon treat.
And, despite all of its decadence, it manages to be quite healthy as well. The hazelnuts are packed full of healthy fats (including omega 3s) as well as providing B vitamins, Vitamin E, and calcium, magnesium, potassium and iron. The cocoa nibs are very high in minerals as well (iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc and selenium), provide a good deal of protein and dietary fiber, and are just brimming with antioxidant flavanoids. (I’m feeling slightly better already!) What a great vehicle for delivery of so many healthy nutrients.
As a slight tangent, it’s interesting to note that in Celtic mythology, the hazel tree is known as the tree of knowledge, and each omega 3 rich hazelnut (omega 3’s being very important for brain health) was believed to hold all the knowledge of the world. So how poetic it is to combine this little nut of earthly wisdom and brain food with the divine splendor of chocolate, the food of the God’s, with it’s brain stimulating alkaloids and neuroprotective flavanoids. Honestly, I think chocolate and hazelnuts are meant for each other.
Here is my recipe. You do have my fair warning, though: keep track of your spoon lickings and bowl scrapings or you’ll end up like me, holding your belly and moaning, stopping only after the spoon is wrestled from your grasp and the jar forcibly removed from the tight grip of your sticky, chocolate stained fingers. It’s that good.
Chocolatey Hazelnut Butter
- 1 1/2 cups hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup cocoa nibs
- 1/3 cup raw honey
- 2 oz dark chocolate (60% or higher)
- 1/4 cup toasted hazelnut oil
- 1 teaspoon Celtic sea-salt or Fleur de sel (be extravagant, a good salt imparts so much)
1. Place the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet, and roast in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, until slightly browned, fragrant and crunchy. (Roasting hazelnuts is one of my top favorite smells). Be sure to jiggle the pan from time to time to prevent burning.
2. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler.
3. Place all of the ingredients except for the oil in a food processor or blender. Process well, adding the oil in tablespoon increments until the butter reaches the consistency you would prefer. I like a crunchier, thicker butter with little bits of nut still present – but if you want a smooth nutella like consistency, you’ll have to add more oil. I actually made two versions – 1 crunchy and 1 smooth, to satisfy the different nut-butter style preferences of the house.
4. Scoop the butter into a jar with a tight fitting lid, and store in the fridge, where the butter should keep at several weeks, if it lasts that long.