January 28, 2007

Celebrating Nutella!

Nutella and I share a very special relationship*.

No. No. NO! it's different from my relationships with Ben & Jerry, Jose and the others.

It's a deeper connection than the burning desire to bury a spoon deep within the jar, spin it around, extract it slowly and lose myself in the velvety luxury of a naked dollop of rich chocolatey goodness. It's more significant than that Zen feeling of spreading its smooth silkiness across the freshest bakery croissant, savoring the moment the two blend into rich buttery chocolate heaven across my tongue.*

You see, Dear Reader, Nutella and I share a similar genealogy, the same last name. In 1946, my immigrant grandfather had left the coal mines behind, spending most of his adult life employed by the Illinois Central Railroad. A half world away in the town of Alba Italy, my grandfather's namesake (and given the geography, likely a distant cousin, though we've never taken the time to prove it) invented a bread-spread of cocoa and hazelnut and then built a company to produce and market it. Sixty years later, Pietro Ferrero's grandchildren remain at the helm of an international organization employing over 16,000 people and still espousing his founding principles: using the highest quality ingredients and state-of-the-art technology to create unique confections and make them accessible to consumers.

Nutella debuted in the United States in the early 1960's; I came on the scene a few years later. We've kind of grown up together.

So when a couple of creative Italian bloggers declared Tuesday February 6 as World Nutella Day, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to participate.

So I pulled a jar of Nutella from my pantry. (There is ALWAYS a jar of Nutella in my pantry.) A bottle of frangelico. A couple of sheets of puff pastry from the freezer (I still have a bit of leftover puff pastry). A block of cream cheese from the refrigerator. The bananas and pears that arrived in this week's CSA box. And I began to experiment. I'm actually pretty proud of myself -- the product of my mish-mash of ingredients definitely doesn't suck.*

Banana Hazelnut Tarts

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 bananas, sliced crosswise into 1/4 - 1/2" disks
1/4 cup frangelico
4 oz (give or take) block cream cheese
1/2 cup (give or take) Nutella
2 sheets of puff pastry

Combine butter and brown sugar in a skillet, stirring over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Add banana slices, and saute until they begin to soften and brown. Carefully add the frangelico. Continue to cook until frangelico warms and sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and Nutella, blending until smooth (I used a hand mixer.)

Coat a twelve-cup muffin tin with your lubricant of choice* (I used nonstick cooking spray, canola oil or butter would also work)

Roll out puff pastry and cut into 4 inch squares. Spread 1 to 1.5 tablespoons Nutella mixture in the center of each square. Carefully move squares to muffin tin. Top Nutella mixture with a spoon or two of the bananas.

(Since I've been feeling guilty about the mini tart shells I bought last fall and have only used once, I used them instead of the muffin tins. Either would work fine.)

Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until puff pastry "puffs" and browns slightly. (when making this again I'll probably blind bake the shells first).

Cool for a few minutes before plating. Serve with frangelico sauce drizzled over the pastry.

*I can't WAIT to see the Google searches that land people on THIS post.

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Bron said...

Sorry I didn't come via google search.
I do love nutella though and your tarts look FAB, unfortunatelt hubby gives me a guilt trip everytime I buy some, he's doesn't like it, he isn't real keen on chocolate in any form :-(

Peabody said...

Holy cow those look fantastic.

wheresmymind said...

Good gracious..that is one fancy way to use Nutella!

Dharm said...

Dear Dolores!
Wow, Now I have even more of a reason to love Nutella. I grew up on the stuff myself and I was only kidding when I asked if you are related. What a story this is going to make when i tell my wife tonight...!!! :)

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

So good to see that I am after all not the biggest choco fan(atic)in the world.
For some time now I have been researching recipes and methods that would arrive me at a home-made Ferrero-Rocher, and alas! I have put all my time and pondering into practice today and made my first Ferrero-Rochers. Now if only I could post pics of them for others to awww and droole.
The wafer recipe was taken from the earliest recorded form of a wafer from the 1600's I believe. I used bottom-rounded mini muffin pans, added the liquid wafer mix and sandwiched two of these pans together and baked. Then removed one pan and continued to let the exposed waffle halfmoons get brown. Everything else came naturally. nutella in the middle, alongside a whole roasted hazelnut. tempered chocolate to glue the halfs together, let sit to cool and then covered completely again in tempered choc and rolled in chopped hazelnuts.