You have to applaud the marketing efforts of Nutella. Nutella is, as the box proudly proclaims, little more than sugar and a mix of hazelnuts and cocoa. Indeed, the first ingredient listed is sugar. Owing to its healthy mix of hazelnuts, the spread also has its share of fat. And yet, Nutella is branded as a necessary component of a balanced breakfast – as if it contained some vital, indispensable nutrients. In almost all of its marketing literature, Nutella is featured at the breakfast table.
In fairness, Nutella does not advocate downing spoonful after spoonful of its spread. Instead, the company notes that without Nutella, you might forego that piece of otherwise boring whole wheat toast. In that respect, Nutella is not the healthy breakfast, but the enabler of the healthy breakfast – the small, gentle push you need to eat your whole grains and drink your skim milk.
And in some respects, that argument makes sense. If you have to spread something on your whole grain toast, it might as well be Nutella – as opposed to butter, cream cheese, peanut butter, or the super-sugary jams and jellies found in today’s supermarkets. Nutella on toast is also infinitely better than the boxes of sugar flakes otherwise known as children’s cereals, sugar boxes which have, at various times, been blessed with the “Smart Choice” seal of approval.
For some American consumers, this argument does not fly. One American woman has sued the makers of Nutella for deceptive advertising, seeking a corrective advertising campaign.
In Europe, though, no one is questioning Nutella’s place at the table. When I lived in France, the spread was as ubiquitous as peanut butter, and came in all places and shapes. I found it in convenience stores, restaurants, and school cafeterias. I found it in giant restaurant-size tubs, smaller household containers, and even 1-ounce “to go” packets, perfect for packing into a small lunch bag. Finally, I also found it, quite frequently, on my plate!
To avoid the breakfast debate, but still savor the wonderful taste of Nutella, I suggest these hazelnut cookies with Nutella spread.
CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT SHORTBREAD COOKIES
Recipe adapted from Ina Garten’s How Easy is That?
PREP TIME: 1 hour
DOWN TIME: 1 hour
COOK TIME: 25 minutes
YIELD: Makes about 24 cookies
WHAT TO GRAB:
½ cup whole hazelnuts
12 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup vanilla-sugar
2 teaspoons almond extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
2 to 6 ounces low-fat milk
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Roast the hazelnuts at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Allow to cool. Once cool, crush or pulse them, so that they are finely ground.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Stir in the almond extract and 2 ounces of milk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. Working in batches, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Add the hazelnuts and mix until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and crumbly, add a few more ounces of milk. You want the dough to be dry, but not so dry that pieces are crumbling and breaking off. Dump the dough onto a floured board and shape into two disks. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the first disk from the refrigerator. On a floured board, roll the disk so that it is ¼-inch thick. You do not want the dough too thick or the cookies will be very hard. Using a 3-inch fluted cutter, cut as many rounds as you can from the dough. Shape the scraps into a ball and re-roll the dough. Once again, cut as many rounds as you can from the dough using a 3-inch fluted cutter. If you want, re-roll the scraps one final time, cutting the dough with a 2 ½ –inch cutter. Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Using a ½-inch cutter, cut a small circle out of the middle of half of the cookies. Repeat this process with the second disk of dough. Chill the rounds in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes, until the edges of the cookies begin to brown. Allow the cookies to cool to room temperature, then generously spread the Nutella on the flat side of each cookie (those without the hole in the middle). Make a sandwich using the cookies with the cutout. Finally, lightly dust the tops of each cookie with confectioners’ sugar. Serve!