Crostata alla Nutella

Today’s recipe is an tribute to Nutella, that delicious, chocolate-hazelnut spread meant for kids but secretly loved by adults, too.

Crostata alla Nutella

Nutella was originally a solid chocolate and hazelnut creation, and later a spread named Supercrema, created in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, founder of the Italian chocolate company Ferrero.  At that time, cocoa was difficult to obtain due to rationing during World War II.  Hazelnuts, however, were abundant in his hometown of Alba in the Langhe region of Italy, and in a case of necessity driving ingenuity Ferrero stretched his chocolate recipe by incorporating them.  Nutella as we know it was created in the 1964s by Ferrero’s son, Michele, who envisioned a product that could be sold worldwide.

Crostata alla NutellaIn the 1970s when Stefano, his brother Marco and his sister Debora were growing up, Nutella was a special treat.  Their mother, Maria, bought it every once in a while and spread a paper-thin layer onto fette biscottate or even better yet a piece of crusty bread as an after school snack, and when she wasn’t looking, they would sneak spoonfuls of Nutella straight from the jar.  At that time, Nutella was sold in glass containers with cartoon characters screen-printed onto them.  Once the Nutella was gone, the container could be washed and used as a drinking glass.  As children, Stefano, Marco and Debora each had their own designated Nutella glass in the cupboard.

Crostata alla Nutella

Over time, hundreds of desserts featuring Nutella have been created.  One of the most simple, and a favorite in our household, is crostata alla nutella.  This is a variation of the classic Italian jam crostata, or crostata alla frutta, and it uses the same short-bread style crust as torta della nonna.  We often make it as a children’s dessert to accompany a more sophisticated dessert for adults, and it never fails that the grown ups grab a slice, too.

Crostata alla Nutella

Torta alla Nutella
for a 9″-11″ tart pan

Ingredients
200 g (1 and 1/2 cup) flour
80 g (1/3 cup) sugar
80 g (5 and 1/2 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 pouch of Pane Angeli lievito per i dolci, or 2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
Zest of 1 lemon
One small jar of Nutella (13 oz. or 400 g)

Directions
Prepare the pasta frolla short-bread crust by placing the flour onto a firm, smooth work surface, or into a large bowl.  Add the sugar and pane angeli or baking powder, and mix.  Gather the dry ingredients into a mound and form a well in the middle.  Add the egg, cubes of butter and lemon zest, and working quickly with your fingers, work the wet ingredients into the flour mixture.  Mix by hand until the dough forms a homogenous, smooth ball.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Crostata alla Nutella

Preheat the oven to 350° F (180° C), and butter and flour a 9-11 inch or 26-28 cm. fluted-edge tart pan.  If you cannot find a tart pan, a round spring-form pan or a pie plate, will also work, although it is helpful to have a pan with a removable bottom.

Take 1/3 of the dough and set it aside.  You will use this later for the lattice on top.  Roll out the remaining 2/3 of the pasta frolla and lay it into the tart pan, pressing the bottom and sides tightly against the edges.  Spread the Nutella smoothly onto the crust.

Crostata alla Nutella

Roll out the remaining dough, and cut strips that are about 1/2″ or 1 cm. wide.  You can use a fluted pastry cutter to make pretty edges if you have one.  I was cooking in my mom’s kitchen and did not have mine with me, and as you can see straight edges work just fine, too.  Arrange the strips of dough on top of the crostata in a lattice pattern, and pinch the edges together.

Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.  Take care to not burn the Nutella.  Let cool, and enjoy.

Crostata alla NutellaCrostata alla NutellaCrostata alla Nutella

Cioccolata calda

There’s hot chocolate, and then there’s Italian hot chocolate.

The first time you taste an Italian hot chocolate, or cioccolata calda, you will be amazed by its dense, creamy texture and its deep, rich chocolate flavor.  Far from the watery, pale hot chocolate of many parts of the world, the Italian version is rich, velvety and creamy.  It’s the Maserati to our Chevrolet.  The Ferragamo to our Eddie Bauer.  The Caffe Illy to our Folgers.

It all starts with high quality ingredients – real dark chocolate, cocoa powder, sugar, whole milk.  A touch of cornstarch renders it thick and creamy.  The version below is intentionally light on sugar, to let the deep chocolate flavors resonate.  With a dollop of whipped cream, we think it is perfect.   But if you prefer it more sweet, add up to double the sugar.  You can also add a dash or two of cinnamon, or red hot chili powder for heat.  For an adult version of cioccolata calda, try it with a shot of dark rum.

It’s a perfect treat to make for your loved ones, on Valentine’s Day or any other day.

Ingredients
for two mugs

50 g (approx. 2 oz or 4 Tbsp) dark chocolate*
25 g (approx. 1 oz or 2 Tbsp) unsweetened cocoa powder
25 g (approx. 1 oz or 2 Tbsp) sugar**
10 g (approx. 1/3 oz or 2 1/4 tsp) cornstarch
500g (2 cups) whole milk

*We used Ghirardelli Intense Dark Midnight Reverie, with 86% Cacao.  Any dark chocolate of your choice will work, however.

**Add up to 50 g (2 oz. or 4 Tbsp) of sugar for a sweeter beverage.

Directions
Unwrap the dark chocolate and place it into a food processor.  Pulse the chocolate repeatedly until it is finely ground.  Set aside.

Add all of the dry ingredients to a small mixing bowl and stir together.  Warm half of the milk in the microwave.  Add the warm milk one tablespoon at a time to the cocoa-sugar-cornstarch mixture, stirring well so as to prevent lumps from forming.  Slowly incorporate all of the warmed milk into the dry ingredients.

Pour the remaining milk into a saucepan and place it on the stove over medium heat.  Add the milk and cocoa mixture, and then the ground dark chocolate.  Stir continuously with a wire whisk until it thickens and boils.  Let it boil for 1 minute, and then remove from heat.

Serve hot with a dollop of whipped cream.

Download a pdf copy of Cioccolata calda