Oct 2, 2017

"I appeal to history," protested Napoleon Bonaparte as he was shipped off to final exile on St. Helena. History's ultimate judgment is still out on the diminutive Corsican, but I submit that from a culinary standpoint he deserves our gratitude. That's because were it not for Napoleon one of the world's greatest indulgences might never have been invented.

I'm referring to Nutella, that remarkable chocolate and hazelnut spread that  In Europe it's considered not just a food but, as one of the founders of World Nutella Day puts it, "a way of life." It's a veritable cultural icon, not unlike peanut butter in this country. (Worldwide, however, Nutella outsells all brands of peanut butter combined.)

Traditionally it's spread on bread and served as an after-school snack. 

The French love to eat it rolled up in crepes, sold on the streets at little stands characteristically decorated with distinctive Nutella jars.A couple of years ago, in celebration of Nutella, Parisians set up a temporary cafe that featured nothing but dishes made with the stuff. It was the hottest table in town, and people started lining up before 7 a.m. to get in.

Though Nutella was invented only as recently as the 1940s, its precursor, a paste made of roasted hazelnuts and cocoa powder, goes back to the 1800s — that's where Napoleon comes in. He imposed a naval blockade that made chocolate scarce in Turin, the chocolate capital of Italy, prompting local confectioners to prove that necessity really is the mother of invention by stretching their limited supplies with the region's plentiful hazelnuts. The result turned out to be addictive.

Then along came Pietro Ferrero who came up with the idea for a spreadable version of the stuff. Ultimately, he named it Nutella. Called the "good blob" by Italian food writer Gigi Padovani, people have been going, well, nuts over it ever since.

+++++Brioche Filled with Nutella+++++

Nutella is typically slathered on bread, so what could be better than a rich loaf of sweet bread with the Nutella baked right into it? This easy recipe is adapted from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.

  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoon granulated yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 12 tablespoons melted butter
  • 3 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup Nutella
  • 1 egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Mix yeast, salt, eggs, honey and butter with water in a 3-quart bowl. Mix in flour. Cover loosely and allow to rest at room temperature about 2 hours until dough rises and flattens on top. Refrigerate overnight. Dust the surface of the dough with flour. Remove one half. Shape into a ball. Roll out to a 1/4-inch rectangle, dusting with flour as needed. Spread 1/2 cup Nutella evenly over rectangle leaving a 1-inch border. Roll up from short end, seal edges, tucking underneath, elongate into oval, and place in greased 9-by-4-by-3-inch loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough. Let rest 1 hour and 40 minutes. Brush tops with egg white mixture and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes until golden brown. Cool before slicing. Makes two loaves.