Don’t worry. I didn’t forget about Valentine’s Day. And I didn’t purposely ignore it, the way single women in books and movies drown their sorrows in red wine and chocolate on the Day of Love. I have two perfect Valentine’s Day recipes – shortbread hearts and miniature red velvet cakes – queued up. But then I clicked over to the New York Times site and saw that Michele Ferrero, the scion of the candy company responsible for Nutella, had died. To be honest, I’d never thought about who created Nutella. (It was, FYI, Michele’s father, Pietro, who launched the product during World War II.) And I had no idea it was manufactured by the same people behind those fancy Ferrero Rocher chocolates.
I only have one Nutella recipe on the blog, but after spending the evening in the kitchen wrestling with what thought would be cute little red velvet hearts (reality: deformed little red velvet lumps), I didn’t have the energy to pull out a recipe from my giant stack of print-outs and whip up a batch of Nutella-swirled brownies or Nutella-stuffed cookies.
Back at my computer, however, I stumbled across a folder full of pics of the chocolate-chip hazelnut cookies I’d made at the beginning of February and promptly forgot all about. I had intended the recipes for a post about my home state, Oregon, which is a major producer of hazelnuts (or filberts, as we call them). The only thing more Oregonian than a hazelnut cookie would be a hazelnut cookie with salmon icing and marijuana sprinkles. (Kidding. Just kidding. But ew.) Hazelnuts, of course, happen to be the key ingredient in Ferrero’s famous spread. And it just so happens that they’re now available in pre-chopped, ready-to-bake packages, just like pecans and walnuts have been for ages. There is nothing worse than trying to remove the skins from hazelnuts. Don’t believe what you hear about rolling boiled unts in a kitchen towel. Best case scenario, you’re left with a pile of hazelnuts with scraps of skin still stubbornly clinging to them. (I learned this the hard way in high school, while trying to make a mixed-berry pie that called for a hazelnut crust. If you can expertly strip hazelnuts of their skins without batting an eye, good for you. You’re also probably the sort of witch who can peel oranges in one long, curling strand or skin peaches in two seconds after dropping them in boiling water.) At any rate, when I saw a half-cup bag of Diamond hazelnuts at the grocery store, I knew my lazy self had to make something with these beauties.
As quick as I was to grab the hazelnuts, I came late to the Nutella Internet craze; in fact, I started baking with it about the time that the food blogosphere moved on to Biscoff cookie butter. This time, however, I can be right on time with a tribute to Ferrero, who the Times describes as “the world’s richest candymaker” (his family was ranked 30th on the 2014 Forbes list of the planet’s richest billionaires). In fact, I’ve started thinking of hazelnuts as baby jars of Nutella. After all, behind every jar of Nutella is a twisted, funky-looking filbert tree.
So here’s to enjoying hazelnut cookies. And here’s to the even greater enjoyment you’ll get from scooping a spoonful of Nutella straight out of the jar and into your mouth.