Nutella Day: February’s Holiday of Happiness

World Nutella Day 2013

Our Nutella Day loot: Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprint cookies, Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcakes with Nutella frosting and Nutella Banana Bread.

It’s official. I have a new favorite holiday. Forget soon-to-be-wilted flowers, overpriced “romantic” dinners or pre-fabricated heart-shaped chocolates. This holiday is frill-free, 100 percent authentic and celebrates the one love who is by my side no matter which country I happen to be gallivanting off in. Therefore, from here until eternity, my February celebration of amor will take place on February 5th, World Nutella Day.

My unwavering (and slightly obsessive) love for Nutella was kindled 2010, between two golden Maria cookies. If peanut butter’s soulmate is jelly, then Nutella’s media naranja is Marias, those lightly honeyed biscuit-like creations that waver mid-way between cookie and cracker and were undoubtably put on this earth to squish together into heaping Nutella sandwiches.

Before I dive into describing (with recipes of course!) our Nutella-filled delectables, I must first quell any notions that the perfection that is Nutella can be substituted for any of the array of it’s “chocolate-hazelnut spread” impostors. Here in Galicia, there are many who claim that the Spanish version of Nutella, called “Nocilla,” is actually better than it’s Italian original. False. Whereas Nutella captures the perfect balance between the sweet richness of chocolate and the smooth creaminess of hazelnut, Nocilla punches you in the tongue with a mouthful of bitter chocolate doused in sugar and bearing only traces of the deep flavors of roasted hazelnuts. Splurge for the original, buy true Nutella.

Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprint Cookies

Happiness is devouring one these beauties fresh out of the oven, when the Nutella topping is ever-so melty and the chocolatey centers are ever-so gooey.

When the internet joyously informed me that five years ago a group of geniuses had created a day to savor and celebrate this godly gift to man, I immediately began the hunt for the most scrumptious recipes to pay a proper tribute to my favorite midnight (and midday and midmorning) snack.

The first contestant was a recipe I’ve been dying to recreate ever since my boss at ABC brought in a baggie of these little bites of bliss two years ago. When I first bit into The Washington Post’s Salty Chocolate Nutella Thumbprints my tongue was immediately engulfed in the rich bitterness of dark chocolate cocoa, followed by the smooth nuttiness of the Nutella topping. With one bite they replaced 21 years of love for Quaker’s Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies and became my new favorite cookie. And that was before I tasted them in their warm, gooey, melty straight-out-of-the-oven state. (Recipe below)

Espresso Nutella Cupcakes

The subtle coffee flavor in these cupcakes melds magnificently with their purely Nutella frosting!

Our next Nutella-day discovery comes from the oh-so-appropriately titled blog “FuckYesNutella” where Kassandra and I discovered “Drunken Devil’s Food Espresso Cupcakes with Nutella Filling.” While deliciously combining my two loves (Nutella and coffee) this recipe also allowed us to add some Galician flare to our Nutella Day celebration: some locally-made coffee liquor (a scrumptious product that Galicia is known for). These are the first completely from scratch cupcakes I’ve ever attempted and (with Kassandra’s help) they turned out mar-vel-ous! Thanks to my mom for her perfectly-timed package containing the festive cupcake holders and heart decorators! Get the Recipe here.

Nutella Banana Bread

Y.U.M. Nutella Banana-y goodness makes for an ideal breakfast.

The final addition to our Nutella Day celebration was our attempt at an alternative to the serious richness of our first two desserts: Nutella Banana Bread. After all, next to Maria cookies, bananas are Nutella’s best sidekick. The best part about this bread (besides how positively tasty it is) is the awesome art project it allowed me to create in the pan. Half the batter is a chestnut brown from the Nutella while the other half is golden from the bananas. The two halves are swirled together, dollop by dollop, to make this totally tasty breakfast bread! Get the recipe here.

In our attempt to share Nutella Day joy, Kassandra and I baked about 6 dozen cookies, two dozen cupcakes and one heaping loaf of bread to spread around our small town of Sarria. The cookies that survived to be baked (holy Nutella the dough is delicious) disappeared almost instantly in our respective teacher’s lounges. The cupcakes were devoured largely by friends and the bread was nabbed for breakfasts and for one friend who claimed it was her favorite Nutella Day offering. Without a doubt, though, it was the cookies that took the cake, forcing me to attempt to translate the American recipe into Spanish. Here it is, in both English and Spanish!

Salty Chocolate Nutella Tumbprints 

(courtesy of The Washington Post)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (10 ounces) flour
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3.2 ounces) natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at a very soft room temperature (see headnote)
  • 1 1/3 cups (9.3 ounces) sugar, plus 1 cup for finishing the cookies
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Nutella (or slightly more)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone liner.

Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder and salt in a small bowl.

Combine the butter and 1 1/3 cups of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer. Beat for about 2 minutes on low speed, until fluffy, then add the egg yolks, cream and vanilla extract; beat on low speed until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until just incorporated.

Place the remaining cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.

Scoop 30 to 35 heaping tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheets. Shape each mound of dough into a ball, then roll it in the remaining sugar to coat evenly. I prefer to dip only the tops of the cookies in the sugar. Space the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets, then use your thumb to make an indentation in the top of each cookie, gently flattening the cookies a bit as you work.

Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes or until the edges are just set; the tops of the cookies will be soft. I baked mine for 8 minutes and they turned out perfect! Just the right level of softness and no dry edges. (If the indentations have lost definition, press the centers again immediately after you remove the cookies from the oven.) Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool. Pipe or spoon the Nutella into the center of each cookie while the cookies are still slightly warm. If you place a small dollop the cookie first and let it melt just slightly, it spreads much easier and you’ll turn out with more beautiful cookies!

Serve or store once the Nutella centers have slightly set.

Makes 30 to 35 cookies.

Galletas de Chocolate con Nutella 

Ingredientes

  • 2 tazas (250 g) de harina
  • 1 taza y 1 cuchara grande (135 g) de cacao en polvo sin azúcar
  • 2 cucharas (pequeños) de sal
  • 225g de mantequilla sin sal
  • 110 g  de azúcar mas 1 taza para espolvorear por encima de las galletas
  • 2 yemas
  • 2 cucharas grandes de nata
  • 2 cucharas grandes de vainilla
  • 1 taza de Nutella

Preparación

 Precalentar el horno a 180ºC

Mezclar la harina, cacao y sal en un bol.

En un otro bol, mezclar la mantequilla y el azúcar con una batidora de mano o una batidora de pie equipada con un batidor plano. Añadir las yemas, nata y vainilla y mezclar bien.

Añadir la mezcla con harina poco a poco a la mezcla con mantequilla. Mezclar bien con una cuchara.

Poner la azúcar en un plato. Hacer pequeños montoncitos de cucharadas de la mezcla y pasar la parte superior por azúcar. Ponerlos en bandejas para hornear forradas y hacer un impresión del pulgar encima de la galleta.

Hornear durante 8 minutos. Dejar enfriar un pocito. Saque una pequeña cantidad de Nutella dentro de el impresión del pulgar cuando las galletas están un poco caliente.

Disfrútalos!

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The Black Chicken

Pollo Casero

Fresh, homegrown chicken with fried organic potatoes, roasted pumpkin and apple.

For casi two years I have been avoiding chicken. After reading Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and learning about the horrific way chickens are mass produced (I’ll spare you the details in case you’d like to continue eating chicken, but I highly recommend the book) America’s go-to white meat has been positively unappetizing to me. I now happily pay the extra dollar to buy free-range eggs and find that most recipes which call for chicken are just as tasty sans meat. While I’m a far cry from an all-organic hippie, my quiet protest of factory-made chicken is my one foray into anti-establishment eating.

Galicia, much to my glee, is a anti-factory-meat eater’s paradise. The grocery stores sell beef raised minutes away in el campo, families raise their own pigs to make homemade chorizo and jamon, bakeries deliver fresh out of the oven bread every morning and backyards are llena with chickens who feast on kitchen scraps and provide deliciously fresh eggs every day.

The language coordinator at school, Victoria, introduced me to the gloriousness of chicken raising during my first week in Galicia, when I stayed at her house in the country. My favorite daily task soon became egg-collecting.

Victoria's Chickens

One handful of corn brings all the chickens to the yard

Gathering the Eggs

Victoria’s chickens tuck half of their eggs between two hay stacks and the others in a nest in the hen house.

Every afternoon I’d grab a basket and head out to the hen house to coger los huevos. I’ve decided eggs that come from homegrown chickens deserve their own name; they bear almost no resemblance to the mass-produced, bleached products that parade as “eggs” in the grocery store. These hormone-free and fantastically fresh eggs have deep orange yolks, thin and fragile brown shells and a flavor that bears hardly a resemblance to their caged and cartoned counterparts. One bite and I decided that whenever I decide to settle in one place, I’m going to become a chicken owner.

For three months I’ve been enamorado with homegrown eggs. But today, for the first time in my life, I got to taste a home-raised fresher-than-fresh chicken. And it. was. delicious!!! After a new baby chick was born at her house last week, Victoria chose to cook up one of her older hens and invited me over to taste the difference.

The pollo that became our almuerzo had been eating nothing but corn and grass during it’s six-month life (a long and happy one compared to the 2-month growth spurt of a life that a factory chicken has). It weighed about half what a store-bought chicken would weigh.

When I arrived around 1:30 p.m. the pollo had been stewing for two hours. When Victoria spooned a thigh and a wing onto my plate I was immediately taken aback by how dark the meat and bones were. The thigh meat was a dark redish-brown and the bones were a few shades darker than I was used to. Victoria’s husband picked up a drumstick and laughingly said, “Es pollo negro!  It’s a black chicken!” One bite into my heaping serving of “black chicken” and I was in pollo  heaven. The meat was both juicier and firmer than the chicken I remembered eating. It was full of flavor and had hardly a trace of fat. In other words, it was completamente delicioso. 

The Black Chicken

This backyard chicken was dark brown, dense and bursting with flavor.

After gorging myself on this insanely delicious stewed chicken and the accompanying lentil salad, roasted pumpkin and fried potatoes, I continued my afternoon of chicken bliss by heading out for my favorite chore of egg gathering and then joined my gracious hosts for a paseo through the countryside.

An Afternoon Stroll

Strolling through the campo outside of Sarria

We harvested giant Galician cabbage leaves to feed to the rabbits, stopped for a quick conversation with a group of boar hunters and watched their heard of dogs dart across a grassy field, yapping after a small deer. It’s days like today that chock up serious points in favor of el campo in my mental comparison of city life versus country living. 

Harvesting Cabbage

I helped harvest an armful of Galician cabbage to feed to Victoria’s rabbits.