The food bloggers of the world are celebrating this delicious spread on February 6. So for the next couple of weeks, many of us will be posting a recipe using Nutella.
Years ago, when I first went to France to study, I spent a lot of time at the home of a friend whom I had met when she had been an exchange student in Louisville. She had a younger brother who was in elementary school. Dinner in France comes later than here, and he would come home from school ready for a snack to hold him over. His afternoon treat almost every day was a chunk of crusty baguette smeared with a chocolate-hazelnut spread: Nutella.
It originated in Italy in the 1940’s when chocolate was outrageously expensive because of the war rationing. Hazelnuts, on the other hand, were plentiful in the Piedmont area of Italy, and were used by the Ferrero pastry company to extend the chocolate, with cocoa butter and vegetable oil added to make it spreadable. Over the years it became popular all over Europe.
I loved the stuff! Each summer I would come back from France with a suitcase full that I would hoard over the months. On toast at breakfast, on waffles at brunch, warmed on ice cream for dessert…but finally I would sadly scrape the last bit out of the last jar.
I was delighted when Nutella was first imported into the USA in 1983. Eventually it became almost as popular here as it was in Europe. Initially available only in “gourmet” markets, it was quite expensive. With a plant built in New Jersey in the 90’s it has now become widely available, not just in specialty stores, but in the peanut butter aisle of most supermarkets.
A couple of weeks ago I wanted something fast and easy for dessert for friends. I had a challah, a slightly sweet egg bread made by Sherie McKelvie of La Morinda Bakery. I had a jar of Nutella. AHA!
This version of French toast made a good, but rich, dessert. You might want to try it after a simple meal of grilled meat or seafood and salad, or try it for a quick and easy brunch dish. I garnished it with raspberries, a dab of crème fraîche and a sprig of mint. Sliced bananas or poached pears would be equally good as a complement.
If you don’t have a loaf of challah around, you can use egg bread, French bread, or even pound cake (but then leave the sugar out of the egg mixture). In fact, it’s so good that I bet you could even use slices of sandwich bread and it would be quite tasty!
“Pain Perdu,” or “Lost Bread” is the French term for what we call French toast, so that’s what we’ll call it!
PAIN PERDU AU NUTELLA
Four 2” slices of challah, French bread or pound cake
1/2 cup (or as needed) Nutella
1/2 cup milk or half-and-half
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp butter
Fruit, for garnish
Crème fraîche or whipped cream, for garnish
With a serrated bread knife, cut almost through the bread. Spread the Nutella evenly inside and press lightly together.
In a pie pan or other flat dish, whisk together the eggs, milk or half-and-half, sugar (if not using pound cake) and vanilla. Add the stuffed bread, turning several times, until most of the mixture has been absorbed.
In a medium non-stick skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the bread and cook, turning once, until the egg mixture is cooked through and the outside is golden brown. Serve at once garnished as desired. Serves four.
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