02 Oct / Nutella Cheesecake à la Nigella
Nutella was the peanut butter of my childhood.
I ate the rich, creamy chocolate-hazelnut spread slathered one-inch-thick in between slices of white bread. I scraped it out of matchbox-sized containers with an accompanying plastic spoon (they were sold in snack packs similar to these). And I scooped spoonfuls of chocolatey, hazelnutty goodness into my mouth straight from the jar when my mom wasn’t looking, sheer delight extending from my lips right down to my curled toes.
Yes, I confess I was, and still am a Nutella fanatic.
According to the Nutella Web site, Nutella was created in the 1940’s by Pietro Ferrero, the founder of Italian confectionary company Ferrero. Cocoa/cacao was scarce in post-World War II Europe, so Mr. Ferrero used hazelnuts which were abundant in his native Piedmont, northwest Italy, to extend the chocolate supply. Hence, chocolate-hazelnut gianduja paste was born (you might be familiar with it as a gelato flavor), and eventually Nutella, the spread.
This history enlightens me on two levels. Firstly, I’m happy to understand the provenance of Nutella, an amazing culinary invention that’s right up there with soy sauce in my opinion. I also find it fascinating that this story parallels that of another culturally important culinary breakthrough–banana ketchup. To circumvent a shortage of tomatoes during WWII, a smarty food technologist by the name of Maria Y. Orosa created a copycat of American ketchup using the local bananas that grew prolifically all over the Philippine islands. Banana ketchup remains popular till today.
Secondly, Singapore, being a former British colony, has always been a hotbed for European imports—Italian Nutella and German 80’s pop duo Modern Talking, [what, you don’t know their hit single “Cheri, Cheri Lady”?) being cases in point–which explains why Nutella was thriving in Singapore (and other Asian countries) long before it was popular in the U.S.
Two decades ago, trying to buy Nutella was a combination of playing treasure hunt and hide-and-seek. First, I had to hunt it down (the ‘X’ that marked the spot was usually either an Asian market or Cost Plus World Market), and then search for it among the heaving shelves (the jars were often hidden in obscure corners), and if I was lucky, there was a jar in stock!
Over the past few years, there’s been a Nutella explosion and now you can buy it at Safeway. “Hooray!” says my Nutella-loving self. Of course, if you’re so inclined, you can make it yourself too. (Try my friend Danielle’s grown-up recipe.)
There’s also been a burst of creativity in kitchens everywhere resulting in Nutella recipes on the net from Nutella brownies, to Nutella cookies, and my personal favorite, Nutella microwave mug cake. Practically any recipe that involves chocolate could do with a little Nutella magic.
And then I found this, a Nutella cheesecake recipe by the ever-trendy Nigella Lawson. This, this is the stuff that Nutella dreams are made of. It’s fairly easy to make, and even better, it’s no-bake! So it’s definitely a recipe I keep in my back pocket.
That being said, on the days I crave a pure, decadent, luscious shot of Nutella–or nostalgia–you can still find me with my spoon, digging deep into Nutella’s signature glass jar, complete with toes curled.