After using my culinary time machine to rip a hole in the fabric of the kitchen space-time continuum, I visited an alternate universe where I discovered Brown Butter Soft Batch Cookies. The responsible time/dimensional traveler would have turned back; patched up the rift and come home straight away. And I promise, I'll do just that. Next week, I'll go back to faithfully reproducing childhood favorites from our universe. But as long as we're here, I want one more souvenir.
You see, I discovered the alternate-universe's Nutella, like peanut butter, comes in both crunchy and creamy.
Yes. Crunchy Nutella. Imagine the possibilities.
In the binary crunchy/smooth world of nut-spreads, I always thought it weird that Nutella only came in creamy form. But the lack of crunch wasn't the only thing holding me back. As a huge fan of hazelnuts and chocolate, Nutella from our universe just never did it for me. I mean, have you ever read the label? Mostly not-chocolate and not-hazelnuts. It reads, verbatim:
Sugar, peanut oil, hazelnuts, cocoa, skim milk, reduced minerals, whey, partially hydrogenated peanut oil, soy lecithin, vanillin: an artificial flavor.
Yum. Artificial flavor! Is it just me, or do you wonder if the etymology for vanillin derives from vanilla + villain? Oh, and hydrogenation too, hurray! And just what the crap do they mean by "reduced minerals"?! People seem to think of Nutella as a thing of beauty, and that may be true, but she's certainly an artificial beauty.
So imagine with me a jar of Crunchy Nutella from the alternate universe. Made from, you know, recognizable foods: sugar, roasted hazelnuts, dark chocolate, hazelnut oil, honey, cocoa, vanilla bean, salt, and crunch.
Okay, crunch isn't a real ingredient. But imagine if it were? Every Nutella recipe seems suddenly better: crunchy Nutella crepes. Crunchy Nutella brownies. Crunchy Nutella ice cream. Or just spread over baguette. All without hydrogenation or villains. I mean. Vanillins. And the only mineral involved comes in the form of a little NaCl.
I've had standing a gripe with "copy cat" recipes that make over a classic with pretentious new ingredients to take the place of the old (see: homemade Pop-Tarts). Which is why I felt so conflicted about the Brown Butter Soft Batch cookies. But in this case, none of the changes felt pretentious. It's hazelnut spread, so why not use hazelnut oil? It's chocolaty, why not use chocolate?
And who needs stabilizers? Without dairy, Alternate Universe Crunchy Nutella will keep for weeks at room temperature.
If it lasts that long.
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About the Author: Stella Parks suffers from an unhealthy obsession with recreating the mass produced snacks of her childhood, but ironically is employed by a Frenchman to make the high brow desserts of his childhood. She blogs that dichotomy at bravetart.com and can be followed on Twitter at @thebravetart.