World Nutella Day 2008: Nutella-Date Pudding Cupcakes

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The reason we are all gathered here today- at least in my corner of the universe, is because February 5th is
World Nutella Day 2008. This is the day that my buddies, American expats in Italy, Sara, Michelle and Shelley decided we should all sit back, relax and enjoy the Nutella.
This is a day to celebrate this delicious chocolate-hazelnut spread that puts smiles on faces young and old all across the world.

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My first encounter with Nutella was when I lived in Norway, in 1994. Bread is a big thing in Norwegian cuisine. You eat it for breakfast and lunch with a wide variety of meats cheeses and spreads. My favorite was always Brunost (Brown Cheese) – I had it for breakfast and lunch, every single day. Of course, I was a foodie back then, too, I just didn’t know it yet, so I was addicted to going to the grocery stores there and seeing what kinds of products I could find that were unique to Norway. When I came across Nutella and realized you could eat it on toast for breakfast, I thought it was pure genius. I mean who doesn’t love the combination of Chocolate and Hazelnut? But for breakfast!? I thought this was a Norwegian invention and I was forever indebted, until I found out it was an Italian creation! Gotta love Italy. Anyway, I fell in love with the stuff. I discovered how good it went with waffles, another big treat in Norway. Well by that point I was hooked. When a Dutch friend of mine told me they eat chocolate sprinkles on their toast for breakfast, I began thinking we Americans are totally depraved.

Anyway, I digress. You are wondering about these wonderful pudding cakes I made. Well there is a story behind them too- I will try to be quick about it. Remember the Dolce Italiano Event back in November, where I, along with the geniuses behind World Nutella Day made recipes from Gina DePalma’s newest cookbook: Dolce Italiano: Desserts From the Babbo Kitchen? I made this and this.Well we were only allowed to make 2 desserts for that event (as if I was in any capacity with the impending holidays to make MORE than 2), but there was a third I was really wanting to try, her Chocolate and Date Pudding Cakes. I love dates and chocolate and pudding, so for me it was another match made in heaven. When I was thinking of a recipe to make for World Nutella Day, I immediately went to Gina’s cookbook to look for inspiration. I rediscovered these pudding cakes and decided to alter them to fit the bill for this fabulous celebration that I am sure Ms. DePalma would certainly sanction.

So what I did was instead of using the bittersweet chocolate and butter mixture, I decided to use Nutella. And in place of walnuts, I went for Hazelnuts, much more my liking and a much better match for the Nutella.

The verdict? These cakes are succulent. Yes, that is the word.

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As Gina puts it : “The Medjool dates…contribute a deep caramel flavor that holds hands with the chocolate like a smitten teenager.”

Oh boy, does it. That with the warm taste of the hazelnuts underneath they are just pure heaven. I baked mine for 20 minutes and not minute longer. This made the centers perfectly moist and delicious. Bet you can’t have just one!
Happy World Nutella Day to everyone – get out there and get your Nutella on!

World Nutella Day: How you can participate.

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Dolce Italiano: Six Degrees of Separation and Chocolate Salami

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This has been a lucky year full of wonderful surprises and accomplishments. I stepped out of my comfort zone to pursue my dream of working in food, turning my passion for Mediterranean cooking and leftovers into a job description I made up for myself:
Professional Foodie. I am still not exactly sure what path lies ahead of me, but I am sure I am at least going the right way as it seems I have been rewarded each step of the way. I have met so many lovely foodies online from all over the world and have gotten little signs everywhere confirming that I am on the right path. One of these signs is a great honor I have been given. I am so excited about it that I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. I have been asked to participate in a very special food blogging event.

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Shelley from At Home in Rome lives in Rome (Obviously), which just so happens to be Roberto’s hometown. She also just so happens to know Gina DePalma, the pastry chef for
Mario Batali’s Babbo Restaurant in New York City.
Gina’s newest cookbook: Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen has just come out and in order to commemorate this event, Shelley, along with a few of us fortunate food bloggers have had the honor to try two recipes from Gina’s new cookbook and blog about it. How fun is that?!

But that is not where the fun ends – oh no siree – you too can join in too. Go blog hopping with us and comment on each Dolce Italiano post on each of our blogs and you will be entered in a contest to win a Dolce Italiano cookbook signed by Gina herself (who is such a nice person to boot!).
Here is how you enter: Check out each of these blogs on the days mentioned (if you are just hearing about this contest for the first time, be sure that you go to visit all these blogs for their posts THIS week) and then comment on the post about Dolce Italiano. Do the same next week and you will have 10 chances to win that book! Here are the other great blogs and the days you need to visit them:

MONDAY: Sara – Ms. Adventures in Italy
TUESDAY
: Ilva – Lucullian Delights
WEDNESDAY
: Sognatrice – Bleeding Espresso
THURSDAY
: Shelley – At Home in Rome
FRIDAY: Jenn – The Leftover Queen – RIGHT HERE!

Gina DePalma’s Dolce Italiano is a must have for foodies that love Italian food. Even for someone like me, who does not fancy herself a baker or pastry person, despite all the baking I have been doing through the Daring Bakers, I found the recipes to be well-explained, unique and wonderful – just full of the flavors of Italy. It is also a fun book to read! I can really relate to Gina’s intense passion for the food she makes and also her story as an Italian American deeply in touch with the foods of her roots. I am so excited to have this wonderful cookbook in my collection as I know I will be using it often!

So on to the great recipe!

One of my choices of recipe just had to be Salame di Cioccolato. This is a dessert that every child in Italy has had. It is like Nutella, ubiquitous when talking about the foods of Italy for kids. I first heard about Chocolate Salami from Roberto when I asked him what the first thing he remembers cooking was. This was it. Apparently there is (at least when he was a bambino) what he describes as a Disney/ Boy Scout guidebook for kids in Italy known as Manuale delle Giovani Marmotte (Jr. Woodchucks Guidebook) and a recipe for Chocolate Salami was in his version of the book. In his memory it was crushed up cookies and cocoa powder rolled up, chilled and then sliced. Well, as soon as I saw the upgraded, new and improved version in Gina’s new cookbook, I knew I had to make it for Roberto and bring him back to his childhood. So we spent the afternoon in the kitchen making this delicious concoction and having a wonderful time. In his opinion it is WAAAAY better than the one from Manuale delle Giovani Marmotte, shocking, isn’t it? 😉

Try a chocolate salami today!
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Recipe: Honey-Hazelnut Semi-Freddo

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As everyone here knows I am in love with Nocciola Gelato (Hazelnut Italian style ice cream). It is a craving that can never be fulfilled. I always have room for it and I am always searching for it. There are no gelaterias where I live. I do not have an ice cream maker, even though ice cream is by far my favorite dessert. Though you can make home made ice cream without an ice cream maker, it is time consuming. So being that my life has become very busy as of late, I wanted the taste of hazelnut gelato without a lot of the fuss! Then it dawned on me, Semi-Freddo! Freddo means cold in Italian, so Semi-Freddo is basically what it says, kind of cold. It has the creamy soft consistency of gelato, but none of the hassle in making it. I served mine with a dollop of Arance Sanguinelle (Blood Orange) Sorbetto and a shortbread cookie make from the leftovers of the DB tart.
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Daring Bakers Challenge: Milk Chocolate Caramel Tart

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I think I am now officially a Daring Baker. I have to admit I was rather smug during my first two challenges – Bagels and Strawberry Mirror Cake, completing them with no real difficulty and having a great time while doing so…a kind of baking bliss. Before becoming a Daring Baker, as many of you know, I did not bake at all and was very intimidated to bake. So with two challenges under my belt, I was feeling pretty good about this whole baking thing – it wasn’t such a big deal. I was actually amused by the stories other Daring Bakers shared about their experiences, people who actually BAKE, about frustrating moments and culinary crisis, imagining that if it were I who were in those situations I would have kept my calm and remained cool. This baking thing wasn’t gonna get me, it was fun, and dare I say EASY. Well I was about to experience the mother load of baking karma!
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Product of the Week: Whole Raw Organic Hazelnuts

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If you are going to make a recipe of Gelato alla Nocciola, you are going to need this essential ingredient: Whole Raw Oregon Hazelnuts
Since hazelnuts are the cornerstone to this recipe and it is the essence of this nut that you are trying to achieve in a gelato flavor, it is important to get the best hazelnuts you can find. Organic nuts are the way to go – they are not processed using any kind of chemical and they taste most true to form. You do yourself and your mouth and your end product a dis-service not to get the best!

Gelato alla Nocciola

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Hazelnut gelato, or gelato alla nocciola, is one of the most common ice cream flavors in Italy. The creamy texture of the gelato coupled with the nutty earthy flavors of hazelnuts and this will quickly become a common treat in your house too! Read the rest of this entry »