I am having a rekindled love affair with Nutella. It all started when my friend/college roommate Marisa visited Seattle for a few days for work. We invited her over for dinner at our house, and I got inspired to go the extra and nostalgic mile when it came to dessert. A long time ago in a Chicago neighborhood far, far away (from Seattle, that is), there is a restaurant that we went to for one reason only– the chocolate banana fantasy crepes. No seriously– there was no other reason to go to this place what with its odd choice of actually wanting to maintain a vibe from the most horrific decade of the 20th century, the 70’s. The menu offered a small selection of crepes in homage to The Magic Pan, the one marvellous thing to come out of the 70’s, other than yours truly.
Anyway, chocolate banana fantasy crepes are essentially that classic crepe combination of Nutella and banana. One bite of my crepe and I knew I wanted more Nutella in my life. It’s a promise I’ve kept to myself. In fact, as I write this, I’m eating a slice of John’s delicious banana bread slathered with some of that chocolate hazelnut spread (needless to say, writing this post is going very slowly as a result.) Other than breakfast, my first thoughts about how else to use Nutella was in some kind of dessert. A coinciding craving for a raspberry crumble bar made me wonder if it was possible to bake jam bar cookies with a layer of Nutella so I did some research on the internet to find out.
To my surprise, a Google search of “baking Nutella in desserts” brought up a bunch of websites for baking Nutella with, well, let’s just say a certain illicit drug that can be baked into brownies. Seriously? Are American consumers of a delicious European spread really that much of a stereotype? Don’t answer that. Anyway, too paranoid to look on those pages for an answer to my question, I couldn’t find any examples otherwise of people baking a dessert with a layer of Nutella so I wasn’t sure whether the Nutella layer would stay intact or if it’d melt and ooze out otherwise. But the unknown is part of what makes culinary experimentations both scary and fun, so I tried it anyway.
I baked a shortbread crust flavored with toasted hazelnuts and coconut, reserving a little less than half of it to crumble on top of my filling layers. I then spread a layer of tart raspberry jam over the crust then topped that with a layer of Nutella, being careful not to mix the two layers together so as to keep them distinct in the final cookie. I crumbled the rest of the shortbread crust on top and returned the bars to the oven. I knew the filling would be hot and that these bars should cool completely before cutting but I could hardly stand the wait. I hacked into these bars after waiting a minimum of half an hour, the bars still warm to the touch.
O! M! G! These bars are not for the feint of heart. Imagine a thick cookie crust, the filling of chocolate and raspberry is slightly chewy from baking jam with all its pectin, and the crumbly topping is buttery yet pops with the hint of coconut. A warning for those of you who are not into overly sweet desserts– these bars pack a wallop of sweetness, but it’s well worth the indulgence.
- 2 sticks of butter, cold and cut into 1 inch pieces
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup toasted, chopped hazelnuts
- 1 cup toasted unsweetened coconut
- 1 egg
- 2 cups seedless raspberry jam
- 1 cup Nutella chocolate hazelnut spread
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, add the butter, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, hazelnuts, coconut, and egg. Pulse until mixture resembles grated parmesan cheese, about 15-20 one-second pulses. Pour half of the food processor bowl contents into the prepared baking dish. Use your fingers and hands to press the mixture together to form an even layer on the bottom of the dish. Add more of the mixture if necessary then put the rest in the fridge to keep it cold while the crust bakes. Bake for 15-25 minutes or until crust is golden brown and firm to touch. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes.
Spread the raspberry jam in an even layer over the baked crust. Do the same with the Nutella, being careful not to mix the two layers together. Crumble the rest of the crust mixture on top of the Nutella and return to the oven, baking for another 15-25 minutes or until the crumble layer is golden brown. Cool before cutting and serving. Yields 12-15 two-inch bars.