Nutella is a household staple here in Italy and if you tell an Italian you don’t eat it, it’s as if you’ve committed a crime. They also look at you like you’re a martian from outer space when you say you make your own at home. They can’t understand why you would go through the trouble. Of course I’m generalizing a bit and there are some health conscious Italians out there who also make their own or opt for the organic less refined chocolate and hazelnut spread varieties, but for the most part, there is only one true Nutella in their mind and hearts. They eat it for breakfast on rusks, for dessert on a crepe and even put it on warm foccaccia. I remember having it at a bar one night several years ago after a few drinks. The server walked out with a tray of warm foccaccia covered in Nutella. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
These days, I can’t stand the taste of it, it’s far too sweet and the powdered sugar flavour is overwhelming. I make my own home made “hutella“, the term my 9 year old niece coined in reference to my healthier home made version of a chocolate and hazelnut spread. I made it for her the last time we were in Canada and she exclaimed “you’re a genius”. Gosh I love that kid. On weekends, we enjoy it on pancakes, crepes or french toast.
Weekday breakfasts are a little more simple and usually involve porridge/muesli/granola and seasonal fruit for me and steamed corn flakes, seasonal fruit, coffee and cookies for hubby. Yes, cookies. As an Italian, his breakfast experience is not the same without a cookie to dip in his coffee. In fact, cookies are categorized as a breakfast food in the online shop of most supermarkets here.
I set out to create a grown up cookie that was perfect for dunking, lower on the glycemic index and higher in nutritional value than commercial varieties, with a rich chocolate and hazelnut flavour. After several test runs, I finally came up with something I’m proud of and that is hubby approved. I knew I had done well when hubby said “wifey questi biscottini sono spettacolari/these cookies are spectacular” with his mouth full and another cookie in hand.
They’re still cookies, so moderation is highly recommended, but at least they’re oil free, refined sugar free, vegan and gluten free and made with the goodness of whole food ingredients; home ground buckwheat flour and hazelnut meal, creamy hazelnut butter, 92% dark chocolate bar and crushed hazelnuts and sweetened with coconut sugar and maple syrup.
Buckwheat which has nothing to do with wheat at all, is actually a member of the rhubarb family. It’s naturally gluten-free and can be eaten as groats, flakes, or ground into a flour. It can be used to make raw porridge, cooked porridge, granola, or pilaf and salads in place of rice and other grains. The flour is versatile and can be used to make pancakes, cookies, and other baked goods.
Buckwheat is an excellent source of protein, fiber, B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, copper and phosphorous. It is naturally rich in rutin, which helps lower blood pressure, and protect against heart disease and atherosclerosis by preventing platelet aggregation, blood clot formation and lipid oxidation (free radicals that create harmful blood cholesterol). Buckwheat has also been shown to reduce the risk of diabetes and control blood sugar levels.
In macrobiotics, buckwheat is known to be a Yang or warming food and is highly recommended for consumption during the cool winter months. Not surprisingly, buckwheat is used extensively in Northern European countries where the climate tends to be cooler.
Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut Cookies w/ Buckwheat (aka nutella cookies)
These cookies are oil free, gluten free, vegan and refined sugar free and made with whole food ingredients like ground buckwheat and hazelnuts, with 92% dark chocolate chunks and sweetened with coconut sugar and maple syrup. They are earthy, nutty and chocolaty and perfect for dunking.
- 65 g Buckwheat Flour (1/2 C scant)*
- 50 g Ground Hazelnuts/Hazelnut Meal (1/2 C heaping)*
- Pinch Fine Sea Salt
- 1/4 Tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 Tsp Pure Bourbon Vanilla Powder
- 30 g Coconut Sugar (about 1/4 C)*
- 2 Tbsp Pure Maple Syrup
- 3 Tbsp Smooth/Runny Hazelnut Butter
- 3 Tbsp Filtered Water, room temperature
- 2 Tbsp Crushed Hazelnuts
- 32 g Dark Chocolate Bar, chopped into coarse chunks or Dark Chocolate Chips (I used 4 squares of Vivani Coconut Sugar Sweetened 92% Dark Chocolate)
- 6 hazelnuts, halved, for topping
* I’ve used store bought buckwheat flour, ground buckwheat groats and ground buckwheat flakes to make these and all work wonderfully
*I’ve used store bought hazelnut meal and home ground from roasted hazelnuts, both work well, just make sure you measure 50 g of the meal, not the whole nuts
*If the coconut sugar is clumpy or thick, run it through the food processor or spice mill to smooth it out before adding it into the flour mixture
- Preheat oven to 180 C and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Add buckwheat flour, hazelnut meal, coconut sugar, vanilla, sea salt, and baking soda to a bowl. Mix well to combine.
- Create a well in the center and pour in hazelnut butter and maple syrup and stir to combine. Add crushed hazelnuts and chocolate chunks or chips and water 1 tablespoon at a time and stir until the mixture comes together to form a cookie dough.
- Form 12 cookie balls with your hands, place on cookie sheet and press them down slightly to flatten them. They won’t spread much, so you don’t have to worry about spacing them too much.
- Press half a whole hazelnut into the center of each cookie and bake on the center rack for 15 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool until set. They will seem a bit undone and soft at first, but you just have to give them some time to set. Do not over bake them, or they will dry out and the chocolate will burn.