Monday, April 30, 2012

Lake Como Heaven

Top Of the World by The Carpenters
This post involves memories of a trip my husband and I took to Italy a couple years ago.  Our very first night in Italy was in the little Lake Como town of Varenna.  We arrived in the evening and dined on our hotel's front patio.  The food was the BEST.  The weather was perfect.  And we were serenaded by the locals singing strains of . . . .  THE CARPENTERS?!  BARRY MANILOW?!  What the heck?  There was a little town park by the hotel in which a karaoke event was taking place.  It appeared to be some sort of a founder's day celebration - or perhaps this is just how the locals spend their weekends.  But participant after participant got up and sang their heart out to all these American standard pop tunes.  Did we get upset?  No way.  We started giggling - just a little.  It's funny how when you're in a setting such as we were - mountains, the moon and stars, the waters of the lake lapping against the banks, and it's ITALY for crying out loud - it just added to the charm.  The singing continued as we made our way to bed and we lay there wondering which song would be next.  It was a very memorable first night.  And it's why I chose this song to accompany this recipe - because I truly felt like I was on top of the world.  With a little word adjustment, the first verse suits perfectly - "Such a feelin's comin' over me, there is wonder in most everything I see, not a cloud in the sky, got the moon in my eyes, and I won't be surprised if it's a dream."  Actually, I could probably quote the whole song because it was me being where I'd dreamed to be, with the person I'd dreamed of being there with . . . . and it was heaven.
While on vacation in Italy with my husband, we took a ferry across Lake Como to Bellagio.  Yes - it was exactly as romantic as it sounds!  We spent part of the day exploring the little enchanting town and found a market among the shops on the hillside.  Being a new chef, I was curious to see how the locals shop and about all things food so we went in.  It was quaint and I fantasized about what it would be like to come to market each day to get my fresh supplies for my meals.  I would be like Belle in Beauty and the Beast where everyone would call out my name as I passed each merchant.  They would each know my personal preferences and hold back special acquisitions just for me!  Yep - I fantasized that whole scenario in probably five seconds flat while admiring the beautifully packaged pastas.  

What interrupted my blissful reverie was this!
  You HAVE to see my mug in this because I had to hold the jug up next to my head for a size reference!
HOLY COW!!!  I think I'm in heaven!  I've never even seen a container of Nutella this size in Costco!  They'll only give you a two-pack of a fairly large size but not this!

My family loves Nutella.  My youngest daughter is mildly obsessed with the product.  I immediately thought, "I've found the perfect souvenir for her!"  And so the debate began in my head:  

"It's PERFECT!"  
"It's too big!  Do you want to lug that around the rest of Italy for two weeks?"  Or that should read, "Do you want to ask your husband to lug that around for two weeks?"  He's all gentlemanly like that.
"You're going to regret not getting this!"
"They probably have this in every store all over the place.  You can get it at the end of the trip!"
"You know your luck!  You'll never see it again!  Get it now!"

In the end, the blue voice won.  But the green voice was right.  Grrrr!

Nutella can be a nice switch-out for peanut butter - lower in fat but higher in sugar - take your pick.  It was my youngest daughter who came up with the brilliant idea that if we have peanut butter cookies, then why can't we have Nutella cookies?!  It was a new idea to me at the time.  Hmmm.  Why not, indeed?

A while ago I was in Seattle at Pike Place Market and found these at one of the stalls.
Thank you for doing the chopping for me!  I knew good things were going to happen!

I had already decided upon the recipe for today's post before the news came involving a lawsuit regarding the star of the show.  I pondered long and hard about whether or not to change it - or at least add a disclaimer.  But I'm making a cookie here - and hopefully nobody will get the idea that it's supposed to be high on the "good for you" ladder.  It's good - terrific, actually - and it's for you - and that's as far as I'm taking any claims!  

Chocolate Hazelnut Cookies
Printable Recipe Card
1/2 c. butter-flavor Crisco (100 g)
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened (114 g)
1 c. chocolate hazelnut spread such as Nutella (296 g)
1 c. sugar (200 g)
1 c. light brown sugar (220 g)
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 1/2 c. flour (300 g)
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder (25 g)
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 c. chopped hazelnuts (230 g)

In a mixer bowl, combine the shortening, butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, and the sugars and cream together until light and fluffy - about 3-5 minutes.

Add the eggs, one at a time, incorporating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and stir.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  Add all at once to the wet ingredients in the mixer bowl and mix on slow just until ingredients come together.  Add the chopped hazelnuts and let the mixer paddle make a few passes through the dough to combine.

Scoop out the dough onto a parchment lined sheet tray - about the size of a golf ball.  I used a  #24 ice cream scoop.  Cover and chill or freeze the dough.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 12 minutes - rotating pan halfway through baking time.  Be careful not to over bake.  They should still be moist in the center.  Let them cool.  Eat as they are or, when cool, heat 1/4 cup of Nutella in a disposable pastry bag for about 20 seconds in the microwave, snip off the tip and drizzle over the tops of the cookies.  


  1. Replies
    1. Thank you! How can you go wrong, right?

  2. I love that you found a jar of Nutella larger than a grown man's head. Probably at least a month's supply?,,

    1. Depends on if Debbie is around. That jar would only last a week with her!