Homemade Nutella: Take One

Thanks to my mom and one bitchin’ sale-plus-coupons trip to Macy’s, I scored both a nice food processor and cast-iron Dutch oven for my birthday. Then I promptly got food poisoning and didn’t care if I ever saw them again, since food could just go to hell as far as I was concerned. (Even online pictures of food made me queasy; it was a bad week.) But then I got better! And I figured that homemade Nutella was a good way to break in the food processor, since chocolate and hazelnuts are two of my favorite things, but I think the actual stuff is kind of gross. I used to love it and I don’t know if they changed the formulation in recent years, or if it’s just my aging palate or what, but I don’t really taste anything beyond oil and sugar. Not surprising, since sugar and palm oil are the two first listed ingredients. And since oil palm plantations are a major contributing factor to deforestation and loss of biodiversity in Malaysia and Indonesia (orangutans!), it can just go to hell too.

There are loads of Nutella recipes online, but I’d printed this recipe from the LA Times at some point and started with that. In the ‘pro’ column, it tastes very good. It’s very nutty and not too sweet and has a thick, velvety, ever-so-slightly gritty texture that I really dig. That said, I had a couple of problems with it, both with the making of and the actual product. First, my nuts never turned into a smooth butter, despite whirring around for far longer than the five minutes the recipe said it would take. They achieved the texture of wet sand and stayed there. I’m pretty sure it’s the oils in the nuts that make the sand-to-butter transformation possible, so I’m guessing my nuts were too dry? They were nice, fresh coop nuts and I tasted a few as I threw them in the bowl (they were fine), so I don’t know what the deal was. I ended up having to double the amount of oil to make something that wasn’t the consistency of library paste. I didn’t have hazelnut oil so I substituted walnut oil, but I doubt that made a huge difference. My biggest problem, really, is that I can’t taste the chocolate at all. It’s a lovely toasty-hazelnut concoction that I’ve been eating by the spoonful more or less nonstop for the last 24 hours, but it just isn’t right. I would have added more cocoa, but since it was kind of dry to start with, I didn’t want to get into a more-cocoa-more-oil cycle.

I think my next attempt it going to be either David Lebovitz’s recipe or Julie’s slightly simplified version of it. The ingredient lists are pretty radically different from the LA Times one, so I have high hopes for a radically different product.

You know, there’s something to this ‘being direct’ thing.

When Jenn showed me the hat she’d made for one of her friends, I think my reaction was something along the lines of, “I want to make that exact hat in that yarn in that color.” And then a few weeks later, she published the pattern as a free Ravelry download and gave me a ball of the yarn for my birthday.

I really hate working with double-pointed needles, but the yarn is delicious and the pattern is intuitive. I should be able to finish it in time to wear at least once or twice this year. Thanks again, Jenn!

Stupid weak human shell

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I’m firmly ensconced on the couch right now, dealing with the lingering effects of food poisoning. Tea, applesauce, netflixed episodes of Bones and the easiest knitting I have going are pretty much all I can handle right now. I am really ready for this to be over.

On the runways

I haven’t taken a lot of time to go through photos from the F/W shows, and the ones I have looked at haven’t had much in the way of knitterly inspiration. A couple of things caught my eye as starting points for future designs though, which is a lot more interesting (and ethically sound) than spying pieces I want to recreate completely.

This cardigan from Nanette Lepore has an intriguing stitch pattern and I really like the soft notched collar.

This Burberry Prorsum coat reminds me that I’ve been meaning to design a sweater around some huge, dramatic closures.

I like the tuck stitches, loosened gauge and slouchy silhouette of this Bodkin pullover:

Cool colorblocking from Zero+Maria Cornejo:

And two from United Bamboo, some subtle, gorgeous seaming details:

And a comfortable, knit-friendly silhouette, the oversized cowlneck with pockets:

Not quite what I was going for

The unfortunate thing about this sweater is that it’s a little too scratchy to wear next to the skin, but having anything more than a tank top under it makes it a little too tight through the armholes or pull strangely. Which is too bad, because I really like the way it fits and I like how it turned out. The yarn was perfectly fine to knit with and I’m not generally all that sensitive to wool. I’ll try soaking it with conditioner and see if that smooths things out a little. I don’t usually do that, since I don’t like that conditioner-y film that can stay on a sweater, but there’s nothing to lose here. If it doesn’t work, I can just pretend Michael Bay blew it up.

My new favorite drink

Last night, I had a birthday drink at one of my favorite swanky cocktail places, Clover Club. I had spent some time looking at the menu online before heading over and had one picked out (The Wanderer), but when I got there, they’d swapped out a new menu for the one on their site. I ultimately chose the Royal Tannenbaum and [spoiler alert] I chose well.

It’s a very interesting mix of rye whiskey, Cynar (a bitter Italian liqueur that’s made with artichokes), grapefruit juice, honey syrup, lemon juice, and pine tincture. (I thought pine tincture was fairly exotic, but it’s easily purchased online or you can use these directions to make your own, though for a product you’ll be consuming I’d suggest venturing out for clean, unsprayed pine rather than using your Christmas tree.) The drink itself was complicated and balanced and changed flavor as it moved across the palate, starting with the rye and fruit and ending with a lingering, difficult-to-pin-down bitter loveliness. I’m crossing my fingers that my favorite cocktail enthusiasts will be willing to take a crack at recreating it one of these days…

Fabric that I like!

Every year without fail, the first barely perceptible stirrings of spring make me think about sewing, to the point where sometimes I haven’t even noticed anything spring-like in the air until I feel the urge to look at fabric and patterns and trace it back to not having had to wear gloves the day before. But I love the idea of sewing clothes for myself, I’m just not so great at the execution. Plus, I usually find most printed fabric to be either precious or not very interesting, so I’m happily surprised to be head over heels in love with JayMcCarroll’s Habitat collection.

Look at this!

The pixelated floral! The one where the dots are floating over another pattern!

This color story doesn’t do much for me, but you get a better look at the paint-sploshed one on the left, which I want to kiss on the mouth. Badass AND pretty. Swirly-skirted sundresses! Circle skirts! Yes!

More pictures here.

Sneak preview

It’s a little tiresome not being able to share details of upcoming patterns while I’m working on them, but at least I can tease ‘em a little. I’d like to make this available in time for people to knit it for spring, so I’ve been knitting my wrists into hamburger meat all weekend.

One nice thing about the Serious Eats gig though is that I’m well stocked on treats at all times, so at least my marathon knitting and Life on Mars sessions are fortified by Morris Kitchen ginger ale and Skimkim kimchee and Brooklyn Cured bacon and, my current favorite thing on the planet, chocolate sorbet from Bklyn Larder. And plenty of kale and oranges and toast, of course. Because sometimes a girl needs to eat something that didn’t come with an exquisitely designed label. For balance.