Nutella, not just for the bedroom anymore, Part III: Nutella powder
Crazy, I know, but thanks to the alchemy of molecular gastronomy anyone can take a blob of Nutella and turn it into the powder you see here. A powder so fine and dry you can grab a handful and watch it tumble through your fingers like sand from a tropical beach. Eat it, however, and it quickly turns back into a paste that sticks to the roof of your mouth.
How's it done? The magic ingredient is tapioca maltodextrin. Tapioca maltodextrin is a remarkable fat stabilizing starch. It's also flavour neutral, which means it allows the flavours it's combined with to really shine.
I first encountered tapioca maltodextrin last summer at Moto. As I mentioned in the post about our meal, we were served "Reese's Pieces," a dish of peanut butter flavoured powder. I knew immediately how they'd created it, but I was also hoping they could help me find a supplier of the key ingredient Thanks to a helpful server, I learned where I could order it.
I had wanted to get my hands on tapioca maltodextrin for the longest time because I desperately wanted to make Nutella powder. Nutella is an enduring passion for me. From my first bite as a child I've been hooked. World Nutella Day, hosted by Shelley of At Home in Rome and Sara of Ms. Adventures in Italy, is a celebration for those of us who share that feeling, and I think it's the perfect chance to introduce Nutella powder.
Now, Moto might be able to mix peanut butter and tapioca maltodextrin, name it after a popular candy, and call it a dish, but Rachel and I were hoping to do something a little more creative with Nutella. This is more challenging than it seems. Nutella is normally used in a limited range of preparations -- crepes, cakes, or simply spread on toast -- and with a limited range of flavours.
Rachel and I decided to stick with proven flavours, chocolate and banana, but to adapt them in a way as novel as our delicious powder. Rachel did yeoman's work creating a chocolate bowl. In the end, all it takes is some melted chocolate, an egg wrapped in cling film, and the patience to try an endless number of techniques until you find the right one.
The banana accompaniment was a real pain in the ass. Sprinkling Nutella powder on banana is out of the question. Boooriiiing! But sprinkling banana on Nutella, now that's intriguing. I searched through my el Bulli cookbooks for inspiration, and finally stumbled on a preparation, caramelized bananas. To make them, I thinly sliced bananas on a mandoline, dehydrated them in the a low-temperature oven, rehydrated them in a simple syrup, then put them back in the oven to caramelize. After a quick whirl in the food processor, I had achieved garnish.
To assemble the dish, we mounded as much Nutella powder as we could into one of our chocolate bowls, then sprinkled caramelized banana on top. In case you're wondering, yes, Nutella powder tastes a lot like Nutella. The flavour is slightly muted, but it's still unmistakable. The caramelized banana works well with the chocolate and Nutella, but it tends to get lost if it's not used abundantly.
Of course, tapioca maltodextrin can be used for more than just Nutella and peanut butter. There's a fascinating eGullet thread about it. Among the suggested uses: orange blossom water flavoured yogourt, olive oil, chocolate, and even bacon drippings and foie gras. Mmmm... bacon powder.
For an overview of the technique, click here.
What's important, isn't the quantities, it's the ratio: sixty percent to forty percent. As long as the primary ingredient contains enough fat, the process is simple.
120 g Nutella
80 g tapioca maltodextrin
Combine ingredients in a food processor. Process until the mixture has the texture of soil.
Pass mixture through a tamis or fine-meshed sieve to lighten its texture.
Store in a cool dry place until ready to serve.