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February 06, 2007

Nutella, not just for the bedroom anymore, Part III: Nutella powder

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Looking for a truly novel way to serve Nutella?  Tired of smearing it on a slice of bread, baking it in a cake, or swirling it in ice cream?  Well have I got a solution for you.  Sprinkle it.

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.

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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.

Nutella Powder

For an overview of the technique, click here.

I ordered tapioca maltodextrin from L'Epicerie.  Our server at Moto recommended Terra Spice Company.

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.

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Comments

Brilynn

I wish I was your neighbour. I would be over everyday to see what you've dreamt up.

Lisa (Homesick Texan)

Wow! This is brilliant! And who knew you could do these things at home.

Renee

Very cool. :) Could you consider this Nutella "soil"? The first thing I thought of was a bowl of dippin' dots. I wonder how else you could serve this.

McAuliflower

Ya know... I'm thinking a re-visit of Pixie Stix is in order: but in these wonderful grown up flavors!

Ivonne

Rob,

I wish you'd been my chemistry teacher in high school! Sprinkling Nutella ... now I just have to get a Nutella shaker.

joey

You are a genius! You have certainly pushed the Nutella envelope :) This sounds amazing!

I hopped over to your Nutella Cake entry and it looks wonderful! I agree with your sentiments exactly -- very delicious cake but I would have wanted a more pronounced Nutella flavor...

Bea at La Tartine Gourmande

Brilliant idea Rob! You need to do this for me! Right in my kitchen so that I can see!

cin

absolutely fascinating, as always. would love to try the texture of that powder!

Francesca

la nutella ha sempre il suo fascino...goloso, bell'abbinamneto con le banane slurp:-P

Linda, The Village Vegetable

hahaha i love the title of this post. geez this national nutella day is really getting to me. i've just GOT to come up with a recipe soon! yours looks amazing! nice work :)

Helen

If only my chemistry teacher had been as fascinating as you are!
I think having Nutella in powder form would make me feel less guilty...oh heck! Nutella is gooooood.period.

Ari (Baking and Books)

Brilliant! And to piggyback on Helen's comment: if my chemistry teacher in school had used nutella in the classroom us students would have enjoyed the class a lot more, lol.

Erielle

What fun you had making this! It makes me want to buy pounds and pounds of tapioca maltodextrin and start mixing it with various substances in my kitchen.

rob

Brilynn, I don't dream this stuff up every day. I just like to have fun once in a while. Ninety-nine percent of the time we're eating the same thing as everyone else.

Lisa, one of the things I love most about this ingredient is that it is so accessible to the home cook. It's really only about having one specialized ingredient.

Renee, Rachel and I had a long discussion over what to call it. I mentioned "soil," but she frowned on the idea. Thing is, I'm sure that's what this preparation is called at Alinea (or at least one MG restaurant that makes a powder using TM).

McAuliflower, it's funny you mention Pixie Stix, because Rachel and I were thinking something similar: Fun Dips. I was going to make a few powders -- Nutella, peanut butter, and maybe creme brulee -- and that make candy sticks to eat them with.

Ivonne, this stuff is dangerous. It demands to be eaten, so I don't know if it would last long enough to make it to the shaker.

Thanks, Joey. Your torta alla gianduja looks wonderful.

Bea, send me the invite and I'll happily make this in your kitchen.

Cin, the texture of the powder is really interesting. I love dipping my hand in it and feeling the powder just cascade off my fingertips.

Francesca, cerco sempre dei bei abbinamenti per la Nutella. E' sempre la stessa cosa: cioccolato, banana, ecc. Sono buonissimi, ma ho voglia di gustare qualcosa di nuovo. Hai delle idee?

Thanks, Linda, I like post names that are... different. Usually I rely on my facility for childish wordplay, with Nutella I just rely on my facility for childishness.

Helen, Nutella is supposed to be a guilty pleasure. That's what makes fatty foods so much fun.

Thanks, Ari. I never came near a chemistry class, though I can imagine any class being a lot more fun if teachers would just start introducing Nutella into their classrooms.

Erielle, I encourage you to order some TM (or see if you can sneak some out the back door of Moto or Alinea) and experiment with it. It really is pretty cool watching a sticky, gooey mess turn into a solid before your eyes. You know what I'll be doing next time we cook bacon....

Judy

Thanks for the mention and the link. I have nutella in the pantry and a 50 lb box of tapioca maltodextrin so I better get started. I HIGHLY recommend bacon powder.

Y

Mmmm.. Bacon Powder!

jules

wow we use tapioca dextrin in a cereal product...who would have thought it could do that to nutella...am going to have to experiment with this

cookiecrumb

OK, I'm not going to leave a comment.

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Wowza i love it

lenejoseph32 lene

what a nice tips about Nutella it gives me an idea to do baking to serve in a nice way..

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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.

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