Cupboard love: chocolate and hazelnut spread

Categories: Expert guidance

Ed Smith explores the essential components of his kitchen cupboard. This time, Taste Croatia’s chocolate and hazelnut spread

Words and image: Ed Smith

Chocolate and hazelnut spread might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Croatia. But it is certainly one of the first things you’ll see as you approach Taste Croatia’s stall. Nadalina ‘Spread Me!’ pots are stacked up front and centre, tempting passers-by to reach in and do exactly what it says on the jar.

This is just one of a handful of chocolate products that Londoners Chris Stewart and Ana Maria import from Split, on the Dalmatian coast, and they are proud standard-bearers for Croatia. The producers make the most of regional ingredients in their flavoured chocolate bars, adding things like dried figs and prošek dessert wine, both of which add a unique kick.

It’s also a draw to know that the Spread Me! pots are made spreadable thanks to Croatian olive oil. Without naming names, other well-known chocolate spreads favour the ecologically controversial palm oil, so the use of olive oil here is of real interest. Maybe it’s time to change your breakfast spread of choice?

Pots of gooey ganache
Actually, it might be time to do even more than that. To this chocolate fiend’s mind, pots of gooey, nutty ganache are wasted if they’re reached for only at breakfast time. This is kitchen cupboard gold! A quick dollop of chocolate spread is a gratifyingly easy way to add an extra layer of flavour and texture to a cookie, muffin or cake.

If you include a spoon or two in a dough, cake or brownie mixture, it’ll remain gooey and molten when the rest is baked and set; indeed, pushing a heaped teaspoon-sized blob to the middle of each ramekin guarantees a gooey centre to even a criminally over-cooked fondant. The list goes on: you can make the most of the chocolate-hazelnut flavour in croissant-butter puddings, rippled through ice creams, or melted and whisked into cream to make a mousse.

I was in the mood for baking when I reached for my pot the other day, and decided to cross this Croatian spread with a Scandinavian-style spiced bun. By spreading a milk, butter and egg enriched bread dough with chocolate and rolling it into a roulade shape, I knew that I could create soft buns with an enticing, bitter-sweet swirl. Instead of the more obvious cinnamon, I dusted the chocolate layer with ground cardamom (to make me feel more grown-up, I suppose), though you needn’t do that if you picked the cinnamon version of the spread already.

These baked buns are an easy and fun way to use this ace Market product. Spread me? Absolutely. But not just on toast, and definitely not just at breakfast time.