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Monday, November 8, 2010

Hazelnut Truffles (aka Nutella Balls)

I’ve actually mentioned nut butter balls before, in one of my very first posts, when I was mulling over potential ideas for wedding favors. I briefly described a basic general process for making candy balls from any nut butter (I have seen peanut, almond, cashew and macadamia nut in Wegman’s). Since I made Nutella balls this past weekend for a party, I thought now would be a great time to go back for a recap, especially since I tweaked the recipe a bit for a richer truffle.

Nutella is a kind of gianduia, that is, a chocolate paste containing about 30% hazelnuts. The generic name comes from Gianduja, a marionette featured heavily in the Italian Carnival (the festival season immediately preceding Lent).  Gianduja the puppet (whose name literally means something like ”John the pottering man”) is portrayed as the archetypal provincial Piedmontese character, honest, loyal, with a love of good wine and pretty girls. Typically wearing a tricorne hat and brown coat trimmed in red, Gianduja is the official “King of the Carnival” in Turin, the capital of Piedmont. Gianduja the chocolate was also an invention of Turin, by the chocolate company Caffarel in 1853 (Caffarel, incidentally, still exists and is now a subsidiary of Lindt). In 1946, Pietro Ferrero, also of Piedmont, formulated a solid block of “Pasta Gianduja” for retail, followed closely by a soft “Supercrema” version in 1951. In 1964, Supercrema got a new formulation and name: Nutella; and today there are nearly 200,000 tons of it produced every year!

I’ve been making these balls for years, inspired by the multiple recipes for peanut butter balls that are floating around the internet (and I’ve made peanut butter balls as well -- delicious). Most peanut butter ball recipes call for peanut butter, confectioner’s sugar, butter, and either Rice Krispies or graham cracker crumbs. I myself prefer graham cracker crumbs, but both are tasty. I’ll provide my recipe for these Nutella balls first, then also provide a more traditional recipe (that will also work for peanut butter) afterwards.

I changed up the Nutella ball recipe this time around, because I decided that Nutella already has enough sugar in it, I didn’t want to add any more. I didn’t want them to be overpoweringly sweet, I wanted the richness and the chocolate-y goodness of the Nutella to be able to shine, so I cut out all confectioner’s sugar, and halved the butter, with great results.

The workflow of the Nutella balls is very simple. First, you melt a stick of butter. Then you combine it with a 26.5 oz jar of Nutella and 2 cups of graham cracker crumbs (I used regular graham cracker crumbs because that is what I had on hand, but chocolate graham cracker crumbs would also be fantastic in this recipe). You mix it up until it is well incorporated (you can use a mixer if you’d like, I did it by hand).

Then, take a #60 scoop and use it scoop the filling, and form balls. Place them on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet, and pop them in the freezer for about an hour.  Because of the loss of the sugar, these balls needed a little longer in the freezer to firm up enough to be dipped.

Then, take a bag of the dark chocolate candy coating melts, and melt them in the microwave. When they are fully melted, mix in 3 capfuls of vegetable oil to thin out the coating. Dip all of the balls, the coating should be thin enough to smooth out as you tap the excess off of the balls. Normally I drizzle on a contrasting color afterwards, but I didn’t bother this time.

These balls are very easy to make. The longest time commitment is waiting for them to firm up in the freezer but I think the results are well worth it. The balls turned out rich and creamy, not too sweet, definitely decadent. The graham crackers add a nice little crunchy change of texture to the fresh Nutella balls as you eat them, although the crunchiness will go away as the graham cracker crumbs have a chance to be moistened by the rest of the filling.

 These don’t have to be stored in the fridge, although you might want to consider it (or at least chilling them before serving them) to keep the filling firmer. I haven’t tried this with peanut butter yet, but I think it should work fine, especially if you are using a typical peanut butter (i.e. not a natural peanut butter) that already has sugar, such as Skippy. The recipe listed after this one, the “original” recipe that I used to use, definitely works great for peanut butter, and would probably be the best one to use if you are using any natural nut butters that don’t have a lot of added sugar.

 Hazelnut Truffles (Nutella Balls)
  • 1-26.5 oz jar of Nutella
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 2 C graham cracker crumbs (chocolate or regular)
  • For candy coating: 1 bag of dark chocolate candy coating wafers; 3 capfuls of vegetable oil

  1. Combine butter, Nutella, and crumbs until well mixed and uniformly moist
  2. Using #60 scoop, scoop out filling and form into balls
  3. Place balls on wax paper-lined cookie sheet, and freeze for 1 hour
  4. When ready to dip: melt candy coating wafers, and thin with 3 capfuls of vegetable oil
  5. Dip the Nutella balls in the coating, tapping off the excess, and place onto wax paper-lined cookie sheet to harden
  6. Garnish as desired.

Yield: 4 ½ dozen

Here is the original recipe I used to use, which contains sugar. Again, this would be great for regular peanut butter, natural peanut butter, or any other natural nut butter that doesn’t already have a high sugar content:

  • 2 C nut butter
  • 2 sticks of butter, melted
  • 2 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 C graham cracker crumbs OR 3 C Rice Krispies

  1. Combine butter, nut butter, sugar and either crumbs or Rice Krispies until well mixed and uniformly moist
  2. Using #60 scoop, scoop out filling and form into balls
  3. Place balls on wax paper-lined cookie sheet, and freeze for 1 hour
  4. When ready to dip: melt candy coating wafers, and thin with 3 capfuls of vegetable oil
  5. Dip the balls in the coating, and place onto wax paper-lined cookie sheet to harden
  6. Garnish as desired. 


Barbara said...

I am curious if the hazelnut or peanut butter truffles would still not need refrigeration if they were not enrobed in chocolate. Often such truffle recipes specify that because they are enrobed they can be stored at room temp. However it appears that there is nothing in the recipe that requires refrigeration. I guess the same question I have would apply to your oreo truffles made with butter. Thank you.

Meredith P said...

Hi Barbara,

I would say that the sheer amount of sugar in the nut butter balls would keep microbial growth at bay, even if there were something in them that required refrigeration (similar to how ganaches of a certain chocolate:cream ratio do not have to be refrigerated, provided that you don't whip air into them). But the chocolate (or chocolate flavored candy coating, which melts much easier) serves a practical function in holding the ball together, because the truffle mixture is not very firm. You can try to combat this by adding more of the dry ingredients, but then you run the risk of making the whole thing crumbly. If you are going to make the balls without dipping, I would place them individually in mini cupcake wrappers, to preserve their integrity. Best of luck!

Barbara said...

Thank you very much. I was actually hoping to come up with more of a filling than an actual ball. The basic principal of most of the ball recipes that do not contain cream cheese seem to not need refrigeration but since all seem to be enrobed I was concerned that was the key to their shelf life. Thank again.