My first experience with the gloriously decadent chocolate and hazelnut combination is with Ferrero Rocher chocolates. I always thought of it being a treat to unwrap the gold foil, like a special present for no reason at all. When we were kids, we only were allowed one, and only after some special event (like Christmas or a party) where someone gave my parents a golden pyramid. It was AWESOME. I would try to savor the whole experience by trying to eat the chocolate layer by layer rather than just biting into it. The crunch wafer shell would give way to the surprise hazelnut suspended in the gooey chocolate. Just thinking about it brings me back.
It wasn’t until college that I discovered Nutella. My first year, I rented out a room in the house of this Chinese man and his 6-year old son. The kid (can’t for the life of me remember his name) had toast and Nutella pretty much every morning. I had no idea what it was, but knew it had to be good since it was endorsed by Kobe Bryant (at the time). (NOTE: The fact that Kobe Bryant’s picture was on it was actually a negative point in my book, but I can see it being a good marketing tactic at the time. This was just before the whole Colorado sexual assault fiasco that lost him several endorsements, including this one.) The father said I could try it if I wanted.. and from that first bite.. I was hooked. I had to get my own jar, or else the kid would never have it again. I was surprised to find it in the peanut butter section of a normal grocery store, albeit a bit expensive for my college income (which was pretty much nil at the time). Since then, it would seem that Nutella is all over the place. I’m always surprised now when I find out that someone has never had it before or never heard of it.. especially since it has found it’s way into brownies, cupcakes, crepes, icecreams, dessert, etc.
Anyway.. back to the point of this post. I’ve noticed in recent years lots of products trying their own hand at chocolate-hazelnut spread, even some recipes to make your own at home. I will be trying my hand at a homemade recipe (already have all the ingredients), but that’s for a later time. For now.. let’s do a little taste test…
Nutella vs. Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
I received my first sample of Justin’s Nut Butter at a race. Can’t remember which one it was, but it was a nice little package of Justin’s Maple Almond Butter, claimed (by Justin) to be the “most perfect tasting nut butter on the planet” (it says so on the label). I’m not one to disagree.. this one is better than all the other nut butters I’ve tried, including Nuttzo. That’s not to say that I don’t love Nuttzo (because I do).. but Justin’s has got everyone beat (in my opinion).
I saw sample packages of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter at the store, and figured it’d be fun to do a little taste test compared to Nutella (the original). I only had Ritz crackers at my desk at work, so that was the vehicle for the taste test. My coworker participated in the blind taste test, while I new exactly what I was eating. There are two essential categories to consider in this particular taste test: TASTE (obviously) and CONSISTENCY (our “mouthfeel” – but I don’t like that term.. sounds dirty).
TASTE: Though one was not better than the other, they were different. Nutella is definitely more of a chocolate spread. It’s sweet with just a hint of hazelnut flavor. Justin’s, on the other hand, is more of a nut butter. The hazelnut butter takes the foreground, with the chocolate being a pleasant sidekick. Also, the nut butter isn’t as creamy, so you get more of the hazelnut flavor in little bursts of nut bits.
CONSTISTENCY: Just looking at the two products, there’s a huge difference in consistency. Nutella is thick and dense, which makes it sometimes difficult to spread (especially on brittle Ritz crackers). All the ingredients are creamed together very well, to get a consistent color and smooth texture throughout the entire product. Justin’s is more runny (probably owing to it’s only 7 all-natural ingredients), making it easier to spread on even the most delicate surfaces (like untoasted white bread). The spread is also not as smooth, leaving bits of nuts throughout the product (but not like chunky peanut butter).
The VERDICT: I preferred the subtle chocolate flavor of Justin’s Chocolate Hazelnut Butter. My coworker preferred Nutella for it’s sweetness. I guess that makes it a tie.. for now.
Perhaps the next step would be to do a completely blind taste test with several chocolate hazelnut spreads (including homemade) and see what turns up Number 1. Look for that in the future. Till then… HAPPY EATING!