When I eat Nutella, something happens to me: I’m 16 again, sitting around the breakfast table in an idyllic little farmhouse in the Danish countryside. My host mother has set out freshly baked breads purchased that morning before sunrise along with butter, soft cheeses, jam, fruit and Nutella.
I know Nutella is Italian. I know Nutella has been around forever — especially in Europe. But my journey to Denmark was my first visit overseas and my first taste of Nutella. So for me, Nutella is Danish, complete with windmills, rolling pastures of tall green grass, bright hollyhocks growing against the windows, and the cold waters of the north sea.
I grew up in the United States. I ate what I ate because that’s what my family ate, and I never really thought about it much more than that. My mind was simply blown by the taste of chocolate and hazelnut on bakery fresh bread with mild Danish cheese. How could it not be? At home it was Pop-Tarts or toast or cereal, things that involved virtually no preparation, genuine flavor, or even sitting down for that matter. Breakfast was just something you did on your way out the door.
This notion of sitting down around the table each morning was completely new to me. Hell, the notion of sitting down for practically any meal was new to me. We lived a rush-here-and-there kind of life at home, sitting down together as a family maybe once or twice a week, and even then, I’m sure the television stayed on.
Denmark was my first glimpse of really appreciating food. There was the beautiful breakfast spread each morning, seasoned with family conversation, but there were also lovely dinners at a table outside under the never-ending dusk of northern summer evenings. There were potatoes harvested from the yard that same day, there were fresh eggs from the family’s hens, there were cows from the neighbor’s pasture hanging their heads over the fence. For the first time in my life I felt connected to what I was eating.
Sure, there are more elegant ways to eat Nutella than in a silly homemade Pop-Tart. I could’ve made a mousse, or a cheesecake or a pastry. But I wanted something that left the Nutella flavor as the big star. I wanted something simple. And I grew up eating Pop-Tarts, so in a way it is a nice marriage of the two versions of the young me: the one who rushed out the door with breakfast in hand, and the one who travelled to Europe and learned to enjoy food.
The pie crust is simple — no salt or sweetener — just a basic dough to cradle the Nutella. The honey-bourbon glaze adds a touch of sophistication (if that’s possible with a Pop-Tart) without overwhelming the flavor. Every once in a while you get just a hint of bourbon in a bite.
I’ve lost touch with my host family from Denmark but I still think of them fondly, grateful for their willingness to share their home, their meals, and their way of life with me. I’ll never lose touch with that.
6 Tbsp. butter
1 ½ cups flour
4 Tbsp. cold water
1 egg (to brush tops of tarts)
¾ cup (or more to taste) confectioners sugar
1 Tbsp bourbon
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp water
Preheat the oven to 375˚.
Cut the butter into small pieces. In the bowl of a food processor with the dough blade attached, combine the butter and flour. Pulse the food processor until the flour and butter have combined and resemble a coarse meal. Add the cold water a tablespoon at a time, pulsing after each addition until the dough begins to form a ball. Remove dough from processor and place on a lightly floured surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough very thin- about 1/8 inch thick.
Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut rectangles of equal size from the dough. Place 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons Nutella on ½ of the rectangles. Top with the remaining rectangles. Using a fork, press together the edges of edges of each tart, sealing them shut.
In a small bowl, beat the egg. Place the tarts on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush them with egg and bake at 375˚ for 30 minutes or until tarts are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
In a small bowl, combine the confectioners sugar, water, bourbon and honey and mix well. Add more or less of each of the ingredients to reach desired flavor and consistency. Drizzle glaze over tarts.