Back in 1865, with the price of cocoa beans through the roof, a chocolate maker in Turin began augmenting his cocoa bean supply with hazelnuts, which (in Piedmont anyway) were plentiful and cheap. The resulting chocolate-hazelnut concoction was so delicious that it landed in the chocolate maker’s permanent rotation and inspired numerous imitators.
That chocolate maker was Caffarel, and its chocolate-hazelnut invention is now known as gianduja (or gianduia, also correct). Caffarel called its original version “Gianduiotto.” Pietro Ferrero called his version Nutella.
I’ve wanted to try Gianduiotto for years, but it’s actually quite hard to find in the U.S., in my experience.
Ironically, I found it when I wasn’t even looking — in Canada! On a recent trip to Toronto, I dropped by St. Lawrence Market, where I stumbled upon Aren’t We Sweet, an unassuming family-run chocolatier with a little shop in the lower level. There, in a neglected corner of the shop, I found a huge box of individually wrapped Gianduiotti (an entire BIN!) shining in their signature gold foil.
I’ll cut to the chase: Gianduiotti are delicious. They’re the perfect portable chocolate treat, both practical and elegant.
That said, I still prefer the dark chocolate gianduja I recently raved about by La Molina, which is a lot less sweet and has more flavor nuance than Caffarel’s version (you can buy La Molina’s gianduja here). Still, it was exciting to finally get to taste the original recipe.
How about you – what are your favorite gianduja makers?
Does anyone else have this problem: every time you innocently wander into a chocolate retail store, you drop an obscene amount of money in a shockingly short amount of time.
Please tell me I’m not the only one.
Recently, in the latest incarnation of my compulsive chocolate shopping habit, I poked my head into a new-ish chocolate retail shop in midtown Manhattan, 2beans.
I just wanted to pick up a bar of Francois Pralus. I swear.
I spent $110 in 30 minutes (of course I did).
It was a big chocolate haul, even for me. But I’m so glad I splurged, because these turned out to be some of the most delicious and surprising bars I’ve tried in quite some time. It was actually pretty hard for me to rate these because they were ALL fantastic.
But I’ll try my best.
So here you go folks: in descending order, from my very favorite to my least favorite. I’ve added links to online suppliers of these bars, in case you want to try them for yourself.
Heavenly: Francois Pralus Venezuela 75% (France): Creamy, nutty and earthy, some may think this bar has too much added cocoa butter, but I think it’s perfect.
Bonnat Surabaya 65% dark milk chocolate (France): An interesting, creamy, slightly sour dark milk chocolate with a hint of smokiness. It almost tastes like a goat milk chocolate (it’s not). I love pungent, funky-tasting milk chocolate, and you can’t go wrong with Bonnat.
Durci Empyrean Sabor 70% (US): This is the second bar I’ve tried from Durci, and I was surprised that these Venezuelan beans tasted as floral to me as the first bar I tried (Durci’s Corona Arriba bar, with Nacional beans from Ecuador). I wonder what I’m tasting that’s so floral. Is it something in the roast?
Castronovo Colombia 63% dark milk (US): One of the best dark milk chocolates I’ve tried recently from a North American chocolate maker. Interesting, earthy flavor notes, but super smooth and creamy like a European milk chocolate.
Tasty enough, but didn’t rock my world:
Fruition Hudson Valley Bourbon 61% dark milk chocolate (US): I was mildly disappointed by this bar. It’s good — everything Fruition makes is pretty awesome. But I had trouble detecting any bourbon or woody flavors, and it lacks the smoothness I want in a dark milk chocolate.
Dick Taylor Belize 72% (US): Everyone I know who has tried this bar has raved about it. I was expecting great things, which might be why I was a little disappointed. Its fruitiness is nice, but I find it VERY astringent.
Domori Criollo 70% Chuao (Italy): Very smooth texture, but I was underwhelmed by the bar’s flavor. It just seemed to lack nuance. To be fair, I only got to try a small sample, and I didn’t have a fresh palate, so I should probably give it another shot.
How about you — what were your favorite bars from you most recent chocolate shopping spree?
I know, I know, enough with the gianduja already! I promise this is my last post about the chocolate-hazelnut deliciousness known as gianduja for, well… at least a week.
My recent recipe for Gianduja Crunch Truffles included directions for making your own gianduja (a wholesome, less processed version of Nutella) at home. Shortly after publishing that post, I was contacted by a happy reader who had made gianduja for the first time. He was spreading it on toast and mixing it into everything imaginable (he warned against mixing it into coffee — seems like good advice!). Anyway, the reader loved homemade gianduja so much that I was inspired to make it easier for readers to locate my gianduja recipe without sifting through lengthy instructions on truffle-making and chocolate tempering.
Notes about this recipe:
I love this gianduja recipe because it’s so simple and so wholesome. If you’ve ever looked at the ingredients on a jar of Nutella, you’re aware that there’s nothing healthy about that mixture of sugar and palm oil (ew). So it was important to me that this recipe include only the highest quality ingredients: roasted nuts and super dark chocolate. No fillers, and no added sugar (the only sugar in this recipe is what’s already in the dark chocolate).
A quick note on substitutions: If you want to eliminate sugar from this recipe completely, try substituting 8 oz. unsweetened chocolate plus your sugar substitute of choice for the dark chocolate. After blending the other ingredients, add the sugar substitute to the food processor slowly, tasting until it’s sweet enough. As I’ve mentioned before, I personally like stevia as an alternative sweetener, and stevia works well to sweeten nut butters so it might actually be a good choice for this recipe (I’ve never tried it though, so don’t quote me on that). Other sugar substitutes (honey, xylitol) and noncaloric sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame) would likely work as well. You could also substitute cocoa powder and sugar (or a sugar substitute) for the dark chocolate in this recipe — if you try this, please let me know how it tastes!
So here you go: a super simple recipe for making your own delicious, addictive, healthy chocolate-hazelnut spread using nothing more than your oven/toaster, a microwave and a food processor or Vitamix.
Recipe: Dark Chocolate Hazelnut (Gianduja) Spread
Makes 13 oz gianduja (about 1 2/3 cups)
5 oz dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa*) chopped into small pieces (can substitute bittersweet chocolate chips, or even milk chocolate for a sweeter gianduja)
8 oz whole hazelnuts
* The higher the % cocoa, the lower the relative % sugar in your gianduja
To roast the nuts: On a baking tray on the center rack of your oven, toast the hazelnuts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally until they’re fragrant and golden brown (but not burnt). Wrap them in a clean dish towel to cool on the counter. Once cool, use the towel to rub off the skins, removing any stubborn skins with your fingers (leaving the skins on won’t ruin the gianduja, but they do taste a little bitter).
To melt the chocolate: Melt 8 oz dark chocolate in the microwave. To do this without burning the chocolate, place the chopped chocolate pieces in a plastic container (glass or ceramic will retain too much heat) and microwave for 2 minutes, stirring every 45 to 60 seconds. Continue microwaving at 10 second intervals, stirring well after each interval. To avoid burning it, stop when the chocolate is 80% melted — its residual heat will melt the remaining solid chocolate pieces as you continue to stir. The whole process should take less than 5 minutes.
To make the gianduja: In a food processor or Vitamix, blend the hazelnuts into a paste, scraping down the sides as needed. The consistency should be like that of creamy peanut butter. Add the melted chocolate and blend until creamy.
Store the gianduja in a tightly sealed container away from sunlight for 1-2 months, or in the refrigerator for 6-12 months.
Note: if you store gianduja in the fridge, you’ll need to microwave it (or leave it at room temperature for a couple of hours) to bring back its soft, spreadable consistency.
This truffle was inspired by Perugina’s Baci, those addictive Italian chocolate-hazelnut confections that have started showing up in American supermarkets everywhere. I wanted to add some texture to the classic round truffle by pressing a whole hazelnut into its center. The result is delightful; the hazelnut provides a wonderful textural contrast to the otherwise uniform creaminess of the gianduja.
And since we were talking about sugar-free chocolate last week, here’s another cool thing about these truffles: other than what’s already in the chocolate, there’s no added sugar in these. The ingredients are nuts and dark chocolate. That’s it. As noted in a previous post, homemade gianduja is so much more wholesome than Nutella. You could almost consider these truffles… healthy?
I decorated the truffles using a piping bag filled with tempered milk chocolate. It’s a really fun technique — I felt like I was in kindergarten art class. But feel free to skip this part. In fact, you can make these truffles without any tempering at all! Dip the truffle centers in untempered chocolate (melted in the microwave as described below) and then roll them in chopped hazelnuts, sugar, crushed corn flakes or whatever else you think of. Nobody will know the chocolate shell is untempered if it’s hidden this way.
Btw, this recipe can easily be doubled or halved. The important thing is that there be a 1:1 ratio of chocolate to hazelnuts in the gianduja filling. If you’re on the fence, I would make a larger batch rather than a smaller one… gianduja keeps for several months at room temperature and much longer in the fridge, so having some extra around to spread on toast or drizzle on pancakes wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world…
Image: Amber Latner
Gianduja Crunch Truffles
Makes approximately 30 truffles.
Shelf life: at least two months at room temperature; up to six months in the refrigerator.
Gianduja crunch centers:
8 oz dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used DeZaan’s 64% dark couverture, but any bittersweet chocolate will work — or use milk chocolate for a sweeter truffle)
12 oz whole hazelnuts
8 oz tempered dark chocolate for enrobing (optional)
2-3 oz tempered milk chocolate for decorating (optional)
You can also can skip the chocolate shells entirely and roll the centers in chopped hazelnuts, cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, crushed corn flakes, sugar, ground coffee beans — be creative!
To roast the nuts: On a baking tray on the center rack of your oven, toast the hazelnuts at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re fragrant and brown but not burnt. Wrap them in a clean dish towel to cool on the counter. Use the towel to rub off the skins, and remove any stubborn skins with your fingers. Leaving the skins on won’t ruin the gianduja, but I think they taste a little bitter.
To melt the chocolate: Melt 8 oz chopped dark chocolate in the microwave. To do this without burning the chocolate, place it in a plastic container (glass or ceramic will retain too much heat) and microwave for 2 minutes, stirring every 45 to 60 seconds. Stir well.Continue microwaving at 10 second intervals, stirring well after each interval. To avoid burning the chocolate, stop when it’s 80% melted — the residual heat of the chocolate will melt the remaining pieces as you stir. The whole process should take less than 5 minutes.
To make the gianduja filling: Reserve 4 oz toasted hazelnuts. In a food processor, blend the remaining 8 oz hazelnuts into a paste. The consistency should be like that of peanut butter. Add the melted chocolate. Blend until creamy.
You can stop here if you want, storing the gianduja in a tightly sealed container away from sunlight for 1-2 months, or in the refrigerator for 6 months or more. Note that if you store gianduja in the fridge, you’ll need to leave it at room temperature (or microwave it) to bring it back to a soft, spreadable consistency.
Or, continue on to the next step to make truffles with it.
Note: If the gianduja is too soft immediately after making it, refrigerate for 30-60 minutes before rolling it into balls. Just remember it’s very important to bring the balls to room temperature before enrobing them in tempered chocolate.
To enrobe the centers: Melt and temper the remaining 8 oz chocolate. One at a time, drop each truffle into the chocolate and scoop it out with enrobing forks (a kitchen fork will work in a pinch). Place them on parchment paper to set. If you chose to use untempered chocolate for this step, you’ll need to roll the balls in a bowl of chopped hazelnuts (or your coating of choice) before the chocolate has a chance to set.
To decorate the enrobed truffles: Melt and temper* the milk chocolate and pour it into a large plastic sandwich bag. Twist the end of the bag to push the chocolate into one of the bottom corners. Using scissors, snip off the tip of the corner (ta-da — you have a piping bag!) and, squeezing from the twisted end of the bag, pipe milk chocolate stripes, swirls or dots onto the truffles. Work on parchment paper for easy cleanup. Fun, right?
*Milk chocolate should be tempered at a slightly lower temperature than dark chocolate, so my seeding instructions won’t be that helpful for this. For now I recommend you check out the instructions for tempering milk chocolate on Ecole Chocolat’s website.
A little while back I wrote about the history of traditional Italian gianduja and its more modern, spreadable cousin. Since that post, a couple of readers have asked me where they can buy gianduja, since all they’ve been able to find at their local supermarket is Nutella.
You have three options if you’re trying to locate real gianduja in North America. First, you can probably find it at a specialty chocolate retailer in your city or town. To find the closest retailer, search on chocomap.com or download the Find Chocolate! app on your device. Yes, there’s an app to help you find chocolate!
Another option: you can search the shelves of a European food import store (think Dean & Deluca).
And finally — and this is my own preferred method — you can buy gianduja online.
Why buying gianduja online makes sense:
Besides the fact that it’s clearly awesome to buy chocolate without leaving the house or speaking to another human being, I like buying gianduja online because the selection is much, much better online than anything you’ll find in a brick and mortar shop — this I promise. I’m guessing the average specialty Italian food importer will carry one or two types of gianduja. In contrast, online retailers carry dozens.
Favorite online gianduja retailers:
For starters, Amazon carries a respectable number of gianduja products of both the solid and spreadable varieties, so it may be a good place to start. I recommend also checking out the selection at Chocosphere and World Wide Chocolate. If you live outside the U.S. and know an online retailer that delivers to your region, I would love to know about it — send me a link!
Europeans may want to order directly from one of the acclaimed Italian gianduja makers’ websites, such as Venchi’s. Or even better, find an excuse to go to Turin (remember that obscure work conference your boss mentioned a while back…?) and pick up gianduja from one of the many specialty shops scattered around the city. I hear Turin is lovely this time of year…
Want a more hands-on way to get your, um, hands on some gianduja?
Rather than buying gianduja, I highly recommend you try making it at home in your food processor. After seeing how easy it is, you may never buy the ready-made kind again.
See my recipe in the next post… But in the meantime, I leave you with this picture of deliciousness from Sarah Reid’s Flickr page.
I dare you to stare at this for 5 seconds without your mouth watering… 🙂
Last week I wrote about the history of the awesome Italian chocolate-hazelnut confection called gianduja. In the following series of posts I’ll cover how gianduja is made (and how to make it at home), where to buy it, and what to do with it. I’m also really excited to share a couple of great gianduja recipes I’ve been working on.
We’ve already covered how traditional gianduja was made by combining chocolate and hazelnut paste to form solid, single-serving confections. However, in the 1940’s, 30 years after gianduja’s introduction to the world, soft gianduja spreads (called paste gianduja) started becoming popular in northern Italy as well. While you may not have heard of its firmer, foil-wrapped cousin, I’m betting most of you are probably quite familiar with Nutella.
Wait, so solid bars of gianduja and soft chocolate hazelnut spreads are actually the same thing?
Yes. The consistency of giandjua is the direct result of its ratio of chocolate to ground hazelnuts. Since cocoa butter is solid at room temperature but nut butters are quite soft, a firmer gianduja will have relatively more chocolate, where as a soft gianduja will be heavier on the hazelnut paste. So, for example, a solid bar of gianduja might have a 70:30 chocolate-to-hazelnut ratio, where as a creamy, spreadable paste will be closer to 50:50, or even 40:60.
Yum. Can I make spreadable gianduja at home?
Making fantastic gianduja spreads at home is simple and will spoil you forever — you’ll never buy that nasty imitation stuff again (I’m talking to you, Nutella). I have a fantastic recipe for homemade gianduja spread that I’m excited to share with you next week. All you need are roasted hazelnuts, melted chocolate and a food processor.
If homemade gianduja is just nuts and dark chocolate, does that mean it’s… HEALTHY?
My opinion? Yes, homemade gianduja spread is healthy (yeah I know… as if you needed another reason to eat more of it). It’s full of antioxidants, healthy fats, protein, fiber, vitamin B6, iron, magnesium, theobromine…. you get the picture.
What’s especially cool about making gianduja at home is that you can make a wildly potent, intensely flavored chocolate hazelnut spread with about 70% less sugar than most store-bought spreads. Nutella contains a shocking 57% processed sugar by weight (yikes), where as my recipe for homemade gianduja spread contains less than 16% sugar. Even better, my recipe doesn’t contain processed palm oil or any of the other cheap bulking agents found in most industrially produced chocolate hazelnut spreads.
How long will my homemade chocolate hazelnut spread last before it goes bad?
More good news. Due to the antimicrobial properties of chocolate and the long shelf life of nut butters generally, you can make a big batch of gianduja spread and store it in the fridge for six months or longer.
Hint: are you the type that likes to get holiday gift shopping out of the way early? Fill 6 oz. mason jars with homemade gianduja months before the holidays… but good luck trying to resist eating it all before December!
What else can I do with homemade gianduja besides, you know, eat it with a spoon?
So here’s a little teaser… homemade gianduja also makes for a fantastic truffle filling, and gianduja truffles have a much longer shelf life than ganache-filled truffles (always a bonus for chocolatiers). Keep an eye out for my recipe for these insanely addictive homemade Baci, coming soon.
Yes, these chocolates are every bit as dangerous as they look.
Before Nutella was a household name, and way before Perugina’s Baci were widely available in the U.S., Italians had gianduja.
I had my first bite of gianduja (“jon-doo-yah”) seventeen years ago, and to this day almost nothing makes me happier than this creamy chocolate-hazelnut confection.
Gianduja ranks right up there with pesto as one of the many mind-blowingly delicious culinary inventions gifted to the world by Italy. And like pesto, gianduja is pretty easy to make. It’s really just chocolate and hazelnuts. But something transformative happens when these two ingredients are ground together, something almost alchemical.
I was thinking about this recently… Who was the original gianduja alchemist? Who woke up one morning and thought, “Today would be a good day to toss a bucket of hazelnuts into the grinder with my cocoa nibs — YOLO.”
So, chocolate nerd that I am, I decided to find out. My research led me all the way back to the Napoleonic era, to the Great Cocoa Bean Shortage of 1840 (I’m making that up. But there really was a cocoa bean shortage, and it did happen in the early 1800’s, and it could have had a scary name).
A predecessor to gianduja was invented in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. During Napoleon’s occupation of that area, a British naval blockade obstructed cocoa bean imports from reaching coastal towns in northern Italy, so the price of cocoa beans skyrocketed. To maximize their limited supply, Piedmontese chocolate makers began diluting their cocoa beans with ground hazelnuts, which grew locally and were much cheaper. The new combo product turned out to be a big hit.
But it still didn’t have name.
Then in 1865, Turinese chocolate manufacturer Caffarel came out with Gianduiotto, a creamy chocolate-hazelnut confection that the company still makes today. Gianduiotto got its name from its shape — it’s supposed to resemble the hat of a Turin Carnival marionette named Gianduja. Gianduiotto was very popular with the locals, and the name stuck.
To this day, traditional Piedmontese chocolate makers like Venchi and Novi consider gianduja to be one of the four classic styles of chocolate (the other three being dark, milk and white).