Tasting the original gianduja

Gianduia close-up of Gianduiotto by CaffarelGianduia close-up of Gianduiotto by Caffarel

Pop quiz: What event in the mid-1800s changed chocolate production in northern Italy forever?

If you answered the Great Cocoa Bean Shortage of 1840, you would be correct. At least in principle (whoever made up that name is clearly FOS though). ūüėČ

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.

Gianduia close-up of Gianduiotto

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gianduja part III: where to find it

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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… ūüôā

homemade chocolate hazelnut spread

Image above: Sarah Reid via Flickr

Featured image: Houang Stephane via Flickr

Gianduja part II: chocolate hazelnut spreads

http://ivoryhut.com/2010/12/nutella-chip-cookies-with-homemade-nutella-chips/
Homemade Nutella
Photo credit: Maggie Muggins

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.

http://ivoryhut.com/2010/12/nutella-chip-cookies-with-homemade-nutella-chips/
Photo Credit: Erika Pineda-Ghanny © 2016

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.

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Do you really want to eat this?                      Photo credit: Yukitchen © 2015

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.

Gianduja Hazelnut Crunch Truffles
Photo credit: Amber Latner

You’re welcome.


Intro to Gianduja

Hazelnuts
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b9/Gianduiotti.jpg/1280px-Gianduiotti.jpg
Photo credit: Clop

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.

Turin Municipality
Turin Municipality

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).

Novi Italian chocolate bars in gianduja (hazelnut), fondente (dark) and latte (milk)