No, this is not a polite etiquette term for ‘nice to meet you’ but an Italian confection that is, to me, sheer perfection. Gianduja is an untra-smooth and creamy blend of hazelnut paste and chocolate, and hails from the Piedmont region of northern Italy. In the Piedmontese city of Turin, old world baroque-style confectionary shops and caffes sell vast quanties of this exquisite sweet, as well as other gianduja based treats, such as gianduja gelato and gianduja mousse.
Italy has an impressive history of chocolate manufacture that began in the 17th century in Piedmont, a region that is also home to the marvelous ‘Tonde Gentile delle Langhe’ variety of hazelnut. It was only a matter of time before these two ‘titans of flavor’ were brought together in flourless cakes, cookies such as Baci di Dama, Nocciolini di Chivasso, as well as everyday biscotti; and confections such as dragees, pralines and of course, giandjua.
Yes, yes….. I know that Piedmont is also famous for wine ( Barbaresco, Barolo, Dolcetto, Gattinara, Gavi, Ghemme, Nebbiolo, and Strevi among others ) and cheese ( Bra, Caselmagno, Gorgonzola, Grand Padano, Murazzano, Taleggio, Robiola di Roccavernano, etc., ) and let’s not forget Langhe white truffles, the most expensive truffles in the world.
But the hero of this story is gianduja. This bite-sized, foil wrapped confection is quite recognizable – it is triangular in shape ( some describe it as boat-shaped ) and is made in milk chocolate, dark chocolate, chili-infused dark chocolae, and skin-thin chocolate covered versions. There are Swiss versions of gianduja, and similar French confections, but for me they are overly sweet imposters. Italian gianduja is the perfect balance of hazelnut to chocolate ( versus chocolate to hazelnut, and while that can never be a bad thing, it is the proportions that define gianduja ) blended artfully into a small treat that is not overly sweet.
No matter which type of Italian gianduja you have, the way to eat it is the same. Unwrap, place it in your mouth and let is slowly melt – do not chew. Gianduja is thick and rich and empassioned with the flavor of roasted hazelnuts. As the rich paste fills your mouth and trickles down your throat, you will be impressed ( and pleased ) that this much flavor can come from such a small treat.
Savor your gianduja when you are alone – you need to close your eyes, relax and be undisturbed. Or, tune in to some lively baroque classical music or uplifting choral piece ( right now I am listening to Ave Maria Gratia Plena by Tomas Lius de Victoria, as I savor my gianduja ) as I think that an overload of sumptuous music adds to the ‘sophisticated, continental mood’ I feel when I indulge on a few of these decadent little treats.
Besides the traditional confections, the Italian confectioner Leone (est. 1857 ) has marketed a tube of squeezable gianduja cream. This is very handy to keep in your desk drawer or purse for emergency gianduja fixes, or for squeezing a dab into morning coffee. The artisan chocolate workshop of Andrea Slitti offers jars of hazelnut and chocolate ‘Nocciolata’ – rich, thick cream that is wonderful sandwiched between two butter cookies or spread on muffins or scones.
The September issue of Food & Wine magazine featured a recipe by Grace Parisi for Gianduja Mousse and it is molto deliciouso. And another good use for that tube of gianduja.
This dessert is simple to make and I highly recommend working this into your repertoire of desserts to make when your guests are particularly deserving or you feel the need to be uproarously appreciated.
1/2 cup chocolate hazelnut paste ( such as Leone or Slitti )
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 & 1/2 teaspoons hazelnut liqueur
1/2 cup heavy cream
In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the chocolate-hazelnut paste with the creme fraiche and brandy at low speed until smooth. In another bowl, beat the heavy cream until firm peaks form. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the chocolate-hazelnut mixture until no streaks remain. Spoon the mousse into small bowls and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Serve plain.
Look no further than our shelves at Cooks Shop Here for the following gianduja items:
Caffarel milk chocolate gianduja
Caffarel dark chocolate gianduja
Caffarel chili-infused dark chocolate gianduja