Chocolate and hazelnuts seems like a match made in heaven. But it took a war to bring them together
Chocolate Hazelnut origin story
Turin, Italy is the unsung chocolate mecca of Europe simply because this is the home of the iconic sweet mixture of Chocolate and Hazelnuts. These two ingredients were first combined during the time of Napoleon when cocoa from South America was difficult to obtain because of the Imperialist ruler’s war with Spain. As a result, chocolate makers in Turin tried to stretch the little cocoa they could get their hands on. The most popular additive became Hazelnuts, which were readily available because of the ubiquitous hazelnut tree in northern Italy.
Gianduja was one of the characters in the Commedia dell’arte or Italian Comedy, an art form that rose to prominence in the 16th century. Gianduja was a happy-go-lucky peasant who enjoyed drinking and chasing women and was best known for his tri-cornered hat.
Gianduiotto, named after this lusty drunk character, is a candy made of chocolate and hazelnut paste. It is triangular shaped, taking its inspiration from Gianduja’s hat.
There are commercial varieties of Gianduiotto available in grocery stores or souvenir shops all over Turun, but the shop called Guido Gobino is something special. The “Giandujotto King” makes lots of high-end chocolates, all worth trying.
Peyrano is also a must-visit when in Turin. They also make an excellent Giandujotto. And, they make a little chocolate filled with grappa! My kinda place!
There can be no talk about the magic mixture of chocolate and hazelnuts without mentioning the behemoth that is Nutella. The creamy choc-haz spread is ubiquitous in homes all over the world, especially those with children. Nutella is so popular, in fact, that the product uses about 25% of the world’s hazelnut supply.
Nutella was invented in 1964 by Michele Ferrero for his father’s chocolate company Ferrero in Alba, Italy. The spread was an improvement on his father’s chocolate hazelnut block, which he began selling in 1946. ‘
Today, Ferrero SpA, the company that makes Nutella is a multibillion dollar corporation and the second biggest chocolate producer in the world. There is even a street and piazza with a modern water feature named after Michele Ferrero in Alba.
While you can get Nutella in any American grocery store, the product is not without controversy. Nutella is one of the largest users of palm oil in the world. The worldwide demand for palm oil has led to unchecked deforestation in Indonesia and Malaysia, causing environmental devastation including threatening of the habitat of endangered species like Sumatran Orangutans, Elephants, and Rhinos. Clearing forests for palm oil plantations drastically increases water pollution and air pollution.
The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil looks to certify sustainable palm oil production, but seem to be fighting a losing battle. Sustainable alternatives to palm oil, like algae oil, fungi oil & yeast oil, which have a much lower environmental impact, have been developed but have been deemed too costly, so far, by most companies using palm oil.
Baci di Dama
Baci di Dama translates to “Kiss of a Lady” because the the two cookies sandwiching a layer of chocolate resemble a woman’s puckered lips.
The traditional Baci di Dama has two tiny hazelnut cookies with a layer of dark chocolate inside. You’ll also find Baci di Dama with chocolate hazelnut spread.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Monsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.