History & Origins Of The Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread
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In 19th century Italy, the city of Turin enjoyed popularity of being Europe’s chocolate capital since the early 1800’s. With renowned cacao-based products to its name, the prominence of the city was shaken by Napolean Bonaparte and the French Grand Armée by 1806 – who were busy taking over parts of Europe under the garb of ‘social enlightenment’. As Britain and France steeped in mutual tension, a series of naval blockades and trade embargoes were initiated on both sides – leading to the French political leader to halt all trade, which included the cluster of cities that would soon be identified as Italy.

Hence, in Turin’s case the chocolate industry came to a grinding halt since Britain played a pivotal role in facilitating the transportation of cacao between Mesoamerica and Europe. While some parts of history suggest that this turning point became a catalyst for Turin’s chocolatiers who were unable to exploit Britain’s access to cacao beans, to look towards Piedmont – which was abundant in hazelnut trees. As an inventive solution to remain in business and supplement the supply, the chocolatiers decided to grind hazelnuts into a fine powder – which had an appearance similar to cocoa.

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The hazelnuts were then combined with cocoa to make a thick, ganache-like confection as a way of exhibiting resourcefulness and innovation. The iconic chocolate-hazelnut spread, which was known as gianduia or gianduja also dictates another folklore where France was responsible for the birth of the delicious spread – when chocolatiers began to sell the product which slowly gained popularity through the ages. Moving further, as food rations became scarce during the second World War, a pastry chef of Piedmontese origin by the name of Pierto Ferrero decided to grind up hazelnuts with sugar and any leftover cocoa powder to create a loaf called the giandujot.

Being a time when cost-cutting was imperative, this initiative by Pierto allowed to make up for the sky-rocketing costs of cocoa at the time. The thickness of the loaf which needed to be cut with a knife was considered to be a luxury buy for a masses until he came up with a spreadable version of the same recipe – known as the La Supercrema in 1951. The affordability of this chocolate spread turned it into a household staple until a decade later, when Ferrero’s son Michael added palm oil to the traditional recipe to meet mass demand.

The chocolate-hazelnut spread, which was then rebranded as Nutella, became a common feature in most European breakfasts or baked snacks – making its way to Asia and the USA around the 1980’s. Now, the iconic spread features in almost all kinds of desserts – from crepes, waffles, cheesecakes, pastries, croissants and even dessert pizzas. The spread also features on many a dessert grazing boards, fondue as well as used to frost cakes.