Crema di Gianduja from Piemonte
The History of Crema di Gianduja in Piedmont
Torino, capital city of the Piemonte region in Italy is often associated with chocolate, especially crema di gianduja. Torino has a wealth of history and was even the first capital of Italy from 1861 to 1865 and was home to the Savoy Royal Family. Legend has it that Emanuele Filiberto di Savoy was so happy to have moved the Ducal capital from Chambery to Torino in 1563, that he offered the citizens a cup of hot chocolate to celebrate. Since then there has been a certain love affair with the city of Torino and chocolate. Some of the best gourmet chocolatiers in Italy come from here like Gobino and Guido Castagna. So why the hazelnuts?
The acclaimed Piedmontese chocolate hazelnut spread is actually called “crema di gianduja” (JOHN-doo-ya). It is the combination of fine cocoa paste with the best hazelnuts in the world called Tonda Gentile IGP. The Piemontesi eat gianduja in small triangle shaped chocolate bites wrapped in gold foil called gianduiotti, drink it in their coffee (ex. Bicerin) and most of all, spread it on bread or simply eat by the spoonful!
This all started indirectly with Napoleon’s imposition of the continental blockade in November 1806 when he banned all imports coming from England and their colonies which included sugar and prestigious cocoa. The local bakers and pastry chefs basically rationed out the chocolate with local hazelnuts until the end of the ban in 1813. By then, the official gianduja had already been created in 1806. A chocolatier who worked together with Caffarel actually improved the recipe drastically by toasting the hazelnuts and grinding them finer in 1852.
In 1925, Pietro Ferrero, confectioner in Torino, wanted to find an alternative snack for all the factory workers which was both substantial and tasty. He sliced a giant bar of chocolate that would be put between two pieces of bread as a solution though he was still not satisfied until he moved to Alba during the war. He wanted the chocolate to be softer and found an old jar of cocoa butter lying around, put it in the chocolate, and discovered that it was much creamier and easier to cut. He called it soon after, Giandujot, similar to the name of the famous hazelnut / chocolate mixture gianduja. It not only became popular with factory workers but especially with young kids!
So how did it become Nutella?
In the scorching hot summer of 1949 the chocolate bars started melting and Pietro’s son Michele came up with an idea. In the following years, this melted chocolate that was so fantastically spreadable, developed into the famous Nutella in 1964. The birth of gianduja and Nutella is one of those fascinating cases of serendipity!
In the modern day Nutella unfortunately there are added oils like palm oil, that the company still defends today. However, there are spreads coming from the highest quality toasted hazelnuts in Piemonte with extremely high percentages of nuts. The special type of local hazelnuts have more oil in them than other varieties which doesn’t need the added oils. Obviously the cost goes up with more hazelnuts but so does the quality and health benefits! One of our favorite hazelnut spreads is Papa dei Boschi from the Alta Langa. Their trees are up to 70 years old and organically farmed. The owner Jose, worked for decades at Nutella and decided it was time to make his own healthier and artisanal version. If you are interested in tasting some, you can buy them from our shop here!