With its iconic shape, reminiscent of an upturned boat, its unmistakable taste, precious traditional gold paper wrapping: we are of course talking about the gianduiotto, timeless Italian delicacy appreciated worldwide.
The secret of its success is linked to the expert blend of cocoa, sugar, hazelnuts and vanilla, but the history of the gianduiotto, which dates back to Napoleonic times, is not so obvious and tells of a time when finding supplies of cocoa had become complex for political reasons.
The origins and background of the gianduiotto
The story of the gianduiotto starts with the creation of the first solid chocolate, around the mid-19th century.
In Turin, the consumption of cocoa had already become a custom in the second half of the 16th century when Emanuele Filiberto I of Savoia, after signing the peace treaty at Chateau Cambrésis, brought cocoa beans into the city for the first time.
It was 1559.
At that time, consumption of a cocoa-based drink was becoming very popular.
The invention which led to the creation of the gianduiotto, though, dates back to 1826, when in an Italian sweet factory, a machine was devised which, by mixing cocoa, water, sugar and vanilla, brought to life the very first chocolate.
Here though, Napoleon contributed his part with his continental block, a decree with which the emperor banned the English, at that time among the main exporters of cocoa, from docking their ships anywhere in French-controlled territory.
Consequently, cocoa became harder to obtain and thus more expensive, but since necessity heightens the need for ingenious solutions, the chocolatiers of that period adopted the habit of mixing hazelnuts (a product which was particularly prolific in that area) with the cocoa.
With the introduction of the Langhe Tonda Gentile hazelnuts into the recipe, the first official page in the history of the gianduiotto was written.
This also brought with it a real record for the world of chocolate: in fact, the gianduiotto was the very first chocolate to be individually wrapped.
In the beginning it was “givu”
So, this little hazelnut-based chocolate came into existence almost by pure chance as an alternative preparation adopted to get round the heavy duties imposed on cocoa.
If, however, the story of the gianduiotto is associated indirectly with an unwitting Napoleon, the chocolate actually owes its name to a traditional carnival character from the Piedmont region in the north of Italy.
In the beginning, this delicious little slice was called “givu”, which in Turin dialect means ‘tidbit’.
Then, in 1865, during the Carnival celebrations, the new chocolates suddenly became very popular thanks to an actor who, dressed up as the Gianduja character, went through the streets of Turin giving them away to the local citizens.
The cheerful character in his brown jacket and yellow waistcoat had such a strong association with this tasty sweet that it has remained to this day, making it famous all over the world.
How is a gianduiotto made?
Originally, the gianduiotto was made by hand: the paste, obtained by mixing cocoa and hazelnuts, was cut using the so-called “coltelle” (large knives) that dissected the chocolate into small portions.
These days the industrial method most widely used is conching, which involves pouring the liquid mixture into small molds which give the final product its distinctive shape.
The gianduiotti produced using this method contain a slightly lower percentage of cocoa and are firmer: in this way, it is easier to extract them from the mold without damaging them.
The other technique is extrusion, which is similar to manual production.
In this case, molds are not used at all: the gianduia paste is poured onto plates, thanks to the mechanical action of specific equipment.
The result obtained with this method is an end product with a compact consistency which however manages to maintain the sweet’s characteristic softness.
The recipe for gianduiotti cake
A soft and velvety consistence, and a delicate flavor: these are the characteristics that make gianduiotti one of the best-loved chocolates of all time.
This is why Italian chocolatiers can boast many recipes based on gianduia paste: from ice-cream to semifreddos, to the very latest cheesecakes, without forgetting traditional cakes and, naturally, tarts.
For those who love the simplicity of shortcrust pastry, combined with the soft texture of the gianduiotto, here is a dessert that can be prepared at home, perhaps to warm up the cold winter afternoons: the gianduiotti cake, inspired by the recipe by the Giallo Zafferano recipe.
• 5.29 oz of sugar
• 1 egg
• 2 egg yolks
• 5.29 oz of butter
• 12.35 oz of flour
• 0.28 oz of powdered yeast for desserts
• 1 sachet of vanilla flavoring
• 1 pinch of salt
• 8.82 oz of gianduiotti
• powdered sugar to decorate
1. Soften the butter to room temperature, then weigh out the flour, yeast, vanilla flavoring and salt.
2. In a bowl, put the sugar, whole egg and two yolks and beat them all together using an electric whisk until you get a light, frothy mix.
3. Mix in the butter and continue to blend everything using the electric whisk.
4. Add the flour, yeast, vanilla and salt taking care to sieve them all very carefully using a fine mesh sieve.
Work the mixture obtained with a spoon or a spatula, mixing well until you get a soft, smooth pastry.
5. Cover the bowl with clear plastic wrap and leave the mixture to rest in the fridge for about an hour.
6. Once removed from the fridge, the pastry should be divided into two equal parts.
The first half is to be put into a masher, and transformed into curls which will then be arranged on the bottom of a buttered and floured baking tray 10.24 inches in diameter.
7. When the bottom of the baking tray is covered, cut the gianduiotti into small pieces and arrange them over the pastry curls.
8. Finally pass the remaining half of the pastry through the masher and arrange the curls of pastry over the gianduiotti filling.
9. Place the baking tray into a fan oven pre-heated to 338°F for 30-35 minutes.
10. Decorate with powdered sugar.
A gianduiotto for the holidays
Having taken a dive into the history of the gianduiotto, it is time to think about the holidays.
With Christmas almost upon us, this Turin Chocolate par excellence may turn out be useful for expressing your imagination in the kitchen.
It can be used to enrich desserts or become the main ingredient in unusual combinations such as those which combine chocolate with delicious savory recipes .
If you are also already thinking about decorating your Christmas table or of little gifts for friends and colleagues, the gianduiotto can become a sweet detail to include in small compositions to be used as place cards, or a delicious gift, perhaps to choose from among the many options available in the section dedicated to chocolate in our shop on line… It’s up to you!