Results tagged gianduja from David Lebovitz

American Chocolate Hazelnut Paste

hazelnut chocolate spread

No one was happier than I was to receive the news, directly from the chocolate-maker himself, that Askinosie was jarring up a chocolate and hazelnut spread. To make the spread, cocoa powder is made from pulverized cocoa beans sourced directly from the farmers in the Philippines, and hazelnut butter is made from nuts harvested from an orchard in the Pacific Northwest. Then they’re both ground together with a modest amount of sugar and a few cocoa beans tossed in the mix.

I don’t have any problems with Nutella, but I know some people are concerned about exactly what’s in that too easily-reachable oval jar. I don’t regularly buy it, but have been known to dip my knife into a jar every now and then myself, and wonder what quantities people are eating it in that makes it problematic? I suppose if I was plowing through a jar a week, I’d be more concerned. But for an “occasional user” like myself, I’ve got bigger fish to fry. Still, I was happy to hear that there was a chocolate-hazelnut spread made with ingredients sourced direct from their origins, created by a pioneering American bean-to-bar chocolate maker.

sliced baguette chocolate hazelnut spread

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Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread

chocolate hazelnut spread blog

I’m probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer, because about a decade ago, I met two guys who were planning to start a bean-to-bar chocolate company in America. And I remember thinking, “Hoo-boy, are these nut-jobs going to lose their shirts! Who in America cares that much about chocolate?”

Fast-forward to a few years later, and Scharffen Berger chocolate became a huge hit, challenging, and changing the way Americans thought about chocolate. It was eventually sold for a substantial sum of money, and the rest is history.

And I’m living in a drafty, two room rooftop apartment where getting hot water is a miracle that might happen weekly. If at all. So who’s the nut-job now?

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le 14 juillet

french flag

This morning when I woke up, it sounded like rain outside. Which was odd, because of the harsh sun streaking through the creases in my beloved light-blocking curtains, it seemed strange that there would be precipitation. And sure enough, when I stumbled over and yanked opened the curtain, the sky was crystalline bleu with just a few wisps of clouds lingering around the Eiffel Tower. There was not a drop of rain was in sight.

There was, however, a steady stream of French National Guardsmen, dressed in their finest, strutting down the boulevard, en route to the parade on the Champs-Élysées. The sleek, polished horses they were riding were making that pitter-patter sound on the pavement. For today is Bastille Day.

No one here calls it that, it’s only us anglophones.

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World Nutella Day

Nutella

Today is World Nutella Day, and I’m caught with my trousers down. I prepared a dish (well..sort of) but didn’t get around to writing up something unusually profound to say, so a picture of it is going to have to do for now.

I got sidetracked by a whole bunch of stuff, and had a lot of things I was going to post about this week, then along came 89 other things, plus an appointment with the podologue, so I’ve been washing my feet like mad, I mean, scrubbing them really, really well before my rendez-vous. Seriously, I think I spent the better part of the week washing them.

Anyhow, here’s a shot of Nutella, in a slightly different form than you might be used to seeing it in.

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Back to Torino

apero

Wait just a minute. It’s been about a week since I got back from Torino, and I told you about all the stuff I managed to jam in my craw at the Salone del Gusto, but I also spent a fair amount of time visiting some of the chocolate shops and caffès in this great city. Man cannot live by cured pork products and sheep’s-milk cheese alone, can he?

He must eat ice cream, and on occasion, drink.

gelato

The day of my arrival, I didn’t wait a minute. Moments after I tossed my suitcase in my hotel room, I made a beeline for Caffè San Carlo (Piazza San Carlo 156) for a couple of scoops of gelato, which I remembered so fondly from a previous visit. They didn’t remember me, even though I thought I’d made quite the impression that last time, when I stood over the giant gelato machine and tried to climb in.

Or maybe they were trying to forget?

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#3: Grom Gelato Comes to Paris

Grom

This week, Grom opens a branch of their famous Italian shop in Paris.

Originally from Torino, Grom uses all-natural flavorings, which include growing some of the organic fruit they use in their sorbets and graniti, grinding up vivid-green Sicilian pistachios for pistachio gelato, and melding the exquisite hazelnuts from Piedmont with Venezuelan chocolate for their ultimate, silky-smooth version of Gianduja.

I first tasted their exquisite gelato in Florence with my friend Judy and was hooked. It truly is one of the best in Italy, and now you can savor it in Paris.

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What Is Gelato?

gelato

How does one explain, in a few short paragraphs, something that’s such a critical part of Italian life, like gelato? If you’ve spent any time in Italy, especially in the summer, it’s hard to look anywhere and not see an Italian balancing a cono di gelato, often while balancing the omnipresent cell phone at the same time.

But everyone, from suave businessmen in Armani suits to grandmothers chatting on a stroll with friends—they all eat gelato. And like the tiny shots of espresso taken from morning ’til night, it’s a part of Italian life and consumed everywhere, all-day long. Granita di espresso on a roll for breakfast anyone?

Gelato‘ means ‘frozen‘ in Italian, so it embraces the various kinds of ice cream made in Italy, and that’s the best definition one can offer.

More than most countries, food in Italy is fiercely regional: in the north, near Torino (Piedmonte), the food is very earthy with white truffles and hazelnuts appearing in various dishes. At the other end of the boot is Sicily, where the climate is far warmer so the flavors lean towards citrus and seafood. And in between are lots of villages and regions, including the Emilia-Romagna, Umbria, Campania, Tuscany, and Puglia, among others.

The gelato made in the north of Italy, where it’s cooler up near the mountains, the gelato is richer, often made with egg yolks, chocolate, and most famously, with gianduja, the silky-smooth hazelnut and milk chocolate paste. In the south, ice creams tend to be lighter, and flavored with lemons and oranges. In Sicily, granite are prevalent; slushy shaved ices that are almost served like a drink, with a spoon and a straw to slurp them up, as well as fruit-flavored sorbetti.

But getting back to gelato…as mentioned, gelato means Italian ice cream. But what makes it different?

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Chocolate That’s “Too Good To Use”

Once upon a time, I worked in a restaurant that was well-known for using ingredients of exceptional quality. The most magnificent fruits and vegetables would come barreling through our kitchen door every day, from plump, rare black raspberries to teeny-tiny wild strawberries, fraises des bois.

While I can’t really guess the psychology behind it, we would often treat these marvels like precious jewels, reserving them for the perfect moment.

Or we’d just forget about them, then throw them away.

Unfortunately, because they were so fragile, they’d often last no longer than a day or so, and we’d arrive the next morning to find they hadn’t been used the previous evening and had to be tossed. While I don’t want to apologize or make excuses for this inexcusable behavior, restaurants are odd places full of strange people acting unusual…and no, it’s not just the customers. There’s mis-communications, too much going on all at once, and frankly, things don’t always happen like they should. And don’t tell me that you haven’t let something accidentally spoil in under your eagle-eye either.

Because I’m not buying it.

slittigianduja.jpg

So one day, one of the other cooks started to dub things as they came through the door, “Too good to use.”
He used the phrase to refer to things that were so special, that we just couldn’t bear to use them. And soon, the rest of us picked up the phrase too, and when something beautiful would arrive, it became the joke to label it as being something that was “too good to use.”

So, last year when I led an Italian Chocolate Tour through Tuscany and Torino, we stopped at Slitti in the tiny town of Monsummano Terme. Although Slitti started out in 1969 as a coffee-roasting company, Andrea Slitti (the son of the founder) started applying his roasting expertise to chocolate-making and now Slitti is regarded as one of the top chocolate-makers in the world. After our visit, on the way out, Palmira Slitti (Andrea’s wife who runs the shop) pressed a jar of their Crema da spalmare al Cioccolato Fondente ricca di nocciole into my already loaded-up bag of chocolates with a cheerful ciao bella.

slitti2.jpg

When I got home, I put the jar on my kitchen shelf so I could admire it, and it sat there day-after-day. Each day I would gaze up, all glassy-eyed, imagining the chocolate-y goodness through the glass of the jar, and I could practically taste the tiny bits of roasted Piedmontese hazelnuts, embedded in a rich, dark chocolate paste that were speckled throughout.

One day I decided it was no longer “too good to use” and abruptly pulled the jar down from its perch, opened it up, and with knife poised, got ready to spread.

Ugh!
Instead of dipping into the tasty spread, I peered inside first and saw that the entire surface was covered with green, dusty mold. Ick! So at 6:30am, I had the unenviable task of cleaning moldy chocolate. Not a pretty thing to wake up to. I managed to get all visible signs of mold off, then I poured in a shot of Jack Daniels (which around here is definitely not too-good-to-use) and swished it around to kill any microscopic traces of green hairiness.

Thankfully I didn’t toss it, and the hazelnut-chocolate paste was the best I’ve ever tasted. Unlike commercial hazelnut and chocolate spreads, this crema da spalmare from Slitti was made from the best, just-blended chocolate imaginable, studded with the world-famous Piedmontese hazelnuts from Langhe. And I’ve been enjoying it for the past few weeks, the warm weather in Paris makes it the perfect spreadable (ie: heap-able) consistency for my morning toast.

So maybe you have something in your cabinet, something you picked up on a trip that you’re holding on to. Or do you have a bottle of wine you’ve been saving for a special occasion? Or is there something else that’s so special that you can’t bear to open it?

Do you have something that’s “too good to use”?


Slitti
Cioccolato e Caffè
Via Francesca Sud, 1268
Monsummano Terme
Italy
Tel: 0572.640240


Note: Slitti chocolate but you might want to try the Askinosie Chocolate-Hazelnut Spread, or try my Chocolate Hazelnut Spread recipe.