As a spread it remains a timeless topping for pancakes
(ETX Daily Up) – Thursday, February 2, it’s Candlemas or the delicious excuse to blow up pancakes…and let out the spread! After sugar, this is the favorite garnish of the French*. A true favorite of the French, Nutella isn’t the only choice. In the gastronomic sphere we have appropriated the codes of this coveted sweet ointment, through the recipes of chefs who oust palm oil and waltz various basic ingredients to remove the image of a so-called industrial product.
In the numerous grocery stores that pastry chefs and chocolatiers have invented to complete the pleasures of the sweet tooth, spreadable creams are a must that everyone makes on their own. It is as if we could not do without it, or at least that we had not pushed the reflection of this new mercantile activity to the end if this regressive recipe did not appear in the selection. It must be said that between the French and the spread is a long history of pleasure that lasts.
Even if the slenderest beaks will struggle to swallow it, we cannot contradict the French consumers’ greed for the Nutella brand. In the first half of 2022, Ferrero’s famous recipe was one of the best-selling brands in supermarkets. According to data from the NielseniQ institute, the one kilo jar generated 39.7 million euros in turnover, the most popular item, when drinks are excluded from the ranking. And the 825g portion comes third, with a turnover of 31.1 million euros. During the first confinement in the spring of 2020, Nutella had conquered almost one million French consumers, mainly through marketing moves via social networks. The famous Italian hazelnut cream launched in 1964 achieved record sales.
The recipe, perfected in 1946, originates from the processing of an ingredient that today the great pastry chefs often underline: the gianduja. It is the Italian cousin of praline, which is a paste of chocolate and dried fruit – especially hazelnuts and almonds which are finely ground to obtain a thick paste. It is the vegetable fat that allows you to mix and obtain the final result. The ancestor of Nutella was called Giandujot and came in the form of a loaf to be sliced. The preparation becomes creamy in 1951 when Ferrero decides to make it more practical to consume. The product is called SuperCrema and would not adopt its popular name until thirteen years later.
While Nutella’s participation in the popularity of spreadable cream cannot be denied, it is clear that the recipe finds more modernity under the spatula of many pastry chefs. First, they demonstrate that palm oil is not essential, which must delight environmental advocacy organizations who point the finger at this very lucrative and cheap ingredient, the production of which can cause deforestation and therefore the extinction of species animals like orangutans.
To restore the spread’s reputation, chefs rely on quality components. In the case of the traditional recipe based on hazelnuts, there are many of them originating from Piedmont. These coveted Italian hazelnuts, given their intense flavor, are present at 53% in the jar created by the great chocolatier Patrice Chapon (15 euros for the 150g jar). As if he wanted to guarantee an even more regressive moment, the craftsman known for his chocolate mousse recipe inserts whole caramelized hazelnuts inside the pot before also sprinkling them on top and closing the lid. In Aubenas, in the Ardèche, Pierre Chauvet increases the presence of hazelnuts up to 60% to offer a powerful taste, but has chosen a variety from the Levant region to keep the cost of the recipe down (8.50 euros for 250 g). The chocolatier adds a dash of fleur de sel to tickle the taste buds at the tip of the mouth. In Lyon, the reference chocolate Bernachon demonstrates that the spreadable cream is a quality product with 60% hazelnuts from Piedmont and combines as many as ten varieties of cocoa beans for its Bernachoc’ (12.50 euros for 200g). Enough to prove that the recipe is a matter of know-how!
Originality in the recipes
Above all, pastry chefs have taken back the diffusion long represented by Nutella by revisiting the recipe, using various ingredients and above all demonstrating that the pleasures of dried fruit can be varied. Before his arrival at the Four Seasons George V hotel, the talented pastry chef Michaël Bartocetti had dusted off the praline principle at the Shangri-La Hotel, using cazette, small Morvan hazelnuts which, when fresh, can be crushed and become cazette flowers. The ingredient comes in the form of a granular powder. In Avenue George V, the chef has no shortage of ideas and has added tonka bean to a 40% milk chocolate spread from Peru, marketed during the pop-up pop-up last Christmas.
At the chocolate factory, Alain Ducasse makes spreadable cream with 43.5% peanuts (18 euros) while pastry chef Christophe Michalak praises the merits of a recipe based on pecans (but the one we can buy in his shops is made with hazelnuts; 13.90 euros). The prize for the most original spreadable creams goes to the baker Benoît Castel who recalls his Breton origins by combining almonds with buckwheat (12.60 euros) while the former chef of the Fauchon Christophe Adam (8.50 euros) proves that it can be get to undermine the dark or milk chocolate, preferring the white. The pastry chef adds pistachios from Iran.
*YouGov study carried out from 19 to 20 January 2021 among 1,008 French people aged 18 or over.