" a polite transgression" Roberta Sassatelli
You know I'm not sure I have ever tasted Nutella, although I probably have. Maybe as a child?
Today I decided to 'do' Nutella because it was one of the pages I picked of interest in one of those old delicious. magazines that I am throwing out. This page in fact, and I will come back to what is shown there. But first I thought I should look into the company behind it and once again I found a rather fascinating story.
Nutella is made by Ferrero - the company that also makes Ferrero Rocher, Tic-tacs and Kinder - and a few other things besides which I shall come to. The company is currently run by the third generation Giovanni Ferrero, reckoned by Forbes in their really interesting article The Nutella billionaires to be the 47th richest man in the world with an estimated fortune of some $21 billion, of the family's $31 billion. But of course it didn't begin like that.
The story actually begins before the Ferrero family in Napoleonic times when Napoleon restricted the import of chocolate into Italy - a sort of economic trade war with the British. As a substitute the Italians created gianduja a sweet paste based on hazelnuts.
Pietro Ferrero, began his career in a pastry shop in 1923, moved around a bit and finally settled in Alba in Piedmont with a new pastry shop which he and his brother Giovanni turned into a successful enterprise, largely through his creation of a solid block, which incorporated small amounts of cocoa, but was largely hazelnuts. He also called this gianduja. It was launched in 1946, shortly after the war when Italy was still recovering from the devastation of WW2 and there still wasn't much chocolate around.
His son Michele, who is credited with the real expansion of the company, worked away creating something softer and in 1951 supercrema was launched. This eventually evolved into Nutella, first sold in 1964 to a rapturous welcome from the Italians. Michelethen expanded the company's repertoire and also started manufacturing in other European countries - initially in Germany where he created Mon Chéri which I think are chocolates filled with a cherry liqueur. Under Michele's guardianship the company became a global success story, now in 160 countries, with 40,000 employees and which sells 365,000 tons of Nutella each year. They have factories in several different countries - here in Australia in Lithgow and NSW.
The current Chairman is Giovanni who has taken the company in a different direction, in that he has been buying up other companies, most notably Thornton's - a British confectionery company and the American candy division of Nestlé. Many say he is taking risks in these days of the focus on health food. Really? People buy vast amounts of chocolate - I would have thought particularly in times of COVID. Chocolate = comfort does it not? Besides he has plenty of cash to play with. He currently runs the company from Luxembourg, one of Europe's little tax havens.
Giovanni was educated in Belgium and America and began working for the company under his father Michele who was then the Chairman, and was co-CEO with his brother Pietro, who died young of a heart attack. His father died shortly thereafter and so now he is Chairman and has turned over the CEO job, for the first time to an 'outsider' - Lapo Civiletti, who has, however worked for the company for many years. Ferrero is now reckoned to be the third largest confectionery company in the world and Nutella is a huge part of that success.
So what is Nutella? Whatever it is it's not healthy as shown in this deconstruction that somebody did. More than 50% is made up of sugar and palm oil, hazelnuts make up 13% and the rest is cocoa solids and skimmed milk. I believe they changed the formula slightly a few years back which caused uproar, but it wasn't that different - a bit more chocolate and milk I believe. I also believe that the formula varies slightly in different countries. Definitely not healthy though, although, as many have pointed out - no worse than jam. Even home-made jam.
As for the palm oil well apparently they do at least ensure that it comes from sustainable growers. Ferrero buys up to 1/3 of the world's supply of hazelnuts - 71% of which goes into Nutella. And finally Nutella has an extraordinarily faithful and fanatic set of fans, so much so that back in 2001 (I think) one of those fans Sara Rosso started World Nutella Day (February 5). In 2015 she turned the running of it over to Ferrero, and it still continues with many events around the world. Crazy.
Felicity Cloake is not a fan, finding it too sweet. But she does have a recipe for the perfect chocolate spread, as does Mike McEnearney in that delicious. article that began all of this. He uses maple syrup to sweeten his, whilst Felicity Cloake gives options for the sweet factor. This version shown here is Jamie's, which interestingly he calls Gianduja. Well the original probably did have more nuts and less sugar. But of course, there are lots of 'healthy' recipes out there for making your own. Recently Lindt have launched a competitive product and I did see a review of the various options which still gave the gong to Nutella, but did say that the Lindt version was pretty good - as was the Coles one interestingly enough.
So what can you do with it? I began by reading Tony Naylor's amusing article called
How to eat Nutella which basically said you should not do half the things that people suggest - croissants, waffles ...
He also mentioned one truly awful example of what people do with Nutella - chips coated with Nutella - this one was from Aberdeen in Scotland. How can you do that?
He also says that it does not go with fruit, which might seem a bit counterintuitive I would have thought:
Dipping fruit into softened Nutella brings two great things together and ruins both." Tony Naylor
He has two very favourite ways of eating Nutella though:
"Nutella is most exquisite served cold. Silky smooth, melting instantly in the mouth, its ganache-like quality – rich, dense, intense, layered – is one which, in Michelin-starred restaurants is only achieved at great cost in time, money and emotional anguish ... cooling it punches up its nuttiness so that (dangerously), it is far more moreish ...
Banana and Nutella sandwich - A symphony of flavours that interact with rare mutual sympathy." Tony Naylor
But that's just Tony Naylor's opinion. There are plenty of cooks out there who use Nutella in their baking, so here are a few: Nutella chocolate pot from Tamal Ray and Chocolate calzone from Jamie Oliver. Nigella is obviously a fan as she has three examples - all of which look very tempting. The pancakes are crepes, which Tony Naylor thought was OK - it was the thick American ones that were no nos for him. Here are Nigella's three: Nutella cheesecake; Nutella cake and Nutella pancakes. Then there are the two recipes in that original article, by Mike McEnearny which use his own raw Nutella: Nutella scrolls and Raw Nutella bars (whose pictures are on that original page, near the top of my page); with two from Phoebe Wood - Nutella and banana mud cake which is sumptuous looking and the even more completely over the top Deep-fried Nutella waffle ice cream sandwich which I just couldn't resist including.
I don't think I'm about to rush out and buy a jar, but if my children have it at home, I might give it a try next time I'm able to see them.