Nutella Hazelnut Spread

My family and I were living in the UK when I had my first taste of Nutella. Instantly I was hooked, my taste buds nearly quivering with adoration for this chocolaty hazelnut spread. To my younger self the idea that kids all over the world enjoyed this treat on toast for breakfast seemed too good to be true! And it was too good to be true – at least in my household where Nutella was only permitted occasionally. My favourite method of consumption? Spreading as much Nutella as possible onto an arrowroot cookie. Good times!

Created in the 1940’s by Italian pastry maker Pietro Ferrero, the famous hazelnut and cocoa spread was originally known as pasta gianduja (“pasta” means paste, while “gianduja” is the name of a local Italian carnival character from Piedmont). Originally the Nutella product came in the shape of a loaf, wrapped in tinfoil. Due to limited availability of cocoa during World War II rationing, hazelnuts were initially used in the spread as a means of supplementing chocolate. The flavour combination quickly became popular with the masses, and was usually enjoyed spread between two slices of bread.

Many Italians consider Nutella to be more than a delicious snack; it has become a cultural icon. In light of their passion it is not surprising that a recent initiative aimed at fighting obesity and promoting healthier eating habits has been met with significant resistance. In June 2010, The European Union (EU) Parliament approved a draft measure that requires fat, salt and sugar contents to be clearly labelled on all processed foods. Restrictions on advertising such foods are also being considered. While this initiative is meant to help consumers make more informed choices, a Hands off Nutella committee has been created in response to what the cabinet minister for EU affairs warns could be “nutritionist fundamentalism”.

The legislation still requires final approval by the European Union’s executive body, but Nutella fans are not going down without a fight. In the words of a past Nutella ad campaign; “what world would this be without Nutella?” Indeed.

Like the taste of Nutella but not keen on the contents? Try making your own from scratch. Here’s a recipe by Gale Gand (from her book “Brunch”) which I recently made. It is beyond delicious. And at the risk of being the subject of hate mail from Nutella fanatics – I think it is even better than the original!