Gianduja is an Italian chocolate spread containing at least 30% hazelnut paste. According to my Wikipedia search (I do serious research for this blog, obviously) it was first developed in Turin by a chocolatier. Napolean’s policies at the time prevented the growth of the chocolate supply, and so the chocolatier added hazelnut to his remaining chocolate to extend it. Thus, we now have chocolate hazelnut goodies. Thank God, because without gianduja we wouldn’t have these amazing Gianduja Bars.
Fun fact: Did you know that Nutella was originally sold as Pasta Gianduja? During WWII chocolate was in short supply (again!) and so they added hazelnut to the remaining chocolate (again!) to create this well-known treat. It sold as a solid chocolate block at first. Later on, they developed the creamy spread that we know today. Nutella is great on toast, in hot chocolate, and in desserts–like this one. I personally love it. Like most people, I discovered Nutella in my childhood. My mom would put it on toast for us after school. My sweet tooth went crazy for it! Not only is chocolate and hazelnut the greatest flavor combination ever–case in point–Nutella has such a beautifully creamy, smooth texture that just slides off the tongue. Oh, and it’s also in this recipe!
Speaking of the recipe, let’s get to it! This recipe is not mine. I actually stumbled on it when I was in high school while watching Food Network. It was the middle of the day and Everyday Italian with Giada de Laurentiis was on. I caught it in time for the ending, which is usually when she breaks out the dessert. She was making these amazing gianduja bars and I thought to myself, I must have that! So, I promptly looked up the recipe online and whipped up a batch. It was even better than I dreamed!
I have been making this dish ever since. I used to make it all the time in high school for friends. Whenever one of them had a birthday, I pulled this baby out and made a batch to give to that friend. I even made it once after college for a couple of good college friends whose birthdays are two days apart. Part of the reason it was my go-to birthday treat is because it’s extremely easy to make. The thing about Giada’s recipe is that it actually isn’t much cooking or baking at all. It’s mostly just putting components together.
In fact the first part of the recipe is just this: make brownies. You could use store-bought brownies, already-prepared brownie mix, or make your favorite brownie recipe from scratch. Either way, the beginning of this recipe requires that you already have brownies made. In high school, and often when I make it now, I just use the pre-prepared brownie mix because it makes life easier. It also makes for a great after-dinner dessert because it requires very little effort.
Anyways, after you’ve got your brownies, let them cool down completely. Spread a heaping helping of Nutella across the top until fully covered. It should be like icing on a cake. This is why your brownies need to be completely cool. If you spread the Nutella on while it’s still hot, it won’t stick properly and you’ll end up pulling off the top layer of the brownies. (She said, knowing this from experience because she was an impatient teenager once).
Top it off with your chopped hazelnut and chocolate chips and put it back in the oven. This allows your top layer to sort of melt together. Your goal is not to keep cooking the brownies. In fact, you shouldn’t leave them in the oven for too long, for fear that you’ll end up making rock-hard overcooked brownies. You’re just melting the toppings to the Nutella spread to make a cohesive layer. After that, pop that whole tray straight into refrigerator until it hardens and cools. The recipe says at least an hour, but I’ve left them in there overnight before.
What you’ll end up having is not an ooey gooey brownie, dripping with Nutella on its sides. Instead, you’ll get more of a hardened chocolate bar. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard like a chocolate bar. It’s just not soft like a freshly baked brownie. It’s somewhere in between. But you won’t care about that once you take a bite into these gianduja bars. The outside crunchy and crispy while the inside is moist and soft. The Nutella forms a crisp yet creamy layer of icing with melted chunks of chocolate chips and hazelnut. The toppings obviously enhance the natural flavor of Nutella, but they also provide a nice contrast of textures in every bite.
Overall, it’s rich in chocolate and sweetness. It fills your mouth with so much flavor that you can’t help but feel guilty about it. The playfulness of the textures invite you into each next bite until it’s all gone. You can’t help but find yourself wanting more. And the bonus? You didn’t even strain yourself to make it! This recipe is easy and quick. The end result is beautiful and rich. You’ll never feel in short supply of chocolate or hazelnut once you’ve had a Gianduja Bar. (See what I did there?)
What’s your favorite way to have Nutella?
- 1 batch brownies already baked
- 1/2 cup Nutella
- 1/4 cup hazlenuts chopped
- 1/4 cup chocolate chips
Bake brownies in a 9x9 baking dish. Let it cool in the pan COMPLETELY. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Spread a thick layer of Nutella across the top layer of the brownies. Be sure to cover the entire top. Sprinkle on the hazelnuts and chocolate chips evenly across the top.
Return to the oven and bake for 5-7 minutes, until the chocolate chips are slightly melted. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until it hardens, at least an hour. Serve with milk!
This recipe originally appeared on Food Network TV. Find it on foodnetwork.com.