Gianduia (zhahn-DOO-yuh)

It’s been a busy past few weeks. Christmas is coming. Christmas in my household means Stollen, cookies (lots and lots of cookies) and chocolates. The Stollen I will make on December 23rd. I’ll start cookie production on December 1st. For the last three weeks, however, I have been elbow deep in chocolate. Here is a gratuitous picture of chocolates that I have made in the past.

This year I made chocolate dipped apricots and chocolate dipped ginger. I made a batch of Pfeffernüsse (OK, so I did start the cookies) and dipped them all in chocolate. I made peanut butter pretzel balls, and salted caramel truffles. I soaked figs in whiskey and covered them with chocolate. I molded miniature chocolate peppermint pigs, and larger chocolate Santas. I stirred leftover chocolate into rice crispies, cornflakes, and raisin bran and called it (ahem) a breakfast bar. I also made gianduia, wrapped it around toasted hazelnuts, and dipped it in chocolate.

I hope to make more truffles, time permitting, closer to Christmas. I have my eye on an assortment of walnut wine, ruby port, and scotch.

In the meantime, however, I give you my recipe for gianduia. Gianduia is an Italian chocolate hazelnut paste. It is fiendishly difficult to pronounce, but marvelous to eat. For pronunciation tips check out this video.

Gianduia is ridiculously easy to make, if you start with nut butter. In fact you can take this recipe and use it with any nut butter you please. Almond and peanut work especially well.

Once you’ve made your gianduia you can roll it into balls and dip it in chocolate. I have also poured it into a pan, let it set, and cut it into squares. I have even made several different kinds (with dark, milk, and white chocolate, respectively) and layered them in a pan before slicing into bite sized pieces.



(Note that the amounts are by weight, in grams. Sorry about that, but it’s how I measure it.)

  • 400 g nut butter
  • 150 g powdered sugar
  • 210 g dark chocolate (70% or higher)
  1. Melt the chocolate on the stove over low heat or in a microwave.
  2. Stir in the sugar and nut butter.
  3. Pour it into a foil-lined pan if you want to cut it into squares, or let it sit in the bowl to harden if you pan to roll it into balls.
  4. Wait until it hardens to cut or roll it. This will take several hours. Be patient.

Mrs. O.’s Pumpkin Pie

Back when I was in graduate school I lived in Hamilton, Ontario. There was a 19th century historic home/museum in town called Dundurn Castle. Every year, the people who ran it held a baking contest, a 19th century baking contest, meaning, of course, that all entries had to be prepared from 19th century recipes.

I loved this contest. I submitted multiple entries every year. I won multiple prizes every year. I won ribbons for my fruitcake, a silver and gold cake, a jar of apricot peach jam, and pumpkin pie, among other things. Of them all, I loved my pumpkin pie the best.

It is the one recipe that I continue to make again and again, especially around the Thanksgiving season. The recipe is titled Mrs. O.’s pumpkin pie. I have no idea who Mrs. O. was, but she made a damn fine pie. It is a perfectly balanced pie with just the right ratio of pumpkin to custard, and a lovely blend of spices.

I got all of the recipes I used for this contest from a facsimile edition of a book I tracked down in the McMaster University library. It was an American cookbook from the 19th century. I have long since lost the photocopy I made of the title page, and I really wish I hadn’t, because I’d love to give credit to the author.

Of course measurements were not exactly standardized at that time, so making these recipes required a good deal of interpretation. Here is my version of the recipe, complete with standardized measures.

P.S. Those are cherry marshmallows in the background of the photo. They are a subject for another post on another day.

Mrs. O.’s Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 single layer pie crust, unbaked (see Oh Boy Strawberry Pie! for recipe and instructions)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 c. whole milk
  • 1/2 c. cream
  • 2/3 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Roll out pie crust and fit it to a 9-inch pie pan.
  3. Stir the salt, sugar, and spices into the pumpkin puree.
  4. Stir in the eggs.
  5. Stir in the milk and cream.
  6. Pour custard into the prepared pie shell. (Depending on the exact size of your pan you may have some left over. If so pour it in a ramekin and bake it alongside the pie as a custard.)
  7. Bake until the custard is nearly set. Bump the pie gently and watch what happens to the custard. When only a 2-inch wide area in the middle wiggles, the pie is done. It should take 50 minutes to an hour.
  8. Let cool completely before slicing. Tastes best when served with lightly sweetened bourbon whipped cream.

Post-Apocalyptic, Post-Halloween, Comfort Food Post

Now that all the excess Halloween candy has been safely consumed by my students and co-workers, hurricane Sandy has come and gone, and spared my East-coast family her wrath, and we have braved two (two!) ice storms and two (two!) snow storms here in Southern Alberta, it’s time for some comfort food, the kind of thing I’m inclined to whip up when I have half an hour to spare and I need to be in the kitchen, because being in the kitchen relaxes me.

And because I’m primarily a baker, comfort food usually means bread, or chocolate chip cookies, or, perhaps my favourite of all, Abby Dodge’s Prescription Strength Fudge Brownies, from the Weekend Baker. This is my go to recipe. It’s made with cocoa powder instead of chocolate, which gives them a richer, deeper chocolate flavor, and a wonderful chewy texture.

Here is Abby’s recipe, with my modifications:

  • 6 oz. butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  •  1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Tahitian vanilla (technically any vanilla will do, but I love pairing Tahitian with chocolate)
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup M&M’s
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Line an 8×8 inch pan with foil. You don’t need to bother greasing it. Brownies have a lot of fat in them. They will not stick.
  3. Melt the butter. Stir in the cocoa powder, then the sugar and salt.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until just blended.
  5. Stir in the flour, followed by the chocolate chips.
  6. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the M&M’s on top.
  7. Bake until the center is no longer liquid, but still moist. This takes exactly 35 minutes in my oven.
  8. Let cool completely before lifting the brownies out of the pan by the foil, slicing, and eating them.
  9. Write to Abby and tell her how much you love her brownies.