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The History of Chocolate Truffles, Gianduja and Pralines

Posted on July 08 2014

When is a chocolate truffle not a chocolate truffle? well when it’s a praline of course. But what is the difference between a truffle, a praline - and what is gianduja?   It can be difficult to tell the difference between different chocolates as these names have become interchangeable in the modern chocolate market.  The history of each stems from the use of different nuts, historical supplies of cocoa and the use of milk or cream.  Here is a quick history, so you know the difference between chocolate truffles, praline and gianduja.

Praline

Praline chocolates have an interesting and debated history, their invention could be attributed to Mr Pralin or Praslin, a resident of Paris probably in the 18th century, or perhaps more likely, they were named after the French soldier and diplomat César, duc de Choiseul. His title was Comte du Plessis-Praslin (his military title was marshal), and he lived in the town of Montargis from 1598 to 1675. According to this story, his cook, Clément Lassagne, invented pralines in 1636 by dropping almonds into a cauldron of boiling sugar. What these two invention stories have in common is that the original concoction for praline did not contain any chocolate. The original praline invention was probably something more like a cluster of almonds or other nuts in a caramelized sugar, tasty, but very different to the Praline we know today.

The more modern Praliné was developed from the original by grinding down the sugary nutty cluster to a powder, then mixing it with chocolate, cream, butter, piping into a shell of chocolate to form a Belgian Praline which is the basis of all the modern chocolates that are called Pralines in the UK.

Gianduja

The Italian counterpart to the French praline is called Gianduja and is known as a more luxury chocolate experience.  Traditionally manufactured by grinding roasted hazelnuts with cocoa butter, cocoa powder and sugar, the gianduja praline has a melt-in-the-mouth velvet texture and is made without the additional of milk or cream. 

The history of gianduja dates back to Napoleonic times when cocoa was hard to find. Chocolatiers in Turin turned to their local resources to fill the gap, namely, the mild flavoured Tonda delle Langhe hazelnut. Now cultivated and protected under strict agricultural regulations (labeled IGP), it is this hazelnut IGP that is used to produce the famous ingot shaped 'gianduiotti'.

For a great introduction to Gianduja try Bonieri’s Bella Box Classic which is a mixed selection box of the finest gianduiotti from Turin, with classic gianduja, dark chocolate, coffee and pure hazelnut flavours.

Luxury Chocolate Truffles

The origin of the chocolate truffle has as debated a history as the Praline with different inventors vying for the credit. According to legend, the chocolate truffle was created in the kitchen of French chef Auguste Escoffier during the 1920s. While one of his apprentices was attempting to make a pastry cream, he accidentally poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks rather than the bowl of sugared egg. As the chocolate and cream mixture hardened, he found he could work the chocolate paste with his hands to form a bumpy, lopsided ball.

After rolling the new creation in cocoa powder, he was struck by their resemblance to the luxurious truffles from the French Périgord region and the Piedmont area of Italy. Earlier than this the chocolate truffle is thought to have been first created by N. Petruccelli in Chambéry, France in December 1895.

As the concept developed, different truffle textures were created by rolling the ganache filled centre in different finishes. White confectioners’ sugar became popular as did finely chopped nuts, more modern toppings can include chilli’s, popping candy and different spices. The ganache was itself also developed with different flavours including champagne, liqueurs, caramels, salt and nuts. 

Chocolate truffles, pralines and Gianduja are all chocolates with a long history. The original recipes for these mouthfuls of chocolate delight have been added to and brought into the modern era with flavours that meet with modern tastes. But it is still important to know the difference between these, and that our favourite of them all is the Italian Gianduja for its smooth hazelnut taste and velvety texture. 

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