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Gianduja, Hazelnut, Brownie & Cocoa Soil


Gianduja is a combination of hazelnut, sugar and chocolate (either milk or dark). Milk chocolate gianduja, whilst certainly sweet, is a dream ingredient. It’s soft, instant melt in the mouth texture, is a delight for the senses, especially in this recipe where I’ve made thin ribbons, shaved off the block.

The history books tell us it was an enterprising Italian man from the Piedmont region of Northern Italy who came up with the idea to combine chocolate and hazelnuts in this way. When chocolate was scarce, but hazelnuts aplenty (this region of Italy is famed for it’s beautiful hazelnuts) he had the brilliant idea to combine the two, in order to make the chocolate go farther. Five Stars to you Sir.

Gianduja is so versatile, it’s well worth keeping on hand in the pantry to whip up a dessert with a moments notice. Shave it over icecream, or melt it with cream or combine in a custard for ridiculously simple and delicious dessert sauce or turn into a set custard as in my Pots au Chocolat recipe. Bake chunks of it in brownies, or simply dice into little squares and dip in chocolate to make your own little pralines. The list of uses is limited only by your imagination, and could be as simple or as complicated as you like.

This fancy little verrine, is very simple. I’ve used fundamental recipes as components of this dessert that I’ve already used in other desserts on this blog, to highlight the versatility of having a few good components up your sleeve to use in multiple ways, like the cocoa soil that I’ve switched out almond meal for hazelnut meal to work with the gianduja, and the caramelised hazelnut crumbs (great to add crunch to anything!).

If you’re super short on time … just think about the components here and how they’re working, and make substitutes if you need to. It’s about contrasting textures and flavours. Crunch is coming from the soil and the nuts. Spongey cake texture is coming from the brownies, with the dark chocolate adding some bitterness to balance the sweet milk chocolate gianduja, as is the toffee component on the caramelised hazelnuts. An extra zing awarded from a little gingerbread cookie crumbs on top. And the star of this dish, is the sweet creamy texture and flavour of the gianduja mousse.

If you’re short of time, you could crumble any dark chocolate biscuit with some hazelnut meal to make the soil (although the soil is ridiculously easy!). Any chocolate cake or brownie could be used for the little cubes. Any gingerbread cookie could be crumbled on the top. The gianduja mouse is super, super easy, with just 2 ingredients, so you have to make that, and it is the star! The gianduja ribbons are just peeled from a block. The caramelised hazelnuts are also ridiculously easy, sugar and water heated and poured over nuts, it doesn’t get any easier than that!

I’ve topped the dessert with little Easter eggs, as it’s that time of the year, but any chocolate garnish would be fine, even just grating some dark chocolate over would do the trick.


Click here for a print friendly recipe!

Gianduja, Hazelnut, Brownie & Cocoa Soil


Serves 6


35g cocoa powder 85g hazelnut meal

85g caster sugar

50g plain flour

40g unsalted butter (melted)

pinch of salt


425g gianduja diced

300g thickened cream

300g lightly whipped cream


* Note: Makes 1 x tray pan of brownies – scale down ingredients to reduce quantity if desired – but while you’re at it – you may as well make tray of brownies and freeze left overs for another dessert – or enjoy as brownies!)

375g dark chocolate callets (buttons)

375g unsalted butter (chopped)

250g caster sugar

100g brown sugar

6 large eggs (freerange always)

1 tsp good quality vanilla extract

250g plain flour


90g sugar

1 ½ tbls water

175g hazelnuts


Block of gianduja to peel ribbons from

Gingerbread cookie to crumble on top (if desired)

Any chocolate decorations for top (I used Easter eggs for Easter!)



Preheat oven to 175°C.

Combine all dry ingredients, then add melted butter, and stir through.

Place on lined baking tray, and bake @ 175°C until not longer soggy, around 15 mins. Stir once or twice during cooking. Cool on tray.


Preheat oven to 180°C.

Melt chocolate and butter together in microwave or in bowl over simmering pan of water.

Add caster sugar and brown sugar, gently whisking til combined.

Add eggs, lightly beaten, gently whisking til combined.

Add vanilla.

Fold through flour til combined.

Pour into baking paper lined baking pan, (around 24cm x 35cm)

Cook at 180 Deg C, for around 30 mins, or until top is starting to set, when a skewer is inserted into the middle, it comes out with sticky crumbs on it, not just liquid). Cool in pan.


Heat water and sugar in a saucepan, over medium high heat, until dark amber colour, stirring only at start to combine sugar with liquid, then just letting the liquid bubble

Pour over hazelnuts, that have been spread over a baking tray that has been sprayed with neutral flavoured oil like canola oil

When set and cool, blend in food processor until fine crumbs are achieved


Bring first quantity of thickened cream to boil, then pour over diced gianduja, and stir in spiral motion from centre of bowl to outside of bowl, then reverse motion and back to centre, until gianduja is melted.

Repeat until creamy mixture is created with no lumps of gianduja.

Cool slightly, to around 35°C.

Gently stir in lightly whipped cream.

Pour into glasses, on top of soil.


Using a vegetable peeler, drag along corners of block of gianduja to create thin ribbons.


Place cocoa soil in base of glass.

Pour/pipe gianduja mousse over the soil.

Place cubes of brownie onto the mousse, and press down into the mix.


When ready to serve, sprinkle caramelised hazelnut crumbs on the mousse and brownie, top with gianduja ribbons, and add any extra décor (I’ve added Easter eggs into a ‘nest’ of gianduja for Easter!

Crumble a little powdered gingerbread cookie (blend in food processor or crumble by hand) on top for some extra zing!



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