How the spread came into being for breakfast

The spread is that famous creamy substance that can be spread on a base like bread – even a pancake, a rusk … In general, the result is what is trivially called “a slice of bread”, the definition of which is that of a slice of bread (potentially buttered) covered with said sweet or salty dough. More than half of the French consume it regularly and 26% only use the market leading paste.

However anchored in the habits it is, this practice is modern. The word “tartine” is itself quite recent, and only dates from the end of the 16th century.e century. It is then part of popular jargon, because, for some, the fact of adding butter to the bread is a pejoration of the brioche for which the butter is mixed with the dough.

Brioche is then the ordinary at court, hence the famous phrase (falsely?) attributed to Marie-Antoinette, “If they don’t have bread, let them eat brioche”. The question of bread was a hot one at the time, due to an increase in its price following a famine artificially created by speculators. When the people force King Louis XVI and his family to leave Versailles to return to Paris, on October 6, 1793, he shouted moreover: “We will not run out of bread!” We bring back the baker, the baker and the little baker! ”

From the history of the toast

One of the first known images of toast dates back to the XVIe century. It’s about Wedding meal, a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Elder which represents a meal bringing together peasants in a crowded room – including, in the foreground, the child with bread on his knees, licking his index finger.

the Wedding dinner, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (16th century) shows the oldest known representation of toast with the child in the foreground. | Wikimedia

The ancestor of tartine is the “roast”, a slice of roasted or fried bread that served with soups, stews and roasts. This is where the English word comes from toast (translation of tartine), itself coming from the old French “toster” or “roast”. “Raising a toast” refers to the custom which required that the roast be dipped in a cup of wine before drinking to the health of a guest.

It was not until the XXe century that the toast is essential in the everyday language … Until today it becomes a must, raised by some chefs to the rank of gourmet delicacies.

The advent of the spread

You can therefore spread whatever you want on a slice of bread, from rillettes to chocolate paste and tarama. But custom has it that the term “spread” most often corresponds to a sweet chocolate dough … which, paradoxically, contains a lot of sugar and fat and a little chocolate – all of this in very variable proportions. Enough to open a real nutritional Pandora’s box.

The story begins at the end of World War II, in the Italian town of Alba, in Piedmont, now famous for its white truffles. While the shortage of cocoa beans has set in, a local chocolatier-pastry chef, Pietro Ferrero, inspired by the Gianduja recipe, adds hazelnuts to its composition to create a slicing chocolate brick named “Giandujot”.

Today it is possible to offer chocolate spreads
based on oilseeds.

Then, legend has it that, during a scorching summer, these bricks are found to melt… giving birth, quite involuntarily, to a substance of inenarable smoothness. Seizing the idea, Ferrero is going to sell it in jars with a success that will not be denied. So much so that the recipe is soon transformed to obtain a dough at room temperature.

The current composition of this flagship product from the Ferrero house (from the English diminutive nut corresponding to hazelnut, walnut or hazelnut) includes per 100g: 56g of sugar, 20g of palm oil, 13g of hazelnuts, less than 10g of skimmed milk and low-fat cocoa each – with soya lecithin to emulsify everything.

This chocolate spread has been an undisputed leader for nearly fifty years, and represents more than two-thirds of the market share. The French are also the biggest consumers in the world!

Culinary equation

Yet the inventiveness of creators and marketers is limitless for bring down the leader – for the time being, without success. This is all the more so since, in recent years, the nutritional transition has been advancing with the hunt for “bad fats”, of which palm oil is part, and the race for Nutri-score.

The culinary equation is complex to solve, because while improving the Nutri-score of the product, it is necessary to keep a spreadable substance. By dint of research, it is now possible to offer chocolate spreads made from oilseeds or other seeds or even red bean paste. A chocolate spread even managed to obtain a Nutri-score A, while the majority of them are satisfied with an E or a D …

If we consider (this is not always true!) That the hazelnut is the signature ingredient of spreads, it is probably because of its nutritional profile: it contains good fats (unsaturated fatty acids), fiber, protein, vitamin E and minerals. However, the hazelnut is far from being the main component – their content varying from 10 to 16% depending on the recipes, even if there are “good students” with 40% hazelnuts.

A market in perpetual reinvention

Some pastas also contain other dried fruits: cashews, almonds, praline. Some producers add pieces of lace pancakes to give crispness in the middle of the creaminess of the dough. There are therefore dozens of spreads, chocolate or not, to the point that it is impossible to list them all and even less to give their precise composition.

In addition to the number of candidates, what further complicates the analysis are the incessant changes in the compositions: palm oil replaced by sunflower, reduction in sugar, replacement of sugar by exotic sugars (cane sugar, coconut blossom sugar, palm, etc.), increase in the percentage of dried fruits, change in the composition of dried fruits (hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, peanuts and others).

Thus, the caloric value of a spread is very variable: from 275 kcal / 100 g for those who use starchy foods, to more than 600 kcal / 100g for their counterparts with predominantly lipid constituents (remember that 1g of carbohydrates provides 4 kcal, compared to 9 kcal per 1g of fat).

Concretely, what can a sandwich give in terms of calorie intake? Bread remains the most suitable complement to the spread, because it provides between 260 and 280 kcal per 100g (a baguette is 250g); wholemeal bread is a little less caloric and provides more fiber (240-245 kcal). As for the spoonful of chocolate spread (15g for a teaspoon), its caloric intake varies according to its composition – count 80 kcal per spoonful for the market leader.

Two slices of bread with a spoonful for each slice of bread (ie 60g of bread and 30g of dough) + a glass of milk or yogurt and a piece of fruit constitutes a so-called “continental” breakfast which is rather low in protein, but acceptable.

In conclusion, there is no lasting recommendation possible: read the labels to compare the list of ingredients for your spreads. However, you should try to avoid the most caloric if you are a heavy consumer. Also prefer pasta with few ingredients, no added oil or additives (powdered milk, lecithin). For example, those giving pride of place to simple ingredients: cocoa and sugar from fair trade and organic, dried fruits other than hazelnuts from indicated origin (almonds, walnuts, cashews, etc.) and with a high content of oleaginous fruits.

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