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2023 Author: Cody Thornton | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 11:20
Making a food a panacea is a mistake, we know: the secret is a diet as varied as possible. Nonetheless, Italians, despite being the thinnest in Europe, are becoming addicted to the miraculous ingredient.
It is a luxury that among the so-called superfoods, ultra-healthy foods that would give our bodies (the conditional is a must) the healthy push to ward off disease and aging, there is also the chocolate.
Eaten without exaggerating, chocolate is good for you, improves the psychosomatic state and consoles if the mood tends to black.
But it can't be a substitute for doing all of this; neither a bar filled with ingredients, nor a substitute in the form of a snack.
Because chocolate, the real one, has the most five ingredients: cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla, (vanillin, in the worst cases) and soy lecithin. The last three are at the discretion of the producer, and do not be scared by the lecithin, it does not impact on flavor and health, it only simplifies processing.
Beware, then, of the bean to bar at all costs. Showing off control of the entire production chain from the cocoa bean to the finished product does not necessarily mean being artisans: Novi and Perugina, well-known industries in the sector, are bean to bar.
Another thing: when the cocoa percentages exceed the 85% chocolate begins to lose balance and is almost always astringent. So bullying oneself for percentages that, except in rare cases, are good only for a liquor tasting makes little sense.
But what are these rare cases? And who is it that makes a memorable chocolate in Italy, more or less bean to bar?
We are going to give you the names, divided into 4 different categories: pralines, spreadable creams, milk tablets or dark and with single origin cocoa.
It may happen that not all the chocolates chosen are easily found, which is why we have included in each category too a purchase to do at the supermarket.
All of this was done under the invaluable supervision of Roberto Caraceni: great expert, vice-president of the Chocolate Company which announces the Gold Tablet award, Oscar of Italian chocolate, as well as author of The Chocolate Tasting, which every enthusiast should have read.
The country of chocolate pralines is France, Belgium at most. At those latitudes one enters the pastry shop with the same obsequious expression put up for the Cartier or the Hermès; in Italy the consumption of pralines reaches its peak on Valentine's Day, often in a box of industrial chocolates with Fabio Volo's prose included.
In short, there is a difference. But every rule has its exception, we point out the best ones.
Via Torino, 54 - Giaveno (TO)
Via Maria Vittoria, 27 / C - Turin
The artisan from Giaveno (TO) self-defined as "uncompromising", is one of those who control every step of the production, and who even mature the chocolate for six months before processing it.
Among his most successful productions there are undoubtedly the cremini (in the ultra Piedmontese version, with the two outer layers of gianduja and the inside of hazelnut paste), covered with dark chocolate.
Try the more daring version with candied ginger topping.
Via Solferino, 17 - Casale Monferrato (TO)
The Italianized Japanese Saimura Yumiko and Angelina Cerullo from Asti have specialized in pralines that look like a box of marbled Sunday pastries, they are so beautiful.
The two, former colleagues at the Piccolo Lago restaurant in Mergozzo (VB), have opened a pastry shop where chocolate takes the lion's share. If they accept the compromise of some birthday cake it is to plead the cause of stuffed sugared almonds as rarely seen in Italy.
Acherer Patisserie Blumen
Stadtgasse 8 - via Centrale 8 - Brunico (BZ)
The refined pralines of the South Tyrolean Andreas Acherer look like ethnic jewels, those with the raw stone set, which then maybe is pink salt.
His patisserie is based on an unusual idea, which could easily generate a Christmas temporary shop: combining floral decorations with sweets. Instead, it is a marvel.
A proudly niche company from the Marche region, with a flair for local recipes. The results are often surprising, as in the case of praline with fig loin (a mixture of figs, almonds, walnuts and grape must) or the one with Sagrantino di Montefalco.
At the supermarket: Ferrero Rocher
Not bad for being the best-selling praline in the world. The seven-layered golden nugget that has satisfied the common "desire for something good" since the early 1980s is the result of a study on the product that has beaten the competition.
How those seven layers of chocolate and hazelnuts arrive intact in the pantry are known only in the Ferrero laboratories, more mysterious in area 51.
Yes, but the Gianduiotto?
We are the first in the world in the production of gianduia: there are at least one artisan brand and one industrial brand that is impossible not to mention.
Via Giuseppe Luigi Lagrange, 1 - Turin
The 5-gram gianduiotto with slightly protruding walls by Guido Gobino, inventor of Turinot (giandujotto of only 5 grams made of only PGI Piedmont hazelnuts proposed in 4 variations: “Classico” with milk; “Maximo” without milk and with more hazelnuts; "Maximo +39" without milk, with almost 40% of hazelnuts distributed only from October to March; "Selezione Leonardo Lelli" with coffee from the prestigious artisan roasting.
But finding a good gianduiotti workshop in Turin is all too easy. If you ask us about large-scale distribution, however, we have only one answer:
The best of large retailers, because it is extruded. Forgive the abstruse term, now we explain.
The gianduiotti that we find in supermarkets are prepared by pouring gianduia chocolate into molds. The pouring operation requires softer chocolate, and therefore less valuable, because it is made with a lower percentage of hazelnut paste
An exception is the gianduiotto of the well-known company of Luserna San Giovanni (TO), now belonging to the Lindt & Sprüngli group, which if you notice it has the most irregular and rounded walls.
If Italians try their hand at most in pralines (but we still consume more pralines than bars) we are specialists in spreads.
The Italian one par excellence (the hazelnut one, of course) provides for the tangible perception of cocoa and a high percentage of hazelnut which is the basis of the creaminess; there is no need to add oil, much less palm oil. No astringency, no fatty residue. These are the real parameters for deciding which cans not to buy back.
Gianera - Slitti
Andrea and Daniele Slitti, who have extended the list of Tuscan chocolate cities with Monsummano Terme (PT), have 4 (!) Different spreads to their credit.
Using high quality hazelnuts - Round and Gentile delle Langhe, needless to say - is an obvious concept for artisans of this caliber, a little less usual to have the equipment for the production of the Gianera customized, compact, very dark, with the 52 % hazelnuts and 20% chocolate.
The name borrowed from Gianduja's wife, the Piedmontese mask, and 50% IGP Piedmont hazelnut (which is always the Tonda and Gentile, as well as the Trilobata, in short, call it whatever you want) to
In the cream of the family-run Alexandrian company, which borrowed the name from Gianduja's wife, the Piedmontese mask is made with 50% Piedmont IGP hazelnut (which is always the Tonda and Gentile, as well as the Trilobata, in short, call it what you want).
More delicate than the previous one, it costs four times the price of Nutella, but as they say in these cases: it's another thing.
Also in the dark version, with coffee and pistachio (there is also sugar-free, but oh well), you tend to find it in specialized shops, in refined roasters and at Eataly, all over Italy.
Meanwhile, you should know: if you have never been to Guido Gobino's shop in via Lagrange in Turin, you have missed the best hot chocolate in Turin.
But we are not talking about that. The spreadable cream in this case with 45% of hazelnuts and vanilla beans, is spreadable and shiny as Nutella, with the difference that the ingredients are impeccable.
Of course, the price: 10 and a half euros for 220 grams (more than triple compared to the Ferrero cream and without a glass with a Disney mascot.
68% hazelnut and a whole other pasta. Chocolate takes a big step into the background, benefiting from a toffee nuance and a dense consistency.
At the supermarket: Crema Novi
It almost manages to beat the best, the artisanal ones. One of the very few industrial creams that does not use added vegetable fats, with 45% of hazelnuts, denser than many others. Definitely a cut above the competitors of the large-scale retail trade.
In this regard, we also recommend the Viviverde Coop cream, at competitive prices compared to Nutella, but healthier in ingredients and still tasty.
Milk chocolate is still the best-selling in the world, with all due respect to the connoisseurs. Although the minimum cocoa threshold is only 25%, not to mention the almost automatic use of powdered milk.
But some producers are starting to use condensed milk, which is richer in nutrients, while artisans who select good milk and add high percentages of cocoa are on the rise.
Regardless of saying "ah, I love dark chocolate" will not necessarily make you a connoisseur. Man forewarned …
Here is the milk chocolate to keep an eye on.
Domori saw the glass half full in this controversial milk chocolate business, creating a range of bars that emphasize the variety of flavors and nutritional input: the intensity of sheep's milk, the properties of goat's, and even, the delicacy of that obtained from the camel.
Noteworthy are the spicy notes of Javablod chocolate, sweetened by the milk of the gray cows of Tyrol.
Slides: Lattenero 51%
The experts of the Chocolate Company awarded Slitti the "Gold Tablet" in the category "Milk with a high percentage of cocoa" (stuff for real nerds). With their 51% they managed to outperform the competition, which rarely reaches 45%.
32% cocoa and whole milk in the tablet of the Novi Ligure company which stands out for the variety of the range. We would like to point out sweet truffles, a frankly irresistible alternative to chocolate, with a high percentage of hazelnut.
The production of the well-known company from Maglie (LE) will not be exactly artisanal, but this milk bar made with 40% single origin cocoa (Mexico) is super.
At the supermarket: Venchi - Chocolight
Venchi, the link between craftsmanship and the chocolate industry, has a very good milk bar in the light version, sweetened only with maltitol. In reality it is not found in supermarkets but in proprietary points of sale, on the website and in various specialized multi-brand stores throughout the territory.
When we talk about dark chocolate, we generally mean a high percentage of cocoa from different plantations, mixed but in such a way as to maintain a balanced and recognizable taste.
Perhaps the absolute product, chocolate nerd stuff. The company founded by Gianluca Franzoni dares with a 100%, basically pure cocoa mass, with a persistence to be diluted with Barolo chinato and the like.
Pay attention to the price: 3 euros for 25 grams, 120 euros per kilo.
Amedei - Prendimé
You know the half kilo bars that you buy at the super to make the unpretentious Sacher cake?
Here, this is the expensive gourmet version (yet it's called Prendimé) with cane sugar, vanilla, and 66% cocoa.
Above all, with roasts (coffee, cereals, dried fruit) that make it a sublime end of meal. The Tuscan company will no longer have the allure of its beginnings after the arrival of Chinese capital, but it maintains a high level in some products.
Slitti - Gran Cacao
Another example of pure chocolate obtained from cocoa beans from various plantations in Central America, Slitti does not use African cocoa, which it considers to be inferior in quality.
More affordable prices than in Domori: € 5 and a half per hectogram
A list of awards almost as extensive as the range of products, from nougat to candied fruit and then, of course, all sorts of chocolates.
Yet Gardini does everything right, starting with dark chocolate bars. The Deciso chocolate (75%) is enriched with Criollo cocoa beans from Venezuela which give the bars a very long persistence of flavor.
At the supermarket: Lindt - Excellence
Wrapped in a thin white and gold package, slightly baroque, which is immediately luxurious on the shelf of the super. But the bar is also good inside, with a high cocoa percentage and a more correct ingredient list than the competition.
Marco Colzani's bar, a nerd of Italian chocolate to the point of defining the bar that makes a "sweetened bean juice" in his mad scientist cave in Carate Brianza, uses only cocoa from São Tomé and cane sugar.
He even made a manifesto on his production method, together with his friend Andrea Mecozzi, it is called "Fermento Cacao". More artisanal than that.
A line dedicated to single-origin cocoa, all coming from the same plantation, which is located in the chic stores of the Vestri family, in Arezzo, Florence and Tokyo.
These include raw cocoa, roasted at low temperatures so as not to disperse the beneficial polyphenols, from the plantation of the Vista Alegre hacienda in the Dominican Republic and the Cocoa mass, always from Santo Domingo, 100% cocoa.
Food technologist, life devoted to chocolate with continuous trips in search of the plantations most suited to his ideas. A strong propensity for monovarietal cocoa with which, more unique than rare, it even makes white and milk chocolate.
A curiosity: his laboratory in the Sanctuary of Vicoforte (CN) is also a hotel: the Cioccolocanda.
We have often mentioned it. But the point is that the Piedmontese company was born with Gianluca Franzoni to use single variety cocoa in its chocolate. And it is also very busy in the single-origin sector.
So: the roundest cocoa, the one that has never been hybridized, which represents the smallest percentage of the world harvest, that is Criollo, with six different origins (blends excluded) and two ingredients: cocoa nibs and cane sugar.
At the supermarket: Alce nero
Given that the non-artisan bars are not to be understood as true mono-origin, but a blend of cocoa beans harvested within the same nation, we highlight a more aromatic, structured and persistent product than the alternatives, in this case a mono-variety: " Ecuador ".
It is Bernotai cocoa, harvested in Costa Rica, which is also distinguished by secondary aromas and amplitude of the bouquet.