Monday, January 09, 2006

Turin means Chocolate

When we think of quality chocolate often we think of Swiss or Dutch versions however Italy has a strong tradition in the production of chocolate and Turin was the birthplace of Italian chocolate production. Since I am a chocoholic each trip to Turin meant a chocolate fix. I would always try some new place and the number of family owned businesses that have perfected the art of making chocolate is impressive. I know I have not convinced you that chocolate and Turin are synonyms so I thought the history of European chocolate would be interesting.

The folklore of Chocolate: The chocolate plant is said to have divine origins. A princess was left to guard the treasure of her husband. During a fierce battle with the enemies she was overcome. The attacking forces attempted to force her to reveal the location of the treasure but she was killed without disclosing the information. From her blood, the chocolate plant was born. This plant held a treasure in its seeds, "bitter as the pain of love, strong as virtue, slightly red as blood".

Chocolate was also the coinage of the Aztecs. A pumpkin cost 4 beans, a rabbit 10 beans, an amorous night with a concubine 12 beans, and a slave 100 beans.

From France, the chocolate bean was introduced into Piemonte in the late 1600s. Numerous pastry chefs began working the new material and Turin quickly became the capital for chocolate. The first regal license and process patent, from the house of the Savoia, was granted in 1678 to Gio' Battista Ari. Shortly thereafter the first chocolate production plant opened. Soon after the monks from various monasteries found that this was a good way to increment their natural food product lines and moved heavily into refining and producing chocolate. In the middle 1700s various Swiss chefs worked as apprentices in the Turin chocolate facilities. You can still see the influence of the Turin chocolate makers in Swiss production by the names utilized for their top line chocolates.

Initially chocolate was only available as a drink. The process to prepare chocolate was very similar to that of coffee.

In 1732 a French artisan Dubuisson invented the flat table heated with hot coals. This process was significantly more efficient because it allowed the workers refining the chocolate beans to stand up. From this invention, in 1778 in France, the first hydraulic machine to refine the chocolate was patented.

In the early 1800s the English patented a steam based refining machine and began working extremely high quantities of cacao beans.

Later, in Holland, Van Houten invented a machine that extracted the butter of cacao from the beans. This resulted in a chocolate that was more fluid, thus more palatable.

In the late 1800s the Swiss, Daniel Peter, added condensed milk to the chocolate butter resulting in a solid milk chocolate. Simultaneously another Swiss, Rudolph Lindt, created a new and original method to refine chocolate resulting in an extremely refined cacao butter, thus dark chocolate.

Today "Chocolato Caldo" or hot chocolate is still prepared in way very similar to the method used in the 1700s. "Chocolato Caldo" is very hot and thick, much like drinking hot chocolate pudding without all the sugar. This is a marvelous treat in the winter, when in Turin.

A slight variation on chocolate is the heavenly smooth Gianduia. This chocolate delight has origins of its own. In 1806 Napoleon placed a blockade against the royal family of Turin. The people of Turin would not give up their chocolate but times were difficult. The chocolate chefs came up with a solution. They added 20-40 grams of hazelnut cream for every 100 grams of chocolate. My brother loves Gianduia, he often asks for me to bring these chocolates home when I return from Italy. It should be remembered that high quality chocolates and Gianduia are produced and sold only in the months where the outside temperature is less than 78 degrees.

The places to find really great chocolate in Turin:

p.zza Carlo Felice, 69 / tel. 011 547 121

via Vanchiglia, 32 / tel. 0118 122 859

Gertosio & Sperandri
via Lagrange, 34 / tel. 0115 621 942

Madama Reale
via Mazzini, 19 / tel. 0118 174 385

Peyrano-Pfatish Vittorio Emanuele, 76 / tel. 011 538 765

Baratti & Milano
p.zza Castello, 27 / tel. 0115 613 060

p.zza San Carlo, 191 / tel. 011 547 920


Labels: , , ,


Blogger Sharan said...

I agree! Chocolate is great but I think that the word Chocolate comes from the Mayas and not the Aztecs, I believe I saw it in a Museum in Brugge, Belgium, where by the way the chocolates are delicious. Any how, interesting blog you have here!

12:27 AM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

This could be, as I researched this story the most consistant information I found was on Euro Chocolate which holds an international fair every year in Italy.


9:15 AM

Blogger Beau said...

I hear there's antioxidants, and other good things in the best chocolate. Based on your post it's time to take a trip to little Italy here, and pick up some Italian chocolate. Ciao.

5:18 PM

Blogger ChickyBabe said...

My favourite is the Gianduia (sp). Just can't get enough of it...

7:46 PM

Blogger Travel Italy said...

Gianduia is great stuff. My brother will kill for it!

4:24 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home