I went for the wine and found chocolate. My trip to the Piedmont region of Italy was mainly to sip as much Barolo wine as possible. In addition to the wine, I found Eataly and CHOCOLATE!
Turin has been making chocolate since 1600 and is most famous for its gianduja, the combination of milk chocolate and hazelnuts. After Piedmont was conquered by Napoleon and the supply of cocoa became scarce, chocolatiers started adding ground hazelnuts (hazelnut trees grow throughout the region) to the chocolate, and gianduja was born. Gianduja cream, made internationally famous by Nutella, is another product in abundunce in the region. To showcase the many chocolatiers, chocolate pastry shops and gelaterie of Turin, they offer visitors a Chocolate Pass. For 12 euros, you get 22 tastings of the unique chocolate specialties of the city.
Take the 3 days the pass gives to complete the chocolate tastings. Even I, a self-proclaimed chocoholic, overdosed on chocolate after all those tastings. Along with a pass you get a brochure that leads you, in a well-organized manner, through Turin's "streets of chocolate." It's also a great way to see the city's sights (the guide points them out) while searching for some of the best and oldest sweet shops in Turin.
Gianduiotto, the triangular shaped bars of gianduja, are a big part of the tasting, but you also get to try little cakes and pastries, bicerin (the coffe and hot chocolate of Turin) and gelato. Along with the tastings, my brochure gave a little history of chocolate making and of the shops. The tastings are just small samples of what each shop creates, but it's a great introduction to the chocolate world of Turin. Of course you can buy more along the way, and I did.
I made this budino with some of the gianduja I purchased while in Turin. A budino is basically an Italian pudding and similar to the French pot de creme. This elegant dessert is lusciously rich and extremely easy to make.
Makes eight 6-ounce or twelve 4-ounce servings
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
12 egg yolks
4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
About 1 cup lightly-sweetened whipped cream, optional
About 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts, optional
Scald the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.
Once you have scalded the milk mixture, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F, or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated. Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together. Add the vanilla extract and combine.
Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Serve with optional whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts, if desired. Buon Appetitio!
*You can get gianduja at most gourmet food stores.
UPDATE: If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatine. Follow the manufacturers directions for "blooming" the gelatine in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.
For more information on the chocolate pass and other culinary tours in Turin, you can go to their tourist information website here. (Best times to purchase the pass are weekdays. Avoid Sundays, holidays, and the month of August when most/many of the shops are closed.)
CioccolaTo, Turin's next chocolate festival is scheduled for March, 2010. The festival is a 10-day chocolate celebration with exhibitions, demonstrations, chefs, chocolate makers, and of course, chocolate tastings.
Here is a list of some of the most notworthy negozi (shops) on my Chocolate Pass tour:
Baratti & Milano, Piazza Castello 27 (One of the oldest pasticceria of the city it sits on the corner of the biggest piazza in Turin.)
Caffe Torino, Piazza San Carlo 204 (rich and creamy petite sweets elegantly made and displayed in this old-world caffe)
Caffetteria Roma Gia Talmone, Piazza Carlo Felice (Outsdanding morning pastries and some of the best gelato in the city. Owned by Gatsby's on via Soleri and another sister location Mokita in Piazza San Carlo)
Pasticceria Pfatisch, Via Sacchi (One of the oldest chocolatiers in Turin)
Caffe Al Bicerin, Piazza della Consolata 5 (The Bicerin - a hot drink of coffee, chocolate and milk popular throughout the city originated here)
Pepino, Piazza Carignano 8 (In 1935 the first gelato di passegio, literally meaning strolling gelato aka the eskimo pie, was created.)