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Posts Tagged ‘Bicerin Turin’

Turin: Alps and chocolate

Turin (in Italian: Torino) is known as the “Regal city of Italy”. It was here where the dukes of Savoy and later even the king of  Italy Vittorio Emanuele II. were located (he was from the Savoy line). The king, after the unification of Italy in 1861, made Turin the first capital of Italy (Florence was second since 1865 and later it was Rome remaining the capital until today). It is an irony that this city used to be a part of Savoy, today the French region with fancy ski resorts, but also a part of Piedmont that had been occupied by France.

Chocolate connections

Perhaps it was the French influence or the proximity of the highly elevated Alps, that set the stage for the chocolate love affair of Turin. The French are known for their penchant for delicatessen and the Alps for their cows giving milk ideal for smoothing the bitterness of dark chocolate. It is also the cold weather in the mountains that calls for a warming drink, so why not a cup of hot chocolate?

One fact is sure, chocolate was once a luxurious treat popular with the European royalty. Turin being once the site of the Royal Palace and the palaces of the dukes of Savoy, therefore needed a constant supply of this delicacy in the highest quality so it might had been the impetus for the chocolate makers such as Al Bicerin (founded in 1763) and Baratti & Milano (founded in 1858) to set their roots in Torino.

Classic dark hot chocolate

Producers mastering chocolate

These confectionery producers pioneered some types of chocolate such as making milk chocolate with the whole Piedmont’s hazelnuts – this is called GIANDUIA – and some hot chocolate drinks such as Bicerin.

The widely popular though still remains the classic dark hot chocolate, that is so exquisite at Baratti e Milano that it continues drawing hundreds of customers daily to their cafeteria on Turin’s main square. It is so thick and perfectly balanced that I wish I knew their secret recipe. Far from bitter or diluted, this is a concentrated dark chocolate drink that can be considered a meal by some people for how generous it is.

If plain dark chocolate is not satisfying your palate’s whims then adding some whipped cream may persuade you dipping into the cup of warm Ciocolate con panna (chocolate with cream). Crowned by a homemade thick and creamy whipped cream that your spoon has to force through hardly to find a dark spot of cocoa-rich substance underneath is the hot chocolate with cream at Al Bicerin, the oldest cafè in Turin.

Hot chocolate with “panna”

Bicerin also stands for a warm drink invented at this tiny caffé in the 18th century. It is an espresso with hot chocolate (secret recipe) and a cap of frothy milky fresh cream. Bicerin is served in a high transparent glass so you can admire the beauty of its layers. An energizing treat for a cold afternoon or to freshen up oneself after a church service (Al Bicerin is located just across from a magnificent church).

Bicerin: espresso with hot chocolate and frothy milk

Zabaione is another specialty, although with a dose of alcohol. The thick yellow drink is made from an egg yolk base with Marsala and sugar,and can be served with whipped cream and lady fingers. Zabaione is not a chocolate drink though and it sounds more like a dessert, but is often drunk with a chocolate cake.

There are many other special chocolate drinks to be savoured at these cafeterias in Turin.

Buying chocolate in Turin

Chocolate shops and brands are like mushrooms after the rain popping up all over Turin. You can buy chocolate slabs, grenache, truffles, grissini enveloped in chocolate, Italian panettone with chocolate, pasta with cocoa or just a simple powdered chocolate to make hot chocolate drink at home. Al Bicerin has it all and wrapped nicely to make a perfect gift for the sweet tooth members of your family or friends.

Piedmontese chocolate specialities

Baratti & Milano is a lovely historic caffè, where you can have breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as an afternoon cup of chocolate with a homemade cake or chocolate grenache. You can also buy chocolate bars from white to Grand Cru dark chocolates, luxurious chocolate truffles and other choco-based products. Their selection is wide so it is hard to choose one or two.I would recommend to get at least one bar from each category that you like. My penchant for dark chocolate left me with five large bars in hand so I had enough to taste later.

You can also find new successful brands making award-winning chocolate such as the Guido Gobino, which won a bronze medal from the Academy of Chocolate in 2011 for it is Natural Soluble Powder  for Hot Chocolate (€9.50 for 250g). The shop has its own luxurious tasting room where you can compare their different chocolates and pair them with different drinks.

Chocolate tasting room

Outdoors on the streets chocolate is a common feature on the farmers markets. Some of the sellers have wider selection than many special chocolate stores and supermarkets. From white chocolate with coconut flakes, straciatella flavour (you are in Italy after all), cantaloupe and cinnamon in milk chocolate to crispy rice and basil in dark chocolate, the creative mind of Italian chocolate producers does not know boundaries. Cioccolateria Marino is one such producer selling their inventions as well as classical types of chocolate every weekend on the market across from the Town Hall, built in 1659.

Chocolate seller at farmers market in Turin

With so many options and chocolate virtually on every street in the centre of the town, it is hard to resist and one gets seduced by a number of chocolate stores, caffès and boutiques. Leave some space in you luggage before your trip to Turin, it is worth for the tremendous quality chocolates they produce there.

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