I’m studying Italian by distance (i.e. mainly with the help of my Auntie Sarah, who studied the language at university and has been an aficionado of it ever since), and I love tasting chocolate of all kinds, from Cadbury to Valrhona. So when these two hobbies came together in the form of some Italian chocolate bars for me to test, needless to say I was pretty happy.
The first one up was from a brand called Baratti e Milano, which was founded in Turin in 1858. Perhaps strangely, they don’t emphasise their chocolate-making much on their website, which focuses more on their bar, restaurant and café business. Their chocolate is also not widely sold online, so you might have to wait until you’re in Italy to get your mitts on some. This was a 75g Gianduja (read: hazelnut chocolate) bar, with its cacao content barely tipping the scales at 31%, making for a creamy milk chocolate. Cost-wise it came in at around €5, which is probably about the highest-quality branded chocolate you can get for this price (Valrhona and Amedei both cost more), although contenders Lindt and Montezuma both cost less.
It’s easy to see why those two brands do cost less. Baratti e Milano’s chocolate’s main distinguishing feature was the different levels of flavour in its milk chocolate, with caramel being particularly prominent. However, on another level, we felt its value for money was limited, as it was almost too sickly sweet, with sugar overpowering cacao considerably. Texturally it was also too soft – and nope, nothing to do with how we were keeping it (we have a wine fridge which is permanently set to keep wine cool, and quite often our chocolate stash ends up in there too, to be kept at an optimal temperature).
Also costing around €5 a bar was the bar of Slitti chocolate, made by a Tuscan firm. This weighed in at 100g and the cacao content was higher as well, at 60%. It was flavoured this time not with hazelnuts but with coffee (hence the name of the bar we tried: Caffè Nero). The brand makes more of its chocolate on its own website (even though the firm did not begin making chocolate until 1988), although the page itself is not set up well for practical use. Thankfully, however, Slitti chocolate is slightly more widely available for purchase online – try Chocolatiers, Crediton Coffee, or Mediterranean Direct for your own supplies.
But what about the taste? When broken, the Slitti chocolate had that ‘snap’ sound that all good chocolate should make – so texture-wise it was already a good start. It also had a good strong flavour that wasn’t too sweet and was complemented well by the coffee, which is achieved through ground coffee – not through artificial flavourings. However, on the downside, the inclusion of the coffee did lead to a slightly gritty texture, and this bar did not melt as easily in the mouth as the Baratti e Milano bar.
This doesn’t mean, though, that our adventures in the realm of Italian chocolate are over. Far from it – we are still great lovers of the Amedei brand, and are still on a mission to test out other Italian classics, including Venchi, Domori, Perugina, and Agostoni. Luckily for me, my husband’s going to Rome for work before the end of March – I’ll be ensuring he leaves plenty of room in his case so that further testing can commence…