By Alexandra Redisch in Perugia, Italy
Recently, while visiting Umbria, I had several choices of things to see and do: there was wine and handicraft and medieval towns and nature and sports and history and art and food and chocolate and more wine and…
Wait a minute! Chocolate? Mmm…. chocolate! From then on, that was my only focus. In fact, I’ve forgotten everything else I did in Umbria. Nah, kidding! I remember… I think.
Perugina Chocolate Factory
Ten blogger colleagues and I were given a tour of Perugina Chocolate Factory. You may be familiar with Baci – Perugina’s delectable chocolate kisses!
We saw a very interesting video of the history of the factory and the history of chocolate, then we got down to business at the Scuola del Cioccolato. The words sound good enough to eat, don’t they? Say it with me: Scuola del Cioccolato. Nom nom!
We were each handed an apron, then two slightly intimidating chefs quickly showed us the ropes. It didn’t look too difficult. It really didn’t. But it was.
How to make chocolate
First we’re told to slice the chocolate. No problemo. Then we melt the chocolate. OK. Mix the filling: cream, butter, lemon peel, white chocolate and Limoncello… mmm… Limoncello…
Enter difficult bit number one: It is very important that the chocolate has the right temperature when you pour it into the mould. A mere one degree off, and it won’t work, the chocolate will then get a white covering and taste bad. To cool off the chocolate, you pour it onto the table and spread it around using a machete/spatula-thingy, which looks awfully professional.
After a bit of spreading, me and my chocolate making partner-in-crime, Jai (see Jai’s fun and fabulous video of the whole process), are told our chocolate is too cold. Back into the pan and onto the stove. But we leave it too long and now it’s too warm. A “pah!” from the chef.
Finally reaching optimal temperature, the chocolate goes into the mould. Then we pour it out again.
Wait,… what? Pour it out?
Since we’re making chocolates with a filling, we first need to create the outer shell. After filling the forty little holes in the mould, we simply tip the whole thing upside down. Extreme mess and chocolate everywhere – table, apron, shoes, floor, hands, face, you name it. The chef comes over to examine. I hear him tell another blogger hers are “very perfect”. Like a toddler showing off a drawing, I show him mine. He says “meh… is OK”. Sad Alex.
After leaving the chocolate to sit comfortably in the fridge for 15 minutes, it’s time for the filling. Mmm… filling! We squeeze it into the chocolate shell, and again the chef comes over for a look. “Very good” is the verdict this time, and I feel my heart swell. Then another feeling rears its head: competitiveness. I want “very perfect”. I need it!
We slap on more chocolate to cover the base and pop it back into the fridge for another 15 minutes. All that is left to do now, is get the finished chocolates out of the mould by quickly turning it upside down and banging it on the table, ice cube style.
I’m amazed. It’s even more beautiful than I had imagined. It’s perfect. It must be!
The guy next to us has messed up; there are air bubbles in his chocolate, they look termite-infested. He won’t get a “perfect”-verdict, I think to myself, with just a touch of schadenfreude. The chef inspects our work with the concentration of a jeweller examining a fine gem. He beams at us and says those longed for words: “Very perfect!” Insane sensation of pride!
Is it completely ridiculous that I feel prouder of these chocolates than of my Masters degree?
What is that I hear? You want to make chocolate, too, you say? You can, my sweet, you can. Have a look at Perugina’s chocolate school for courses. Or try it at home – my friend Michael Turtle, choc full of it, wrote it all down for you. Let me know if yours come out very perfect!
Disclosure: I was a guest of Umbria Regional Tourism Board. As ever, all opinions and chocolaty mess are deliciously mine.