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Choc full of it

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The Perugina chocolate factory

Who knew that making chocolate would be so filthy! It’s only when I look down to see my hands covered, my shoes with drips on them and my apron smeared with brown traces of fingers, that I realise there is no clean way to do this.

I’m having a chocolate-making lesson in the Perugina factory, the home of the famous Baci chocolates. A romantic kiss for some… for me, more of a dribbling mess. They say you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. It seems you can’t make a chocolate without first splattering it on everything nearby.

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“Now we get our bowl,” our expert chef Massimilano Guidubaldi instructs us, “and we pour everything out onto the table”.

With his thick Italian accent and slightly broken English, I’m convinced I’ve misheard the maestro. But he leads by example, emptying his bowl of melted chocolate onto the bench and using two kitchen tools to spread it and then condense it. It’s almost like kneading bread except it leaves a brown hardening mess on the bench each time.

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I try to follow each of his instructions closely. I pour my dark chocolate into a mould of 40 small holes, I fill them each with a white chocolate filling I’ve mixed with limoncello and lemon rind, I cover it all up with another layer of dark chocolate, and then put it in the fridge to set. The whole process has taken well over an hour by the time I retrieve the finished product.

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“Very perfect,” Guidubaldi tells some other members of the class. I look at my chocolates and try to pre-empt his judgement. One or two have cracked on the way out of the moulds. Most of them have air bubbles – cursed with pockmarks across their dark skin. But it’s all about the taste, right? I surreptitiously pop one into my mouth and am pleased with the richness of the dark chocolate and the sweet acidity of the lemon filling.

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I’d you ask me, it’s a success. A new Willy Wonka has been born (without the small creepy slaves).

The chocolate recipe

For those following along at home, I’ve got the recipe for you. Remember, though, there’s an art to this and even under the supervision of one of Italy’s finest chocolate chefs, it was hard work.

Ingredients:

Cream – 35g
Grated lemon peel
Perugina white chocolate – 120g
Butter – 20g
Limoncello Liquer – 20g
Perugina dark chocolate – lots

Instructions:
– Boil the cream with the lemon peel
– Add the grated white chocolate
– Add the butter and finally the liquer
– Cool to 28 degrees celcius
– Warm up the dark chocolate
– Make a shell of dark chocolate in the moulds
– Fill with the white chocolate mix, then close with dark chocolate
– Refrigerate for 10 minutes

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The Italian kiss

The location for my chocolate lesson, the Perugina factory in Perugia, is now owned by Nestle and is the multinational’s Italian base. It’s still best known for its Baci chocolates, though.

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“Baci is something else,” one of the factory’s workers puts it. “Italians have something to remember – that is the love of the baci.”

Every day of operation, more than one and a half million Baci chocolates are made here at Perugina. But that’s only a fraction of the 120 tons of chocolate that flows through the pipes and vats each day. The company has come a long way since it first opened in 1922.

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Italians are rightly proud of their chocolate. They weren’t the first in the world to make it but they have turned it into an art form. It’s part of the local culture and it was interesting to hear that the countries which are the biggest importers of Baci chocolates are those with the largest Italian populations.

A kiss, it seems, never means arriverdeci.

* You can check out the official Perugina Chocolate Factory website here (Italian).

Time Travel Turtle was a guest of the Umbria Regional Tourism Board but the opinions, over-written descriptions and bad jokes are his own.

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