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Torrone



La Vita è Dolce in Copacabana with Francesco Carli

Torrone

La Vita è Dolce arrives in Rio De Janeiro. Francesco Carli, skilled Executive Chef of the Orient-Express Copacabana Hotel, prepares a Soft Torrone with almonds and candied grapefruit with semifreddo al torrone and blackberry sauce.

The sweet will be served, from today up to October 16th, in the Hotel Cipriani Restaurant, where Francesco, before being promoted last year as Executive Chef, has been chef for thirteen years. He arrived in Rio de Janeiro from the Hotel Cipriani in Venice for a short season and now would not consider going back.  Francesco is the author of various books and “is likely the most respected Italian chef in Brazil”, says Elena Ruocco, La Vita è Dolce Tour Coordinator, who lives in Rio and shares with Francesco time and culinary experiences.

Francesco's version of Torrone
Francesco's Soft Torrone with almonds and candied
grapefruit with Semifreddo al Torrone and Blackberry sauce

Francesco’s quality cuisine has been given considerable recognition during the years. The Hotel Cipriani Restaurant was elected as one of the ten best restaurants in the world by American magazine 'Hotel' and received awards from Veja Magazine (a famous magazine in Rio de Janeiro), Gula Magazine and Danusia Bárbara Guide (Danusia is a well-known food critic).

Francesco Carli with Elena Ruocco
Francesco Carli with Elena Ruocco
Chef Carli's Carbonara
Chef Carli's Carbonara
 

Torrone: the sweet identity of the Italian diversity (VIDEO)

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La Vita è Dolce leaves New York, where Carolina Perego, Montenapo Pastry chef, celebrated her birthday in the same week of Cassata alla Siciliana. The thirteen-ninth step of our worldwide tour is dedicated to Torrone, in its hard and soft version. For centuries, well before Italy became a unified nation, this sweet, today made in dozens of variations, represented a common Italian identity despite being deeply rooted in regional areas.  The recipe of authentic Torrone morbido is presented above in a video by Francesco Elmi.

Torrone Torrone Torrone Torrone

 

Cassata

Carolina Perego, executive pastry chef at Montenapo Restaurant in New York Times building, making cassata siciliana during the twelfth step of La Vita è dolce, worldwide tour. She celebrated her birthday during the Cassata week, with a colleague, and Executive Chef German Lucarelli (right in the photo).

 

Torrone morbido: the authentic step by step recipe

Take a look at the step by step photographic authentic recipe of the Torrone Morbido executed by pastry chef Francesco Elmi.

Ingredients

Torrone
Photo 1
Honey
600 gr
Water
300 gr
Sugar
1000 gr
Egg whites
150 gr
Hazel nuts, shelled
1200 gr
Pistachios, shelled
300 gr
(Photo 1)

Procedure

Prepare a syrup with the sugar and water by heating it to 140° C (photo 2). Melt the honey and bring it to 120° C. Put the egg whites in the Planetaria (photo 3) and begin to whip them with the whisk, then add the syrup at 140° C a trickle at a time, followed by the honey at 120° C (photo 4).
Continue whipping for approximately 5 minutes. In order to maintain the temperature of the mixture and to cook it, wave a blowtorch beneath the bowl of the Planetaria (photo 5). Put the dried fruit in a baking pan and then into the oven to toast (photo 6); the fruit should be added to the mixture while hot, otherwise stirring it in will prove to be difficult.

Torrone
Photo 2
Torrone
Photo 3
Torrone
Photo 4
Torrone
Photo 5
Torrone
Photo 6

Replace the whisk in the Planetaria with the spatula and smoothen the mixture for two minutes.
Add the dried fruit and stir it in (photo 7), in a few minutes the torrone will be ready (photo 8).
Remove the mixture from the Planetaria, when at around 100° C, spread it out on a host leaf (foglio di ostia) (photo 9), flatten it out (photo 10) and cover it with another host leaf (photo 11).

Torrone
Photo 7
Torrone
Photo 10
Torrone
Photo 8
Torrone
Photo 9
Torrone
Photo 11


Torrone
Photo 12
Finish spreading it out with a rolling pin
to a thickness of 2.5 to 3 cm (photo 12).

Cut into desired portions (photo 13).

Torrone
Photo 13

Recipes Editor and La Vita è Dolce Worldwide Tour Coordinator: Elena Ruocco.

 

Plenty of regional variations, one unmistakable Italian identity

Torrone is among those few sweets that, through the centuries, have represented a common Italian identity rooted in many regions well before Italy became a unified nation. You may still read somewhere that torrone is a typical sweet of Cremona, one of the oldest cities in the northern  Region of Lombardy. It’s true, but torrone, indeed, with slight variations, is a typical sweet of Abruzzo, Sicily, Sardinia and Campania as well, as we will see later, and it has been a favourite in many others Italian regions.



Sicilian torrone with pistachio
Sicilian torrone with pistachio

Basic Torrone is made with simple and natural ingredients: honey (increasingly replaced by sugar through the centuries), egg white and nuts, usually almonds, hazelnuts and pistachio. There are two types of torrone: duro (hard), which must be crumbly and crunchy, and morbido (soft), easy to break with the teeth and not crumbly; for both the ingredients are the same but the quantity of sugar, honey and nuts makes the difference. In the last decades, chocolate has been more and more used to coat classic torrone to the extent that it can be almost considered as a traditional ingredient. Then there are many variations made at industrial levels. Only relatively recently torrone became part of Italian pasticceria. Originally in some areas, as in Cremona itself, it was manufactured by chemists – yes, by pharmacists.

There was a time when Torrone was made by pharmacists
There was a time when Torrone was made by pharmacists

They were the only ones who had the right tools. Later grocers took up the trade and finally pastry chefs. Furthermore, it went from being a product made by artisans, to become a successful industrial one, sold in typical packaging in grocery stores and supermarkets. In the beginning, in many regions, it was sold “naked” at markets, fairs or popular festivities, by peddlers, and then it became one of Christmas traditional sweets. In general terms, torrone was consumed far from or at the end of meals by itself. More recently, in restaurants, torrone is often to be found as a part of sweets served in a dish. Its basic mix of ingredients has become hugely popular since used as a flavour for gelato. Very popular commercial candies such as Milky Way and Toblerone have been inspired by torrone.

An old torron seller stand in a popular festival
An old torrone seller stand in a popular festival

Where was torrone born? Impossible to say. Legends say that its ancestor could have been invented in China, the land of almonds, a long time ago. But there’s no evidence whatsoever. Instead according to Latin writers Martial and Marcus Terentius Marronis, ancient Romans used to eat something somewhat similar to torrone, called 'cuppedo' o 'cupedia', made out of honey, flour, cooked wine and sesame. Cupeta, in the Region of Campania and copetain the Region of Calabria is still used to identify torrone in parts of southern Italy. More likely though, is that the origins of the sweet are Arabic. A honey based tu-run’ is mentioned in an essay written on medicine and food by the Arab medical practitioner, Abdul Mutarrif, in Cordoba, Spain and translated into Italian by Gherardo Cremonese in the 12th century.

Guggiulena
Guggiulena

Torrone, according to others, is just a variation of the Arab ‘cubbaita, made with honey and toasted sesame seeds. The toasting component, in any case, is seen as the basis of the Latin etymology of the word: to toast in Latin is ‘torrere, in Spanish ‘turrar’ and then ‘turrón. The Arabs, in fact, introduced this way of making a sweet to the Mediterranean countries on which they had political or economic influence that is, in Italy, the South of France and Spain. In the last of these countries, torrone was produced already in the 16th century, particularly in the area of Alicante. In France, towards the end of the Middle Ages, torrone appeared as ‘Montélinar Nougat’, produced with a recipe in which almonds and pistachios are strictly regulated. Spain learned how to make torrone from the Arabs directly or from the Italian city of Cremona, where according to legend, it was born. In reality, it could have learned it from any Italian region dominated by the Spaniards; southern Italy, for example, was a Spanish colony for various centuries. In any case, in current times, besides the origin and quality of ingredients, the main difference between Italian and Spanish torrone lays in the quantity of nuts, Spanish products tend to have more.

Festa del torrone
Festa del Torrone's poster

The legend of Cremona claims that torrone was born there in 1441, on the occasion of the marriage of Bianca Maria Visconti to Francesco Sforza. The Court pastry chefs prepared a torrone in the shape of the Torrazzo, or Torrione, the cathedral tower of Cremona. This legend holds that the name ‘torrone’ came from that. As intriguing as the legend may sound, it was only a tale invented by the painter Massimo Galelli, for advertising an industrial producer of torrone in 1918. Nevertheless, the sweet is mentioned in documents from Cremona, Litterarum, dated 1543-45. The city at that time was very rich, due to its strategic position on the River Po and as part of the heavy levy it paid to the dominating Spain there was some torrone mentioned.

At the end of the 16th century, torrone from Cremona was so popular that the Senate of the City of Milan ordered that it was to be sold in boxes of predetermined weight, to prevent frauds. By the end of the 19th century the manufacturing of the sweet in Cremona became increasingly industrial. In fact, together with silk and mostarda (a famous local food specialty based on fruits, mustard seeds and sugar syrup), torrone production was a very profitable business, even though it was seasonal. It was, indeed, a hard, labour-intense manufacturing process that began at dawn and lasted 24 hours. Things got a bit easier when the manual work was replaced by the French-invented electric Poêlon à nougat. Still today, Cremona has a primacy in the production of torrone, and every year the city celebrates a festival dedicated to its world. The cheap ‘ciballo, in which peanuts replaced the almonds, sugar, the honey and ammoniac yeast, the egg whites, was invented in Cremona to allow the poor to experience in some way the pleasure of torrone. In the second half of the 19th century, in Southern Italy, almonds were replaced as well in some types of torrone. The King of the Two Sicily, Ferdinand I, ordered the torrone makers of Benevento, a town not far from his capital, Naples, to prepare a new product for his wife, Queen Marie Caroline, without almonds but with candied fruit. The outcome was called the Queen’s Torrone (Torrone della Regina).

The production of torrone has been traditionally very strong in the areas of Sannio and Irpinia in the Region of Campania. In Sannio, Torrone di Benevento is the classic one and has three variations, crumbly, crumbly ‘cupedia’ with hazelnuts and soft with almonds. In the same area an innovative one, Torroncino Croccantino o Torrone Bacio (kiss) was invented in San Marco dei Cavoti in 1891 by Innocenzo Borrillo. It was an immediate success, since it was very small – 15 grams, with sugar, honey, crushed hazelnuts and almonds and coated with chocolate. By 1898 Mr Borrillo was awarded the French Legion d’honneur for his invention. Torrone in Irpinia has a variation, pantorrone, with genoise, created in 1927 in the village of Dentecane, by a manufacturer who produces torrone since 1750.

A traditional seller of torrrone in Barbagia (Sardinia)
A traditional seller of torrrone
in Barbagia (Sardinia)

A strong tradition of torrone is present also in the Region of Abruzzo, where Ulisse Nurzia, the descendant of a family of artisan torrone makers of Arischia, before World War II created a revolutionary chocolate soft torrone (Torrone morbido al cioccolato) in his pastry shop in L’Aquila. In Abruzzo there are strong torrone-making traditions in the villages of Guardiagrele and in the town of Sulmona as well. Torrone is one of the typical sweets of Sicily, where historically some of the best ingredients have been used: almonds from Avola, pistachios from Bronte and honey from the area of the Iblean Mountains. In the area of Caltanissetta, torrone is called ‘cubaita, which, as we have seen before, is very similar to the Arab word for a sweet made with sesame seed (‘giuggiolena in Sicilian dialect).  In Sardinia torrone (soft) is made in Barbagia, mainly in the town of Tonara, using only pure honey, egg white, almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts. Excellent torrone is made in the Region of Piedmont using the special Langhe’s hazelnuts, as well as in other regions such as Marche with figs, Molise (Torrone del papa, the Pope’s Torrone), in Veneto in Cologna Veneta and San Giovanni Lupatoto, and in Calabria.

Torrone
Torrone Semifreddo at Ristorante Italia (Cavallermaggiore CM)
Rosario Scarpato