It is nearly impossible to visit Torino without having a deep, personal encounter with chocolate in some way, shape, or form. Solid chocolate was born in the city toward the end of the 18th century, and today its aroma wafts through the air inside pastry shops and beckons from elaborately decorated window displays. There are oodles of places to worship chocolate in Torino, but during a recent whirlwind trip I was most excited about visiting the bottega of Guido Gobino. The elegant, wood-paneled shop on Via Lagrange presents a traditional setting for handmade chocolates with a decidedly modern edge.
Enter the shop and your eyes are immediately drawn to the display of tiny, molded chocolates filled with different flavors of ganache and decorated with touches of color; a dusting of spice or a sprinkling of pulverized nuts give clues to the flavors enclosed. Peperoncino, mint, hazelnut, and orange were each delectable, and my friend Jay and I nearly swooned when we tasted the ganache flavored with Barolo Chinato.
But my favorite by far was the cremini al sale—a hand-cut square of soft chocolate blended with hazelnut paste, extra-virgin olive oil, and sea salt. The use of salt in sweets has become quite a trend in pastry arts; sometimes it works, but too often it is indiscriminate, producing some pretty ghastly results. I still wince when I remember being served a scoop of sweet-tart green-apple sorbet that had been encrusted with a heavy-handed sprinkle of bitter, acrid rock salt crystals. Eck.
Guido Gobino's cremini al sale are the yardstick by which all salty sweets should be measured; a subtle, nuanced layering of flavors contained in a creamy texture that is soft but dissolves slowly enough to let them meld into something delicate and exquisite. This was salt and sweet joined together in perfect harmony.
Regrettably, I had already emptied my wallet on a box of the teeny, tiny mixed chocolates. I'm counting my pennies until the next trip to Torino and another visit to Guido Gobino, where I'll be making a beeline for another sweetly salted fix.
The cremini al sale are not available outside of Italy, but you can order other Guido Gobino chocolates from A.G. Ferrari Foods.
About the author: Gina DePalma is the pastry chef at Mario Batali's Babbo restaurant in New York City and the author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen. She is currently in Rome doing research for her next book and further exploring her passions for Italian food.