Slitti in the media
“Producing milk chocolate,” said Andrea Slitti, a chocolate maker in Tuscany, “is much more complicated than producing dark chocolate, as you can see in the marketplace: there are far more good dark chocolates available. At each step, we have to work to keep the clean taste of milk and not overwhelm it with the strength of the cocoa mass, then balance them both with sweetness.”
Mr. Slitti is one of several serious chocolatiers — including Pralus, Bernachon, and Amedei — that have forged new hybrids that, at their best, can please partisans on both sides of the dark-versus-milk divide.
“Nothing has been done for milk chocolate in the past 10 years,” he said. “In our tastings, I found that lovers of milk chocolate felt a little bit uncomfortable in admitting that they prefer it to plain chocolate.” In response, he spent more than a year developing Lattenero, one of the first “dark milk” chocolates. Instantly popular, it is the only milk chocolate available in five cacao levels, from 45 to 70 percent.
In Tuscany, there is such a concentration of fine chocolate makers that journalists have dubbed the area between Florence and Pisa the Chocolate Valley.
Veritable Willy Wonkas, Italy's chocolatiers love thinking up new flavors.
Andrea Slitti, of Slitti Chocolates, confides, "I sometimes start with a name that intrigues me, and then find a flavor to match it." Another imaginative Chocolate Valley chocolatier, Paul DeBondt, whose creations include dark chocolate accented with wild fennel and white chocolate flecked with bitter almonds and cocoa nibs, admits, "My favorite flavor is the one I have yet to invent."
Slitti, a Tuscany-based company, is one of several Italian firms to create a line of milk/dark chocolate hybrids. Instead of the usual 31 percent to 35 percent cocoa content found in most milk chocolates, Slitti's LatteNero -- "milk-dark" -- contain cocoa concentrations as high as 45 percent, 51 percent, 62 percent and 70 percent. The result is amazingly smooth, with a milk chocolate flavor but without the excessive sweetness of commercial milk chocolate.
On the other side of the valley is Slitti Cioccolato e Caffe, owned by Andrea Slitti, a former student of Catinari. It's part boutique, with pretty boxes of chocolates lining ornate shelves, and it's part a cozy cafe, with espresso machines whirring behind the counter. On a recent afternoon, several Italians sat at tables sipping and nibbling on Slitti's trademark bars, Latte Nero – impossibly smooth, creamy and slightly bitter.
This fall, Mr. Slitti will open a factory next to its shop, offering classes on chocolate making. "It will teach the public about chocolate the way a winery educates about wine," he said. "We will teach people the basics, but not everything. Some secrets I will take to my grave."
* Most surprising fact to come out of the class
How good milk chocolate could taste. Anyone who reels at the thought of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk should try the Slitti Lattenero, a creamy, medium bodied chocolate with 51% cocoa solids - wonderful with a 1999 Selvapiana Vin Santo which brought out a delicious flavour of caramel in the combination.
* Highlight of the class
A Barolo Chinato from Giulio Cocchi with a praline made, again by Slitti, from the same wine. One of the wine world’s intriguing rarities - a barolo infused with 25 different herbs and spices, including, most prominently, quinine. The praline just echoes the astringent flavours gently modifying them to create a perfect balance of richness and bitterness.