A visit to D. Barbero Candy Company, in Asti, Piedmont, Italy
Last month we paid a visit to the artisanal candy company D. Barbero in Asti, Piedmont, Italy, and were given a wonderful behind-the-scenes tour by Davide – he and co-owner Giovanni are 6th-generation family owners. They are proud of the fact that the company is and always has been in the vibrant city center of Asti, rather than relocating to the more-convenient suburban industrial areas.
D. Barbero is most famous for the production of artisanal torrone, a light, crumbly sweet that’s been popular in Italy for literally thousands of years – the Romans had a taste for it. D. Barbero’s version is packed full of excellent ingredients like a particular kind of local honey called Millefiori, real vanilla, Piedmont hazelnuts, and Bronte pistachios from Sicily. They have won many awards for it over the last 100 years or so.
After we toured the little historical section of the building, where they have their medals and certificates and also candy machines from the early 1900s, we went upstairs to the production area.
This is the room where the torrone is made, and Davide introducing it to us. The air had a light aroma of honey and hazelnuts.
The torrone starts out as a fairly thin liquid, and then as it’s gently stirred by the torrone machines it gets thicker and thicker.
Meanwhile, in the adjacent room, the fresh nuts are shelled, roasted, skinned, and then carefully checked for any bad ones. The nuts are then added to the gently-stirred torrone when it’s at the right consistency. The batch they were making that morning was with hazelnuts rather than pistachios:
Once the nuts have been added and the final consistency is reached, they remove the torrone using wooden paddles, lightly shape it, press and roll it into wooden trays, let it harden, and slice and package it. (Our tour was hands-on at this point – we got to help press a batch into the wooden trays.)
Then we went down to their shop, and tasted many of their products. I had never tried torrone before, and loved the light, crunchy texture and delicate honey and nut flavor.