Thursday, June 24, 2010
William diCarlo Perle di dolcezza
Italy has probably been a confectionery center for thousands of years. Before cane sugar came along candies were made from dates, honey and nuts. But when Italy became a center of trade in the Mediterranean and had access to white sugar they became a hotbed of candy invention.
The heart of this tradition is the panned sweet. A nut or seed is the starter and then layers of sugar or chocolate are added as they tumble in a bin (rather like a cement mixer). The bonus in this kind of candy making was that a thick sugar coating actually preserved the nut or seed at the center. So a candied almond or pistachio could be easily carried around without worry that they’d get rancid and of course they were ideal for gifting.
In 1833 William diCarlo was founded in Sulmona, Italy, an area known for confetti (panned nuts and seeds). Their traditional methods and care in selecting their ingredients is evident from the packaging, list of ingredients and the product itself. I was given this box of Perle di dolcezza by their distributor Ritrovo Italian Regional Foods in the United States after I saw them at the Fancy Food Show in January.
The box is a fascinating construction. It’s like a flower (see this page at Amazon). Pop the top off and the sides fold out, like origami. Inside that is a little clear cellophane bag nestled inside the foil lined box.
Let’s face it, they’re drop dead gorgeous candies from the outside. But the construction is just as tantalizing: they’re a hazelnut covered in rich chocolate and then a candy coating. The whole thing is finished with a bronzy sparkling layer.
They smell sweet and a little like roasted nuts, but not much like chocolate.
The shell is thick and very crispy. The nuts are well roasted, so they’re also crunchy with no hint of raw chewiness. The dark chocolate layer is thick, but not overpowering. So the whole thing munched together has an excellent balance between the nut and the chocolate. The shell is kind of odd, the pearly coating not only looks metallic, it tastes slightly metallic, kind of like pennies. Maybe that was my mind playing tricks on me, but it had a mineral salt flavor to it, like a strong mineral water with a little zinc or copper note.
I loved the look and the crunch with the fresh nut plus the good quality chocolate was definitely different - this is the M&M I’ve always wished existed. But the metallic taste to it was a little off-putting - like my mouth was saying “danger” so I was careful not to eat too many in one day. The price is something that would keep most mortals from chowing down on lethal levels anyway, I saw them on Amazon for $13.50 a package (that’s $49 a pound). So they’re definitely a “sometimes food” not an everyday indulgence. They’d be ideal for a small wedding/shower/party - and I’d probably mix them in with other not-so-expensive items as part of a favor or candy display.