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Torrone: Italy's Sweet Nougat for Christmas

Torrone: Italy's Sweet Nougat for Christmas

The real, authentic torrone has to be the hard kind – there is no other possible texture for this beloved Italian sweet, so popular in the winter months.

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When choosing the compact version, you have two choices: you can either bite into it or let it melt in your mouth like a hard candy – which is what the true aficionados do. When it comes to flavors and ingredients, however, there’s a lot more variety: torrone can feature toasted almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nut or sesame seeds all smothered in a sweet, honey-based nougat.

Torrone was first enjoyed in the Middle East and brought to the Mediterranean by the Arabs, it then became widely spread in Italy as much as to become part of its Christmas tradition. Not only, many places in Italy created their own recipe and variations of the torrone, here is a look at some most famous ones.

in the Northern Italian town of Cremona, an annual torrone festival never fails to attract large crowds. The traditional sweet was first served in Cremona during the nuptial banquet of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti in 1441, and was made in the shape of the Cathedral’s bell tower for the occasion. And all these centuries later, it is this region where the two main companies that produce torrone - Sperlari and Vergani - still have their headquarters and factories. Along with this two main producers, there are also many smaller, artisanal companies in the area, like Rivoltini, which makes variants using virgin honey and Pugliese almonds.

In the region of Piedmont, torrone is most frequently made with local hazelnuts and the artisan factory of Davide Barbero has been making a special version – covered with hazelnut chocolate – since 1883. In Southern regions of Italy, the pastry is often infused with cocoa or shards of chocolate. The region of Reggio Calabria makes a highly addictive variant made with Sicilian almonds, honey and covered with sugared glacé.

Benevento is the other area of Italy that, together with Cremona, makes up 70% of national production. Here, the torrone is classically white, made with either hazelnuts or almonds and is covered in chocolate. The Sardinian torrone has a more intense aroma and its ivory color comes from the fact that it’s made exclusively with Mediterranean honey, without the addition of white sugar. Citrus zest is often added – lemon or orange – as is vanilla. Sicily makes a version called “cubaita”, made with pistachios, honey and almonds, and one of the most coveted kinds can only be found at “Caffè Sicilia” in the town of Noto, where it is made entirely by hand: white, peeled almonds from Noto are combined with honey from Mount Iblei and whole coffee beans.

Of course, during the holiday season, many regions compete against one another to see who can make the longest torrone: the most recent record was established by the town of Camerino, in the Marche region, which produced a single torrone of almost 776 meters long.

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