Dolceria Bonajuto creates chocolate the way they want to. Their corner of Modica seems as far away from focus-groups, bar charts and marketing strategy meetings as you could ever wish for – and even further from the designed by committee and manufactured machine ‘chocolate’ you’ll find in any corner shop or petrol station. The formulas used to create Galaxy or Dairy Milk are regularly tweaked. The bars are seemingly getting smaller whilst the return for shareholders on an inexorable path upwards. I suspect for Bonajuto their processes have hardly changed since Francesco set up shop some one hundred and thirty-three years ago, and why change a winning formula?
Their chocolate isn’t for everyone. It’s for people like me who shy away from the over-processed rubbish foist upon us by marketing departments and PR agencies. It may even not be for those who yearn for ‘bean to bar chocolate’. Often I wonder if people crave that type of chocolate to satisfy an emotional need to be ‘holistic’ and subversive rather than for any culinary reason. Any can still be disappointing. Bean to Bar chocolate can still contain soya lecithin to give you the texture you desire and to aid processing. Dolceria Bonajuto may not be bean-to-bar, or it might be, to be honest, I’m not all that interested. What I do care about is the overall experience. I love the rusticity of their chocolate, I love that they shy away from using the latest technology as an alternative or accessory to skill. I love that they make authentic chocolate, mostly by hand and as a family.
Much of the response to their chocolate is born out of naivety. As they don’t process the bean to an inch of its existence it is, as a result, susceptible to blooming. The fat particles are far less worked than ‘normal’ chocolate and has a greater tendency to rise to the surface of the chocolate as temperatures alter. For many this would be seen as unattractive and a sign of poor-workmanship. Of course they know this is likely. When I picked up a couple of hundred bars or so from their UK representative the other day, that was one of the first things Cristiano said. I was even given some notices explaining why Bonajuto’s chocolate is likely to bloom. They care about their chocolate and they want it to be enjoyed with the understanding of what their chocolate is all about.
I was given some other goodies to try and one of them was this tine of six, small chocolate ‘cups’ made with their standard, rustic, slightly coarse chocolate – but with an added mix of chilli pepper. As is the case with much of the chilli chocolate you are likely to try, the chilli doesn’t come to the fore until a great deal of time after the chocolate and completed its tardy melt. Even then it offers a well-rounded, mellow, elegant chilli flavour and is far removed from the harsh chilli chocolate that seems to define the genre.
The granular texture is evident because the sugar crystals also are left almost in a natural state – they feel almost whole in the mouth. If you were aware of Bonajuto’s style and ethos then there is nothing but joy for you. The chocolate itself doesn’t offer any sort of flavour-bomb. You won’t put this in the same classification as an Amano, a Pacari, a Bonnat or a Valrhona as the chocolate flavour is almost unnoticeable. But having tried their 100% bar I know full well that their chocolate, naturale, does offer both a very agreeable texture and flavour.
The best way to treat this chocolate gift is to have the willingness to accept that not all chocolate has to be jam-packed full of flavour and smooth with it, as it doesn’t. Sometimes just trying chocolate, made with soul and passion should be worth the effort – even if you don’t exhibit a post-coitus glow on tasting0. Sometimes a nice cuddle is just what you need.