Italian desserts and pastries
Take a tasty tour of Italy's best tasting desserts!
If there is one thing I miss from Italy it is defiinetly the food. Being raised in Italy as I child, I must admit I get terrible nostalgia for the Italian desserts and pastries. There is just something about Italian desserts that make them memorable and hard to surpass. No Sunday afternoon ever went by during my childhood in Italy, without visiting a pastry shop. Eating pastries after church following a hearty meal, was surely a sacred event in our home.
When it comes to desserts, Italy sure has quite some variety. With the sweet, indulgent desserts of the South and the creamy, sophisticated pastries of the North, it seems like there is no escape from indulging in a mouthwatering adventure. If you ever decide to visit Italy, make sure to visit a nicely assorted pasticceria!
However, should visiting Italy seem impossible or your must postpone your trip let me take your through a "virtual" tour through Italy's best desserts.
*Note: Click on the name of the dessert for a visual representation. Sweet tooth discretion advised!
A cassata is a great Sicilian specimen portraying well the Arab culture. It can be described as being a sponge cake with a sweet filling made of ricotta, chocolate chips, candied fruits and a dash or cinnamon. As mentioned above, in order to protect the filling, a generous amount of green almond paste is applied to competely cover the cake. To make the cake even more ornamental, candied fruit is added to the top, mostly featuring candied cherries, candied squash strips and even an entire candied orange placed right on the middle. The whole cake is then finished with white icing feautures resembling the old Renaissance design.
Translated the word 'torta' stands for cake and 'setteveli' stands for 'seven veils'. This cake is said to have been created by a Sicilian cook from Palermo named Luca Mannori. One of the best specimens of this cake can be found at the "pasticceria Cappello" in Palermo. This cake is phenomenal and is made of lots of layers, of which some are made of hazelnut cream, corn flakes, chocolate cream, praline and a last layer made of mirror shiny chocolate syrup.
If you visit Italy eating Cannoli is a must. You cannot fly back without trying it out. This decadent dessert is made of typical pastry shells that may resemble in some way the pasta shape cannelloni. The shell is a sort of oblong tube that is filled with ricotta, chocolate chips and candied fruit. Because of its shape, the ricotta will show out on both sides and it often garnished with a nice sweet candied cherry.
Off from the Sicily island and heading towards Rome is Naples. Baba' Rum is a speciality for those that are enamored with desserts feauturing liquor. Rum is a very sweet liquor that is frequently used for desserts. A Baba' Rum can be defined as a soft yeast cake saturated with Rum. It is often topped with some whipped cream and a nice candied cherry.
This is an unusual dessert often served around Easter in Naples. It is mostly a pie enclosing a sweet filling made of whole grain seeds, ricotta and a heavenly scented water made from orange flowers. The preparation can be quite elaborate, requiring a few days to weeks to soak the grains and a few extra days to allow all the flavors to mingle in order to grant best flavor. Traditionally this pie is made on Good Friday to be enjoyed on Easter day.
The North has some well defined German influences. Butter is used quite often and the pastries are less sweet but very creamy and rich. Ricotta is very rarely used and is mostly replaced by custards and whipped cream.
This dessert is surely famous both in Italy and in the States.The Italian tiramisu' is thought to have been created in Siena, a Tuscan city full of history. While you may think to save yourself a trip and eat it abroad, consider that the americanized version f is much different from the authentic Italian version. Authentic Tiramisu' uses a light cheese called 'Mascarpone' hardly found in the States. The ladyfingers that are the base of this dessert are dipped in a mix of coffee and a liquor called Brandy. Then, they are topped and layered with the decadent cream made of mascarpone, eggs and Marsala wine. Finally, all is sprinkled with a heavy cocoa powder coating.
This is a Christmas specialty that has origin in Northern Italy but can be found just about anywhere in Italy around the holidays. It is shaped almost like a large bell. It is made of a yeasty, buttery dough with raisins and candied orange peel. This is the traditional version, however, nowadays panettone may be made with chocolate fillings and chocolate toppings, they may come in different shapes and flavors as well.
These are very cute pastries similar to cream puffs and filled with custard cream or whipped cream. They can be found colorfully displayed at many Italian pastry shops. Choosing can certainly be an overwhelming task with all the different combinations. Common flavors are coffee, chocolate, vanilla and strawberry. Try to get a tray with all the different varieties, it will surely be fun to taste them all!
This is another Christmas specialty that is mostly a candy more than a dessert. It is a specialty that originated in Cremona, Lombardy and that can be decsribed as a nougat made out of honey, sugar, almonds or hazelnuts. It can be found in two varieties: rock hard or chewy and soft. Comapanies have created new specialties such as chocolate covered torrone, pistachio torrone or torrone with a pleasant orange flavor.
Of course, Italy, has much much more desserts and pastries to offer really too many too list. I will let you discover them yourself by visiting a traditional Italian pastry shop. Whether you are enjoying a great gelato, or a slice of tiramisu' you surely will feel why I get so nostalgic about Italian desserts.
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