The Italian pastry, A long and sweet story

 

The Italian desserts are numerous and beloved inside and outside our borders. Today each city or region has its typical sweet, more or less popular, that does not give any visitor to taste if he gets the chance. Products so popular not just happen, but are the result of a rich and peculiar tradition that has strong roots in the distant past. Italian Traditions will tell you the long and successful history of confectionery art in our BelPaese.

Were the ancient Romans, on emulation of the Greeks, to import in Italy bakery as art and craft, producing simple sweet breads at first with the function of votive offerings, then experiencing more and more complicated recipes, such as a primitive puff pastry , the ancestor of the pudding and the precursor of the beignet. The ingredients were still quite simple and poor: eggs, wheat flour or oats, milk, honey, wine, almonds, dates, figs, quince, walnuts and soft cheeses. Then with time, the common people began to eat sweet seeds, such as carnelian, hazelnuts, walnuts, flat bread with figs and "obleidos", waffles similar to our biscuits, cooked at the time and frequently smeared with honey.

It was then the Arabs, invaders of Sicily and skilled confectioners, to introduce in the Italian peninsula not only the cultivation of sugar cane, but also new dessert recipes, such as the ancestors of cassata and sorbet, not forgetting ice cream, which since then was a huge success, spreading from Sicily. Moreover, after the year one thousand, once again under the Arab influence, sweets were enriched with spices, spirits and citrus aromas. From Century XIII and XIV they became fundamental steps towards the concept of bakery in the sense common today, thanks to flourishing commercial traffic outside our borders that led some basic ingredients to the noble courts. In cookbooks of the period appear a lot of cinnamon, vanilla, pepper and saffron, while sugar remained for a long time a rare and precious ingredient. Among the most popular sweets of this period there are pancakes, little marzipan biscuits and gingerbread, mostaccioli and nougat.

From the Renaissance onwards, thanks to the increasing of sugar availability, they spread the realization and consumption of creams, chocolates, shortbread and puff pastries and, next to the luxury bakery, flourished popular cakes and regional specialties, many of which remained until modern times. Among these, we find mandorlato of Benevento, pignolate of Messina, various panforti, gingerbread, pangialli, pan nociati, buccellati of Lucca, brassadelle of Emilia, "cuddura" and cannoli from Sicily, nougats and the likely precursor of panettone.

It is only since the end of the seventeenth century that made their appearance cakes in the modern sense, at first with butter-based doughs and then, between eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, made with eggs and chocolate, too, and began to catch on the art of confectionery decoration. With the rise of industrialization bakery products ceased to be a commodity only luxury and began to appear daily on the table for everyone, regardless of social class they belong to. In general cakes and sweets became mass products with behind a long and established tradition, which means that, even today, the Italian bakery art is known and required everywhere.