Cremona nougat and its ancient history
The city of Cremona binds its fame not only to the extraordinary tradition linked to violin making, of which Stradivari was the greatest exponent, but also to some gastronomic excellences, and between this – first of all – to nougat, one of the Italian capitals.
The nougat, in fact, is a real symbol of Cremona and its culture, and finds its temple at the headquarters of the Sperlari, in Via Soferino, which is the company that – since the first half of the nineteenth century – has linked its name to the delicious candy.
The nougat of Cremona is presented as a compact dessert, composed of a perfect mixture of honey, egg white and toasted almonds, enclosed in a light white wafer shirt, and modelled with the shape of the most famous bell tower in the city, called Torrazzo. In addition to its original version, some variants have been added, such as the use of chocolate as a cover, or the use of various natural flavors, but also pistachios, pine nuts or anise.
According to some, the preparation of nougat goes back to the time of the Romans, when ancient Cremona was an important river crossroads, where converged also the raw materials that came from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, would be used for his recipe. In this regard, in fact, it is said that the Roman soldiers stationed in the area were used to bring sweets able to keep for a long time, and in particular something similar to cupedia, which was prepared with almonds and honey, in fact. However, it would be attributable to the Arabs the arrival in Italy of the turun, a probable ancestor of the present nougat.
A more certain tradition, however, claims that the nougat would have been served for the first time in Cremona, on the occasion of the wedding feast of Francesco Sforza with Bianca Maria Visconti, who married in the church of San Sigismondo, in 1441. This delight would have been prepared by mixing in a very solid mixture honey, egg white and almonds, which was given the shape of the Torrazzo, or the bell tower of the Cathedral of Cremona, at the time called Torrione.
More certain is the fact, instead, that in that period the city became an important producer of nougat, which quickly became his business card and one of its most solid and famous symbols. In 1534, instead, dates a documented and regular purchase of nougat, by a certain Apothecary of the Crowned, of nougat intended to be donated to the authorities who came to visit the city or to be sent by messengers. From the 18th century, nougat became an export product, and the number of family-run “nougat factories” as well as mustard, was already twenty in 1774.
Starting from the 19th century, however, production companies began to establish themselves, such as the Firm Frattini and then that of Luigi Tedaldi, and then Augusto Fieschi, that was taken over by Enea Sperlari, with a progressive improvement of production procedures and techniques. In 1854, Alessandro Lanfranchi opened to Buenos Aires a Cremonese nougat factory, and after a few years began the export to Gemania and Austria. The production reached record levels, the Sperlari established itself as the most well-known brand, but continued unstoppable until the present century, ensuring this delicacy confectionery also the De.co., the Municipal Denomination, and the wording “Torrone di Cremona IGP”.
ICremona Torrone IGP is distinguished by two types, the “classic” and in “tender“, depending on the amount of egg white used in the dough, and also to be white, and then simply wrapped in wafers, or covered with dark chocolate. In both cases, however, the use of almonds or even hazelnuts remains constant. The most famous brands remain today Sperlari, Vergani and Rivoltini, whose product, in compliance with the original recipe, continue to successfully spread the nougat of Cremona in Italy and around the world.
The preparation of nougat
Over the centuries, the artisanal preparation of Cremonese nougat has remained more or less unchanged both for the ingredients and for the techniques used. The traditional procedure involves the pouring of egg whites and honey into a boiler, and then switch to quickly mix the ingredients until a dense and white mixture is created. In the second phase, the dough is heated and slowly stirred for a period of 8-11 hours.
Before the addition of almonds or roasted hazelnuts, a small amount of sugar is used, and then dried fruit is added, which must be already heated to make it easier to amalgamate the mixture. The final phase involves the addition of natural aromas such as vanilla or citrus fruits, and then move to the manual operation of the dough, which is made of wooden molds coated with the white host that will eventually enclose the bars of nougat. The operation of cutting the shapes, however, is carried out cold, and then conclude with packaging.
The Nougat Festival
Visiting the city of Cremona and discovering its extraordinary gastronomic specialties and confectionery can be even more pleasant on the occasion of the Festival of Nougat, which takes place during the second half of the month of November. The tasty event brings to the streets of the historic center of Cremona all the news and excellences of the world of nougat, including tastings, workshops and events, all enriched by a dense series of traditional events, including the maxi constructions of Torrone and the Torrone d’Oro.
Do not miss also “The Plate”, an online format thanks to which restaurants and pastry shops throughout Italy are challenged to.. nougat. In addition, in the beautiful setting of the Town Hall, are exposed reproductions of clothes that were worn during the wedding of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, all hand sewn and tied to the collection Living Lady of Castelvetro.
Cover Image: sperlari1836