Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site

Main Page This family-friendly site celebrates Italian culture for the enjoyment of children and adults. Site-Overview

 


 

Italian Sweets, History, Recipes, Summer Sweets, Decorative Prints...

 

Food

Liqueurs

Sweet- Salami

Chestnuts

Gelato

Candies

 

 

Visit my new Candies page

Dessert Cookbooks at my Italophiles Amazon Store

 

 

   

Easter Specialties

 

 

 

 

If you understand Italian, and like to bake your own sweets, try this wonderful site.  This link is to their Easter Tarts.

 

 

 

 

 

Variations on the Traditional Colomba

 

 

 

 

Easter Colomba

 

 

 

 

   

Chocolate Easter eggs filled with toys or more chocolate!

 

 

 

 

 

Specialty Cakes with Cointreau and Profiteroles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Panettone.  If you can't find Panettone locally...

For my list of Panettone at Amazon.com, click on this logo: 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Pandoro di Verona.  A light, orange and vanilla flavored sponge cake.  My favorite.  And if you can't find Pandoro locally...

 For my list of Pandoro at Amazon.com, click on this logo: 

 

 

 

 

 

Italian Biscotti tend to be either dry and sweet (like the Lazzaroni Amaretti above), or very moist and very sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

For my list of Biscotti at Amazon.com, click on this logo: 

Or you can bake some biscotti yourself.

 

 

 

Torrone is an egg-white and sugar nougat filled with nuts and candied fruit.  Some are peppery (the more traditional ones), and some are so sweet as to cause instant diabetes, but wonderful all the same.  For an idea of the selection available, and to try some if you're not near an Italian store...

 

For my list of Torrone at Amazon.com, click on this logo: 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

Sweet Holiday Breads

Summer Sweets

Sweets and Sweets Recipes

Some Sweets Related Quirks

Finding Specialty Items and Recipe Books

History of Italian Sweets

Recipes - Crostate - Tarts

 

Introduction

Italian sweets tend to be either light or heavy, but rarely in between.  Generally, the heavy ones, full of nougat, nuts, honey, dried fruit and sugar, are from the North African-influenced South, and are diabetes-inducingly wonderful! 

Just a note:  While I have many photos of Bauli products on this page, I do not wish to promote their products over Motta's, Perugino's, or Alemagna's, or any of the other producers.  It's just that they had great photos.

Something that amazed me in Italy was how few people baked sweets at home.  Friends were always amazed that I could produce cookies and cakes and puddings in my kitchen, without having a sweets-making diploma.  You should understand that in union-strong Italy, any activity that has even a slight chance of producing an income, requires a diploma.

  

Sweet Holiday Breads

During the holidays, most gourmet shops will carry the holiday cakes, or sweet breads, like those pictured on this page.  Rarely are these made at home.  If you want to know why, click here to link to an Italian-American recipe site.  The link is set to their Desserts list from which you can select their Panettone recipe. 

If you are like me, however, and are stubborn, a fan of home-baked sweets, and own an electric bread machine, you might enjoy a recipe I've created for a Pseudo-Panettone you can make with a bread machine.  

Click here to check it out.  On the same page is a recipe for Amaretti, because you have to do something with those egg whites you leave out of the Pseudo-Panettone.  Yes, I'm economical.  I said economical, not the "C" word!

Pizzelle are delicate, sophisticated cookies of ancient origin.  The batter is cooked in a waffle iron, and the hot cookie can then be shaped into cones and roles for filling when they cool. 

Think of an ice-cream cone that actually tastes like something wonderful and not like plastic, and then you'll understand what a pizzella is.  Here is a great page off-site with recipes and instructions.

 

Summer Sweets

If you are anti-labor enough want to bake Italian sweets in your home...I've made pages dedicated to some Italian sweets that are wonderful during the summer months because they are easy to make and refreshing to eat.  

Each page has recipes and instructions and links to more pages with more recipes and more instructions by other people.

 

Sweets and Sweets Recipes

There is an Italian site that lists and describes all the traditional Italian sweets in great historical detail, if you are into that kind of thing.  Click here to go to their Sweets and Confections list.  The only fault with the site is there are no photos of the sweets, probably not to seem to promote one producer over another.

You can link to a recipe site in Italy, set up by an Italian woman, by clicking here.  She usually offers entertaining cultural background or family stories with each recipe.  I've set the link to her Desserts list.  You can move easily from there to her other recipe categories.

Salame Dolce or Sweet Salami is a traditional Tuscan chocolate candy, easy to make, tastes great.  And check the last section on this page for more recipe links and Crostate (Tarts) Recipes.

 

Some Sweets-Related Quirks

Wives' Tales

Amaretti and Cantucci (or Biscotti di Prato) are probably the best known Italian desserts abroad.  Cantucci are served with sweet dessert wine, usually Vin Santo.  

I actually had an entire Italian family lunge at me over the dinner table to stop me from eating them with water.  They said I would die a horrible death from stomach convulsions if I ever mixed sweets and water together!  They believed it, and like most Italian wives' tales, it was said with such conviction, I actually believed them, for a while anyway.

 

Whipped Cream Binge

You won't find much cream or butter in the recipes, except in the sweets from the North of Italy.  Many use olive oil or lard in place of butter.  Cream's rarity is the only explanation I have for the strange behavior of some Italian friends one evening.  

Someone had brought to a party a platter, from a bakery, piled high with sweetened whipped cream.  When it was uncovered at the table, they all dug in with spoons and polished it off in a few seconds flat!  They thought I was strange when I explained that I was used to eating cream on top of other things.  

It was not long after the movie 91/2 Weeks had been released, so of course, someone kindly suggested that I liked my cream on top of my men, and there then ensued an imaginative discussion of my supposed "tastes"!  Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

 

Marzipan Lucky Pigs

The pig-eating-the-cake icon at the top of the page is a reference to the European tradition of giving marzipan, almond paste, pigs as a gift to bring good luck.  

I learned this when a Swiss friend in Italy presented me with a marzipan pig for my birthday.  My crestfallen face told her I did not understand the custom, and believed instead that it was a suggestion my sweet tooth was adding to my waistline.

The artistry is stupefying, the bakers shaping and painting marzipan into all manner of things, like in these photos. 

 

 

 

For my list of Marzipan Fruit at Amazon.com, click on this logo: 

 

 

Another candy my Swiss friend and I enjoyed every day was a single Perugina Baci with coffee after lunch.  Baci (kisses) are a chocolate and hazelnut treat wrapped in pretty silver paper.

 

(See my fun "Italian Kisses are Sweeter" shirts below, available from my shop.)

 

Finding Specialty Items and Recipe Books

To find other Italian specialty sweets (or food), you can use this Search tool.

Search:
Keywords:
Amazon Logo

Just enter 'Gourmet Food' in the 'Search' field, then 'Pandoro' (or whatever you are looking for) in the 'Keywords' field.  Then click on 'Go', to get a listing of what Amazon has on offer, and at what price.  

You can also search the 'Books' category for 'Italian dessert recipes', for example. 

Dessert Cookbooks at my Italophiles Amazon Store

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

History of Italian Sweets

 

Ancient Rome loved itís sweets, many made with fruit, and sweetened with honey or a syrup made from grapes.  The sweets made in Italy today have precedents in Rome, such as cooked fruit dishes, honey and almond candies, strudels, biscuits, sweet breads, marmalade, and puddings.

 

The Middle Ages saw a greater influence of Arabic sweets introduced in Sicily and then quickly spread throughout the peninsula.  These are the unleavened sweets that are often a nougat holding together nuts and candied fruit.  Sweet breads were also popular, often cooked with raisons and fruit. 

 

Itís during this time that the Arab sharbat became the Italian sorbetto, made with wine, honey and fruit, and chilled first with the perennial glaciers on Mount Etna in Sicily, and later in ice cellars, like the one constructed under Palazzo Pitti in Florence by the Medici, just for their gelati.  It was during the time of the Medici that sorbetti became gelati by adding milk and eggs to the ingredients.

 

By the 1400s recipes can be found for baked custards, cheese cakes, rice puddings, rice tarts, fried dough pastries.  Regional diversification of sweets is also a product of this time.  The Southern Italian regions held closely to the Arab sweets traditions, while the Northern Regions embraced sweets made with cream, pastries, butter and fruit.   

 

Desserts served after a meal are usually for special occasions.  It is more usual to end a meal with fruit, natureís candy, you could say, than with a baked sweet.  For this reason, many Italian sweets are linked to holidays or seasons. 

 

 

Recipes - Crostate - Tarts

 

Check my pages for recipes for creams-puddings, custards-spoon breads, and granita.  The Dating and Mating page has a link to the original Zabaione recipe.  On my Wine page youíll find a link to a site with lots of Italian liquori recipes.  

 

But here Iíll put a recipe for one of my favorite Italian sweets, the crostata, or tart.  Here are recipes, from my e-book, for the crust and some classic fillings.

 

 

 

Crostata Crust - Tart Crust

  • cup melted butter

  • cup sugar

  • egg yolks

  • tsp grated lemon rind

  • tsp sweet dessert wine (such as Marsala or Vin Santo)

Add the butter to the flour.  Add the sugar, egg yolks, wine, and the lemon rind and work it quickly into a dough.  Form the dough into a ball, wrap it in waxed paper and place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.  Remove, roll out, and fit into the tart pan.  Use all the dough, folding the sides in to make a thick edge to the thick crust.

Crostata di marmelata - Jam Tart:  Spread the jam of your preference over the dough.  For a richer flavor, you can mix into the jam 1 tbsp of cognac or another liquor.  For this tart, reserve some of the dough and roll it into thin logs.  Place these in a grid pattern over the jam.  Brush them with beaten egg.  Cook the crostata for approximately 15 minutes at a moderate temperature until the crust is golden.  Cool.

Crostata di limone - Lemon Tart:  Mix together 2 eggs, 1 cup powdered sugar, 3 tbsp lemon juice, 1 grated lemon rind, Ĺ tsp salt, 3 tbsp flour.  Pour into the crust and bake approximately 15 minutes at a moderate temperature, or until the filling is firm.  Cool.

Crostata di ricotta - Cheese Tart:  Mix together until creamy 1 cup of ricotta cheese, ľ cup sugar, 2 tbsp cream if needed to make a creamy texture.  Then add two eggs (you can whip the whites and fold them in last, for a lighter texture), the juice and grated rind of one lemon, Ĺ tsp salt.  Put in the crust and bake approximately 15 minutes at a moderate temperature, or until the filling is firm.  Cool.