What is Italian Pasticceria?
Italian ‘Pasticceria’? What’s that? Bit of a mouth full isn’t it?
‘Pasticceria’ is Italian for ‘Patisserie’, ‘the art of pastry’ and all things sweet!! In the same way the cobbled streets of France are lined with windows adorned with the delights of the Macaron, Paris Brest and Mille feuille, so is Italy famed for its pastry traditions that bring joy to family dinner tables everywhere.
Its more than just cake to satisfy your sweet cravings.
As you may have already noticed, food is more than just sustenance to Italians, it is the heart of family life, a reason to sit around a table together and enjoy each others company and Pasticceria is no different. Pasticcini are like sweet tapas, a social sharing of sweet delights after a family meal or at a special occasion. They are particularly good with an ice cold glass of Prosecco or an after dinner shot of Limoncello.
As with most Italian food, each region has its own customs when it comes to pastry, Pasticceria’s are full of variety and flavours to tantalise the taste buds. Pasticcini generally come in two sizes, a regular dessert size and a ‘mignon’ or miniature sampling size that lends itself well to trying more than one variety. So I thought I would introduce you to just a few of the delicious ‘pasticcini’ that Italy is renowned for.
Bigne alla Crema
Understandably mistaken for the humble profiterole, the Bigne՛ although familiar in its looks, is a far cry from the fresh cream filled stacks that adorn the supermarket shelves. This little heavenly mouthful consists of a light choux pastry bun filled with a smooth and silky pastry cream that can be flavoured to suit a multitude of tastes, chocolate, hazelnut, coffee, limoncello, vanilla, pistachio to name but a few. The origin of this pastry resides in French patisserie but is famed across Italy and a firm favourite.
This beautifully flaky puff pastry shaped as a ‘horn’ is a delicacy of the Piemonte region of Italy. Similar to the Bigne, it is filled with a smooth and silky pastry cream that comes in a variety of flavours. Pictured here is my version filled with a Nutella pastry cream which is simply delicious!
This deep fried pastry originates in Sicily, it’s crisp texture and lightly spiced flavour is completely unique, perhaps due to the Marsala wine and cinnamon used in the dough. It’s is filled with sweetened Italian ricotta cheese and candied citrus fruits and is becoming a well-known pastry in Italian delis and cafes across the U.K. Although, here you will find that the ricotta is often substituted with a nutella or other cream. Personally, the traditionalist in me prefers the ricotta, that gives this pastry its fresh flavour that is so well balanced with the crisp pastry.
Crostata di frutta
This bite-sized family favourite has a beautifully crisp, zesty lemon pastry. It is filled with a smooth and sumptuous vanilla pastry cream and is topped with glazed fresh fruits. Popular in the summer time when summer berries are at their best, this dolce is famed throughout Italy. The ‘crostata’ or tartlet is also incredibly versatile, lending itself well to different flavour and filling combinations.
This popular pastry is from the area of Naples. Like the cannoli, it’s pastry is unique, but it has similarities with filo pastry. It’s notoriously difficult to make due to its ultra fine dough rolled into plentiful layers creating a shell like exterior when baked. The crunch you get when you bite into one of these delightful pasticcini is unparalleled and it’s soft baked ricotta interior contrasts it beautifully. It’s definitely a personal favourite of mine.
Baba al Rum
Native to the Neapolitan region this mushroom-shaped sweet treat, lies somewhere between a sweet bread and a cake sponge. Its leavened dough lends itself well to absorbing the Rum and citrus syrup with which it is soaked and is beautifully balanced with a vanilla chantilly cream filling and fresh fruit decoration. This pasticcino comes with a warning though, consume too many and you will feel light headed!
These little morsels of deliciousness, get their name from their peach-like appearance, but don’t be fooled, little peaches they are not! This pastry is wonderfully deceptive, a biscuit pastry that is hollowed and filled with crema pasticcera, then rolled in a spiced liqueur known as Alchermes and dipped in sugar. They are lightly fragrant and so differently delicious. I top mine with a mint leaf to add to the deception. These pastries are uniquely Italian in their flavour and originate from from Tuscany, where Nonna’s (grandmothers) were said to make them as a traditional Easter treat.
I could go on….as the range of delicious Italian pastries is vast, but hopefully this has given you a little taster and wet your appetite. So why not give it a try next time you have your family over, host a dinner party or as an alternative to an occasion cake.
Hosting an afternoon tea? Why not impress your friends with some mini pasticcini, a sophisticated alternative to the English scone or American cupcake, not too sweet and perfectly moorish!!
Check out my pasticcini range for prices and information on Italian Pasticceria in the UK.
Arrivederci for now!!!