The culinary tradition of fine Italian desserts and baked goods has changed thanks to technological advancements, but the passion, authentic ingredients and artistry that go into making them have not. Explore the rich history of Italian confections and pastries and how their flavours have grown since creation.
It is often believed that Italy’s first desserts were breaded sweets. Historically, sugar was an ingredient often too expensive for everyday usage, so recipes were reliant upon the use of natural sweeteners such as fruit and honey. Panforte, Italian for “strong bread”, is a quintessentially iconic Italian dessert that was originally created in Siena using honey, spices, nuts and candied fruits. In medieval Italy, the beloved—commonly known as biscotti—also originated from this same technique of using natural sweeteners, once requiring much simpler and fewer ingredients.
Over time, as sugar became more plentiful across Italy, the variety and creativity of Italian desserts evolved. Iconic cookies such as ricciarelli and cavallucci became wonderful and tasty Italian Christmas traditions, dating back to as early as the 14th and 16th centuries. With a distinctly soft and aromatic dough,—made of an almond, sugar, honey and egg white mixture—are lightly dusted with a layer of icing sugar. Perfectly crumbly and sweet, cavallucci combine flour, sugar, anise seeds and candied fruits or nuts. Other beloved baked goods enjoyed during the holiday season include: torrone, an almond nougat; panettone, a Milanese fruitcake and pandoro, a Veronese star-shaped cake.
Chocolate, another favoured treat with a long history in Italy, was originally melted and consumed as a beverage. In the Torino region, chocolate has been layered with cream and espresso as a drink since 1763—known as bicerin. It wasn’t until 1802 in which a Turin resident named Bozzelli invented a mixing machine that worked together cocoa paste, sugar and vanilla—marking an important moment in the history of chocolate making. The introduction and improvement of mechanical production has helped Italy to quickly establish itself as a world-renowned chocolate producer.
As more culinary developments continue to be made, so will the evolution and growth of delicious Italian sweets. Despite these changes, one thing will always remain: true craftsmanship, from start to finish. And with the holiday season fast approaching, there is no better time to enjoy the delicious artistry of Italian confections and pastries with your family, friends and loved ones.