Italy has a rich and strong tradition in bakery products. Every region and every single village has been contributing to the Italian gastronomic heritage with their traditional bakery recipes.
Italy has a rich and strong tradition in bakery products. Every region and every single village has been contributing to the Italian gastronomic heritage with their traditional bakery recipes. The bakery industry’s production is mainly based on those ancient formulas, providing to nowadays consumers quality and control-guaranteed products, from biscuits, rusks and merendines (little sweet snacks) to seasonal leavened traditional cakes, such as Panettone (the traditional Christmas cake from Milan), Pandoro (the Christmas cake born in Verona) and Colomba (a traditional Easter cake). Thanks to their nutritional values, Italian bakery products are perfect for breakfast, for a snack during the afternoon or during sport activities.
The Italian bakery tradition dates back to Ancient Romans times, where cakes made using flour, honey, eggs and fresh cheeses were offered to Gods during special occasions. Over the centuries, Italians craftsmen perfected their baking techniques based on traditional recipes and pure and natural ingredients. Italy is renowned for being the birthplace of biscuits. Reportedly, Roman soldiers were the first ones to use special rusk bread and the so-called pistores dolciarii were responsible for the making of sweet confectionery products. During the Middle Age monasteries’ kitchen hosted the production of many recipes of now very famous biscuits: ricciarelli, berlingozzi, calcionetti, pinocchiati, cotognate, morselletti, cialdoni del Magnifico Lorenzo and many more. During the nineteenth century, the first confectionery factories opened in Italy and in Europe. “Merendine” were born in the early sixties with the economic boom. “Merendine”, that derive its name from “merenda”, a small mid-morning and mid-afternoon meal, conquered a leading role in the kids’ diet. Today, high quality Italian cakes and all other kinds of confectionery products are in demand everywhere and are exported around the world.
The production of bakery products it’s now mostly industrial: a lot of attention is paid to high levels of hygiene on the processing line and on the choice of raw materials. Flour is the basic ingredient of biscuits, then most of the recipes consist of sugar and glucose syrup, butter or vegetable fat, salt, powdered skimmed milk, leavening agents and flavorings (cocoa, nuts and other flours). After the biscuit’s dough has been mixed, it is rolled until it reaches the right thickness; the resulting dough is placed in molds that give biscuits their shape. Biscuits with a fluid dough, like the famous savoiardi and amaretti, are normally extruded by passing through dies that shape the product, then they’re trimmed and brought to the oven directly. The processing of natural yeast normally takes 15 hours, that’s why natural leavening has slowly been abandoned in Italy and only used in the production of seasonal cakes such as Pandoro, Panettone or Colomba. Their processing cycle is quite long: it takes 35 hours to take one of these seasonal cakes out of the oven. Production phase of Pandoro, Panettone or Colomba includes a three-times fermentation process for the yeast mixture, a three-times rising one before the final baking, breaking, rounding, leavening, baking, cooling and packaging. Since 2005, the quality and originality of Pandoro, Panettone, Colomba, Savoiardi and Amaretti (including Amaretti morbidi) are protected by the Italian law, that – with the Ministerial decree “Discipline of the production and sale of certain bakery confectionery products” – defines a precise production regulation for the Italian excellence specialties identified by those names.
With the right combination of nutrition and pleasure, biscuits are an extremely practical kind of food, and they’re perfect for countless interpretations and variations: crisp biscuits (such as frollino), soft biscuits (the kind of savoiardo), spongy biscuits (like madeleines) but also crunchy (such as amaretto secco) and refined ones (lingue di gatto ). We also have icing sugar-powdered biscuits (like canestrelli) or even chocolate covered and flavored biscuits. The average intake of biscuits ranges between 420 and 480 calories for 100 grams (0,22 lb). Nutritionists suggest to assume a 20% of the whole daily calorie requirement for breakfast: this means eating in the morning a range between 30 and 50 grams (0,6 to 0,11 lb) of biscuits. Panettone can be served in different ways: simply sliced accompanied with a glass of sweet sparkling wine, or sliced with chocolate or fruit sauces. Pandoro is better if eaten heated in the oven in order to let the butter melt. It’s great enjoyed with chocolate sauce or fruit sauce, key ingredients of many Italian desserts. Both Pandoro and Panettone are easy and fast to digest thanks to the natural leavening process; their calories intake for 100 grams is slightly higher than the same amount of bread. Merendine, in the right amount, can be eaten at any time during the day, in order to provide a correct energy intake. The weight of a merendina ranges from 30 to 50 grams (0,06 and 0,11 lb): this means that the calories intake is very low, namely between 119 and 180 calories.
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