Monday, 20 September 2010

Sienese Pastries

Le Pasticerrie Nannini

Sienese pastries and sweetmeats derive from the East.
In mediaeval times, Siena was famous for its many delicacies.

World-famous Sienese panforte is a generic name for four or five varieties of heavy, dense fruit cakes in the form of large wheels.
The name literally means ‘strong bread’.
It is made with a mixture of honey and crushed candied fruits like figs, grapes, plums, and various types of nuts like almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts and spices like pepper, cinnamon and whatever else was available, all slowly baked together but not enough to dry out or burn the topping. During the hot seasons the topping turned sour, or ‘forte’ to yield ‘pane forte’.
The top of the ‘wheel’ may be covered in dark chocolate, powdered sugar or white marzipan, whilst the underside is always covered with a white, paper-thin water-and-flour biscuit layer.
There is also a ‘white’ or lighter coloured variety called Panforte Margherita. It is named after Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto I.
All types are intensely fruity, nutty, flavourful and very rich, very filling best served with a cup of coffee.

A cioccolato –– masculine, not to be confused with feminine cioccolata, chocolate –– is a flat, rectangular, dark-brown, compact sweetmeat, that tastes of chocolate and almonds.
A traditional delicacy, still made in time-honoured ways from local raw materials (save for the chocolate).
Made with sugar, chopped candied oranges and citrons, chopped almonds, hazel nuts and honey and covered with melted dark chocolate.

Ricciarelli are white, soft, spongy-moist, extremely sweet boat- or spindle-shaped almond pastries covered with white confectioner’s sugar, rough in surface and inner texture. Some are covered with dark chocolate called ‘rough’ or ‘rude’: ricciarelli rozzi.