The Usual Suspects: Best Italian Desserts – by Dean Romano, Guest Food Blogger.
I grew up in a unique microcosm of a world. I lived in a Boston suburb populated by a large group of immigrant farmers from Italy. I had the pleasure of consuming a variety of delicious Italian desserts. They were made from authentic recipes handed down from many generations in Italy.
Few meals were ever served at our table without authentic Italian desserts. Most were made by my mother, Lucrezia, or by one of my many aunts who lived nearby. Each of them had many wonderful authentic recipes in their repertoire.
You could also buy Italian desserts from what were, at the time, some of the country’s finest Italian bakeries. In the Boston area, immigrant bakers from Italy plied their trade in distinctly authentic fashion. Sadly, today, very few bakeries use generations-old authentic recipes.
Ours were the three classic groups of Italian desserts: fruits and nuts; cakes, cookies, pies and tarts; and frozen treats. Some days, if you were lucky, someone would concoct a sweat authentic confection with all of these combined.
Italian Desserts: Fruits and Nuts.
Fresh fruit is the KING of all Italian desserts. And fruit confections in Italy are an integral part of a larger assortment of Italian sweats, like cakes and pies.
An age-old tradition, Italian fruit desserts included: fresh grapes, oranges, apples, pears, peaches, plums, nectarines, strawberries, bananas, and lots of apricots. In season, we bought cases of fresh figs and prickly pear fruit. Pomegranates were a staple for us years before food buffs recognized they were not only delicious, but one of the most powerful antioxidants in Nature.
Italian nut desserts included every Italian nut under the sun! Bowls of walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts and salted pistachios always graced our dining room table. No Italian or American holiday would pass without roasted chestnuts. And, Italian Dried figs and apricots were always stocked in our kitchen. A bowl of Macedonia was forever in our refrigerator. Macedonia is a mixture of assorted chopped fruits and berries with a splash of brandy or liqueur. There were, essentially, Italian sweets that graced our table 24 hours a day. Bowls and bowls of Italian sweets!
Italian Desserts: Cakes, Cookies, Pies and Tarts.
A large assortment of Italian desserts including cakes, cookies, pies and tarts, were produced by my mother and relatives. It would take a small Italian encyclopedia to list all of the Italian desserts floating around at the time. From the familiar to the obscure, they included the following.
- Italian Cannoli.
- Pane di Spagna.
- Zuppa Inglese.
- Cassatta Siciliana.
There were also endless varieties of Italian desserts including Italian tarts and pies.
In keeping with Sicilian/Italian tradition at 4:00pm every workday was afternoon coffee break at the farm. That really meant “time for Italian desserts!”
Frozen Italian Desserts.
It is thought that Italian Gelato was invented by the ancient Greeks near Mount Etna in Sicily. Despite temperatures exceeding 100 degrees many days in summer, Mount Etna provided the ice necessary to produce this Italian Dessert gift to humanity. Mount Etna, at 11,000 feet, is almost always capped in snow and ice.
Italian Gelato is lower in fat but smoother and richer tasting than ice cream. Making Italian Gelato is considered an art form in Italy. The list of Italian Gelato varieties is long and daunting. My favorite is hazelnut. But I’ve been known to sample a dozen Italian Gelato flavors in the course of a day when visiting my Italian family in Sicily.
The Usual Suspects: Best Italian Desserts, another great article at The Pastry Channel.