If your mother cooks Italian food, why should you go to a restaurant?
This is my eternal dilemma–standing in front of a pastry case and wanting one bite of everything. Someday I will buy one of everything and solve my life’s problem, but until that day comes, I can cook my way through All About Dolci.
It must be pointed out that this is an Eataly book, and the publisher assures us that, re: Batali, “Eataly has cut all ties to Mario, so no input on or financial gain from this book or any other Eataly book going forward.” And if you’d like a sharp take on cinnamon rolls and apologies, read this.
This book is a wonderfully curated pastry case. It includes recipes that may be familiar to you, like Esse, those S-shaped cookies that you just point to. Or Ricciarelli, which I call on whenever the frozen egg whites are overflowing. But no Biscotti Regina, the recipe for which I found when I moved to an area without Italian bakeries and needed to have them. Never mind, the unfamiliar ones are intriguing enough to direct me to the kitchen.
And then on to Torte, which show what I find so appealing about Italian baking–a focus on flavor and texture rather than just sweetness. Pound cake–Amor Polenta–becomes toothsome when made with polenta. Dolci Alla Fruta includes Torta di Mele e Burro Nocciolo, flavored with apples and brown butter. And, to reveal Italy’s vast regional variety, there’s a Strudel di Mele from the Alto Adige and the pasticceria from Campania, evocatively named and shaped, and impossible to resist. Cannoli, of course, but also Funghetti, little mushroom pastries filled with hazelnut cream.
For me, it’s not Christmas without Panettone and Strufoli and if you can’t find a local baker or grandmother who makes them, you can attempt your own. Other holiday and festive sweets include Monte Bianco, a construction of chestnut puree and meringue and the Pastiera Napolitana usually made for Easter and derived from an ancient Greek dish of sweetened wheat berries.
Sweet and symbolic–Italian baking is well captured here and made to recreate at home.