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Traditional sweets

The confectionery sector boasts some of the most outstanding local delicacies

Here are some of the area’s most traditional sweets:

Dolce di San Bernardino

This pastry is named after Massa’s beloved saint. Legend has it that the recipe dates from the Middle Ages and that it came from the recipe book of Bernardino’s grandmother. Rediscovered by members of the CIF (the Centro Italiano Femminile women’s organisation) it is now preserved by the people of Massa Marittima, the only place where this pastry is made, also known as Pan di San Bernardino. The ingredients include natural yeast enriched with walnuts, raisins, dried fruit, honey, almond paste and the essential piece de resistance: spices and Pecorino cheese.

The 15th-century recipe reads:

 ‘In order to ensure the goodness of the cake you will eat, put flour and cane sugar in a bowl that has been sufficiently greased with pork lard.
Immediately afterwards, add yeast as well as sultanas and eggs.
Do not fail to add walnuts, almonds and honey to this mixture, as well as spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg.
Now pour some dessert wine on top and some pecorino cheese afterwards.
Once the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and eat plenty of it, as you will taste something exceedingly delicious.’

Massa Marittima’s Panforte

This delicacy originally hails from Siena and has become a traditional sweet of Massa Marittima, where it is produced. Panforte can be white or black, depending on whether it is dusted with vanilla-flavoured icing sugar or cocoa on top. It has a strong flavour of spices and candied fruit and is a regular fixture at all local festivals.
In order to prepare Massa’s white Panforte, you mix flour, sugar, candied citron and orange peel, honey, vanilla and cinnamon together. The way this pastry is prepared has remained the same over the years, thanks to the skill and dexterity of the people who have acquired expertise over time. Homemade Panforte is different from industrially produced versions, not only in terms of its appearance but also in the way the candied fruit is obtained: the traditional system used a fermentation process, while the modern system uses osmosis to turn fruit into a very sweet, glassy substance.

The reason this delicacy is called Panforte is interesting: as far back as the Dark Ages, local people often prepared a special focaccia bread, simply made using flour and water, sweetened with honey and known as melatello, which was flavoured using fruit in season such as figs, grapes, plums or apples. Fresh fruit was added to the dough simply by breaking it up into pieces and it was cooked over a moderate heat so that the bread wouldn’t become too dry. In this way, the fruit didn’t dehydrate completely and if the time of year was warm and humid, this bread could turn slightly sour, hence the name pan forte, i.e. ‘acidic bread’.
Panforte Margherita was invented in 1879 when Queen Margherita of Savoy and her husband Umberto I, who were the sovereigns of Italy at the time, went to Siena to see the Palio horse race. To mark the occasion, the queen was offered a fine ‘white Panforte’, which was named ‘Panforte Margherita’ in the queen’s honour. It is eaten while sipping vin santo dessert wine.


C
antucci and Brutti ma buoni

‘I was given a free lift in an elegant car and I soon reached Prato, where I arrived in an excellent mood, having also saved the money for the trip,’ wrote Hermann Hesse in Italien, ‘so I felt no need to rush and I first went to visit a friend who lived near the town hall.
You know how famous Prato’s biscuits are!
Now then, my friend made them and business was good. That day, as a festival was underway, he had stopped work and he was delighted to be in such cheerful company. We sipped coffee in his little garden and we chatted light-heartedly. Some biscuits, as well as other delicacies, were also brought out…’
Ingredients: Almonds, icing sugar, honey, eggs, flour, vanilla essence, hazelnuts, almonds, icing sugar and egg white.

Cavallucci

Cavallucci are named after the shape of a horse that used to be pressed onto the fresh dough.
This kind of biscuit was always served in country taverns, where stage coaches and carts would often stop to rest and eat a meal washed down with a fine glass of Tuscan wine.
Cavallucci were served not just as a delicacy for the palate but also as an invitation to taste some Tuscan red wine.
Ingredients: flour, white sugar, shelled walnuts, spices, aniseed, candied orange peel and cinnamon.