A mouth-watering trip to florence to discover delicious easter sweets
This year Corman, in this new feature dedicated to the world's finest patisserie, is taking your customers' taste buds on a journey, "transporting" them to Florence. A city where modern and traditional techniques combine miraculously to create sweet delicacies to share with friends and family.
Easter and its rituals: a sacred event in Italy
In Italy, home of the Catholic Church, the Easter festivals are a genuine institution. Easter, after all, comes second only to Christmas. Celebrations last the whole of Easter Week and Good Friday, with no fewer than 3000 processions taking place.
In Florence, the most important is the "Scoppio del Carro", literally the "Explosion of the Cart", which dates back to the time of the First Crusade. On Easter Sunday, a cart pulled by two white oxen arrives in front of Florence Cathedral, where a dove (an important Easter symbol in Italy) ignites the fireworks.
Easter in Florence: Italian-style sharing at the heart of the celebrations
In contrast to other European countries, where celebrating Easter is mainly a family affair, in Italy Holy Week is about your friends as well. Not for nothing is there an Italian saying: "Spend Christmas with family, and Easter with who you like".
In Florence, the tradition of Italian-style sharing is alive and well. On Easter Sunday, everyone gathers round a table that has been decorated by the hostess with eggs, the symbol of fertility and rebirth, that have been blessed by the priest.
On Easter Monday, which in Italy is also known as "Pasquetta" (Little Easter) or "Lunedì dell'Angelo" (Monday of the Angel), friends and family gather for a trip into the country, a picnic that evokes the journey of the two disciples who met the risen Jesus on the road to Emmaus, just outside Jerusalem. Cities like Florence are deserted.
Easter sweets, where tradition meets modernity
In Italy and in Florence, the crowning moment of the Easter celebrations is the time for dessert.
Another Easter cake, originating in the Lazio region, is the "Pigna dolce", a round sponge flavoured with aniseed. Originally the leavening took place without yeast, so several days were needed. Nowadays yeast is included, which saves time.
A tart that is typical of Easter, but savoury this time, is the "Torta Pasqualina" (Easter Tart) from the Liguria region, which also has Tuscan and other regional versions. Puff pastry is stuffed with a mixture of cheese and greens, chiefly spinach, peas and artichokes. Before cooking, cavities are made in the filling to insert whole eggs, which become hard-boiled in the oven. Another layer of puff-pastry is added on top.
The "Pastiera Napoletana" originated in Naples, but is now produced throughout Italy and year round. The story is that it was first made by the siren Parthenope, grateful for gifts from the Neapolitans, who had been enchanted by the beauty of her love songs. Here again, this sweet embodies the same symbols as Easter: renewal and rebirth. The shortcrust base is filled with a mixture of ricotta, cooked wheat, cinnamon, lemon, butter and orange blossom water, which some local bakers enrich with confectioner's custard to add a touch of modernity.
In Italian households at Easter, there is no shortage of traditional Easter Eggs, in dark, milk or white chocolate. The tradition of the chocolate egg may be recent, but the giving of actual eggs, decorated with pictures and dedications, seems to go back to the Middle Ages. Today's Italian chocolatiers set their imaginations free and offer up eggs in all sizes and styles, to delight young and old. Inside the egg there is always a surprise, which can be personalised to make a special gift.
The "Colomba" or Dove, star of Italian Easter sweets
In Italy the dove is a powerful symbol, and very visible over the Easter period. As well as the bird's associations with peace and purity, the Colomba cake harks back to a legend of the 6th Century, when the city of Pavia was besieged by Lombard King Alboin. On Easter Day, a baker made him a gift of a sweet pastry in the shape of a dove, the symbol of peace. Alboin was moved by this gesture and decided to spare Pavia, and the Easter Colomba became a tradition.
Today, the Colomba is the most typical Easter sweet in Italy, just as the Panettone is the most widespread Christmas treat. At this time of year the Colomba is sold in all Italian and Florentine bakeries and pastry shops. The cake, served on Easter Sunday, is now a genuine institution, reborn in the Nineteen Thirties on the inspiration of Angelo Motta, of the company of the same name, who took an old recipe and began to produce and sell the "Easter Colomba", a big leavened cake in the shape of a dove with its wings spread, enriched with candied fruit and almonds.
Made from a very rich dough which rises generously in a high-sided, dove-shaped mould, the cake starts out relatively bland: apart from a little vanilla and some candied orange peel, the Easter Colomba draws its unique flavour and consistency from the large quantity of butter and the fruit it contains.
Today there are numerous variants of the Easter Colomba, each one introducing a touch of originality and novelty: with chocolate, hazelnuts, or a hint of Cointreau… Master Patissier Giambattista Montanari, expert consultant to Corman Italia and a world-recognised specialist in leavened pastry, gives us exclusive access to his own recipe. Try it straight away on myCorman, as inspiration for your Easter baking.
Ready to add a touch of the Italian to your Easter desserts?