Traditional Italian cakes and cookies in Sardinia are old recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
Baking in Sardinia is an introduction to how our ancestors used simple ingredients that nature provided in abundance to create their traditional cakes.
Years ago you could almost describe these cakes as being poor, as the ingredients were simple, plenty and readily available.
Having said the when it comes to important occasions the same simple cookies are transformed into masterpieces.
The fine and detailed decorations used to dress up the cakes recall the traditional handcrafted gold filigree.
If you ever decide to visit our beautiful island take a look at the traditional gold filigree jelwery and you will understand what I mean.
These authentic Italian recipes were basically born through the use of ingredients that were in season.
The main reason being, it was cheaper to use home-grown or home produced ingredients resulting in an array of wonderful simple and easy cookie recipes that are very much appreciated.
Today finding many of the genuine raw materials is some what harder and more expensive.
Italian cakes and cookies made in this region that I will be illustrating are personal selection;
You will find that many Italian cakes are flavoured with lemon or orange rind. These two fruits are grown in abundance here to the point that today many are left on the trees to fall on their own.
There are even Italian cakes that use oranges as the main ingredient like the famous Aranzada from Nuoro.
Aranzada dates from the late 1800's and was patented by Battista Guiso. 0
Aranzada is thin threads of orange peel that is candied in honey with addition of almonds.
The maker of these cakes has served many important customer like the Bristish Royal Family
In Sardinia you will find mainly almond cookie recipes with some exceptions. One of the most famous Italian almond paste cakes made here are called Amaretti.
This name stems from the word Amaro which means bitter.
In fact these soft almond cakes have a slight bitter taste.
Amaretti have this unique flavor thanks to the use of bitter almonds.
Almonds are also grown in abundance.
The only thing is that years ago time and effort was found to pick these fruits...
Believe me ...not only picking the almonds is tedious and time consuming work, having to take off three layers of shells before you are ready to start baking is no joke. I have done it. How to blanch almonds can you with preparing of these cakes
After saying that... one of the best almonds to use to make Amaretti cookies is a type grown in Sardinia called ‘Grappolina’. They contain a high quantity of natural oil that is perfect to make a soft and moist Amaretto.
Trying to find this particular almond is not easy and when you do find them, with the time and effort it takes to pick them, you will pay for them dearly.
Italian cakes not only vary from region to region but also from neighbouring towns.
These two photos are both Amaretti but as you can see in some areas they place a whole almond on the top and in others they don’t.
As time permits I will let you in on the secrets of how to make your very own perfect Amaretti. For now though if Sardinia is your holiday destination, find a patisserie and have a taste of one of these specialties.
Update : 2012 What... your mouth is watering already and the holiday season is far away! How about trying to make your own amaretti.. An easy step by step guide, with all the little secrets,to help you suceed.
One of my favourite almond cakes is Gattò. Basically it is an almond brittle recipe.
I can remember when I was little; my grandma would always send us some. These cakes was delicious but what I remember most was how I really enjoyed licking the melted caramel sugar off the lemons leaves.
You see, when these cakes are made up, they are cut into a small diamond shapes and then they are placed on freshly picked lemon leaves.
The aroma of the lemon leaves is absorbed by the caramel giving a simple nut brittle recipe a whole new flavour.
Now I appreciate the fact not everyone has a lemon tree outside the front door like my grandma but there is another way you can obtain this flavour.
Take a look at the step by step nut brittle recipe to find out.
These days it is difficult to find a Patisserie that makes Gattò with fresh lemon leaves, the Gattò is usually placed in paper cake cases. But you will find that if you order in time many bakers will satisfy your request.
Although hazelnuts grow in all parts of the island in some areas like Aritzo there is a concentration of plantation. Due to the plentiful harvest of hazelnuts you will find Italian cakes made with this tasty fruit.
Many of the Italian cakes in these areas are variations of the almond paste cakes. A scrumptious example is of Goeffus are these hazelnut cookies made with hazelnuts and flavoured with aniseed liqueur.
Walnuts are also used to make variations of the almond paste cookies but also to make particular Italian cookies like Papassinos. There are two versions of these traditional cakes:
The name Papassinos derives from the Sardinian word Papassa which means Raisins.
Papassinos are Italian wine cookies made from raisins, walnuts, mixed spices very little flour all mixed up with cooked wine.
As the harvest of all these dried fruits is around September October it is tradition to make them for All Saint's Day and are one of our traditional Italian Christmas cookies.
Honey is another ingredient used widely in Italian cookies here for two main reasons
Tilicas are an example of particular Sardinian almond paste cakes using honey.
The honey not only sweetens the cookie but also keeps the cake soft and moist.
There are many variations of these Italian cakes through out Sardinia.
Not only do the ingredients change but also the shape in which they are made.
Tilicas are normally made into round or ‘S’ shapes but when they are made for special occasions like a wedding, they are transformed into pieces of art.
Caschettas are similar looking Italian cakes to Tilicas.
The difference lies in they are made with walnuts, orange rind and cooked wine is used to bind the mixture together.
Again there are many variations of this Italian cookie so don‘t be surprised if you find then made with almonds and honey.
The most famous Caschettas in Sardinia are those made in Belvi.
Cooked wine was another substitute for sweetening cookies and is still used to make certain traditional Italian cakes like Pane Conciu or Pan e Saba.
Pane Conciu is a genuine taste of the past and is made in only a few villages of Ogliastra. It is a simple delicacy and I will go as far as to say a poor cookie... Why? Basically because Flour, mixed spices, natural yeast and cooked wine were simple ingredients that nearly everyone had at home.
The natural yeast derived from home made bread dough. Some of the older generation still use natural yeast to make their homemade bread and to make Pane Conciu.
When natural yeast is used to make Pane Conciu I have heard that it would take up to 3 weeks before it was ready to cook.
These days we tend to run our lives on a faster pace (I am not saying its better just faster) so these days we tend to use fresh yeast as it helps to raise the cookie faster.
In my home town Jerzu it is tradition to make this cookie for the celebration of Saint Jacob on the 25th July.
I am not quite sure why but if you take in to consideration the fact that July is probably the hottest month of the year my guess is that it has to do with the heat helping the cookie to rise.
After all if it takes 3 weeks in July, I wouldn’t like the think how long it would take in December.
The ideal way to eat this cookie is sliced thinly companied with a great dessert wine like this Pardu Dry. This cookie is always offered for the wine festival "Calici di Stelle" held in Jerzu.
Sheep farming was and still is widely practiced. The milk used in many cases for the production of Pecorino cheese and of course Ricotta which is just one of the many ingredients that make up the selection of my Italian cake recipes.
From my own experience I have found that when it comes to making these Easter cookies called Pardule the best fresh cheese to use is the 3 to 4 months prior to Easter when the lambs are being milk fed.
Going back not so long ago, let's say about 25 years ago, it was practically impossible to find Easter cakes called Pardule in the month of August.
Pardule are Italian cakes made with either fresh unsalted pecorino cheese or ricotta cheese and flavoured with the zest of fresh oranges and lemons.
This speciality is offered at Easter Holidays.
But... like everything else commerce has had the better over traditions, so these days finding Pardule out of their natural season is pretty easy.
Although the ties between traditions and cakes are still strong for the natives, you will find that all the Italian cakes and cookies I have be mentioning in this website are available all year round, although in some cases you may have to order them.
Sebadas are a yummy Italian cheese cookie, the ideal way to finish off any Sardinian meal...
I personally adore them!
They are made with pecorino cheese flavoured with fresh lemon rind encased in a sweet pastry recipe, fried and served hot with dripping honey
Pastissus are a beautiful delicate and dainty almond cakes.
These cakes are made for special occasions like christenings and they are also traditional Italian wedding cookies in many areas of Sardinia.
More often than not they are home made, there are some cake shops that do make excellent Pastissus and also go to town on the decorations but they don’t come cheap.
Coricheddus is a Sardinian word that means ‘little hearts’.
These Italian cakes are traditional made in Nuoro and near surroundings.
Coricheddus are made up entirely by hand using small sharp knives and scissors.
The fine decorations used evoke the traditional Sardinian filigree.
For this reason they are prepared for important occasion like weddings and christenings.
Preparing these cookies takes time and patience and there are very few Patisseries that make them up just like in the photo. If you do come across them on your travels don’t be surprised at how much they cost.