Southern Italy has a rich history in pastry-making and these recipes are kept in the family and passed down from generation to generation. Sometimes the `dolce’ (or dessert) is made and served for a specific event or occasion in keeping with the tradition. Certain pastries can, however, be found at the local bars’ and range between 1 and 2 euros, depending on the place. The local `bars’ are to get your espresso (or caffe) fix and as well as a wide variety of cornetti (or croissants) and other delicious desserts. Keep your eyes open for the freshest and sweetest dolci, your options are endless.
Pastiera is a typical Neapolitan tart or pastry originating from Naples and eaten typically at Easter (`Pasqua’ in Italian). This is quite a time-consuming pastry to make, but you’re likely to find this on the table at Easter and if you’re lucky, throughout the year. Of course each family has their own secret recipe and own preferred ingredients, but the concept of the pastiera is pretty much the same. This classic dolce is made up of a pastry crust (pasta frolla), and filled with a cheesecake type filling including ricotta cheese, eggs, cooked wheat and flavoured with orange blossom water and candied fruits. This wheat cheese cake is not excessively sweet, but the unusual mix of flavours are what makes this dessert worth a try.
Sfogliatella (pronounced sfoy-ya-tell-ah) is a shell-filled Italian pastry typical to the Southern Italian region and can be found at many local bars. These little pastries are filled with a creamy ricotta cheese and candied fruit and made up of layers of crunchy phyllo pastry. Sfogliatella means `small thin leaves or layers’ which is exactly what this pastry resembles. Best eaten hot, this pastry will definitely leave an impression, with the crunchiness of its shell, and the warm smooth filling and powdered sugar on top.
Babà is a rum-soaked sponge cake native to the Naples region. Although not originating from Naples, ask any Napoletan and they will confirm that Naples has mastered the art of making the babà. Babà is typically a mushroom-shaped pastry, eaten as is in all its sweet juices or else eaten with cream or custard. It can also be made in a larger cake form and served at any occasion or gathering. This sweet dough is made up of eggs and butter, baked and soaked in a rum (or even limoncello) syrup. Individual servings can be found at most of the local bars and is small enough to be eaten in three bites. This dolce is eaten all throughout the year.
Gelato is the Italian version of ice-cream, yet it is so much more than just ice-cream. What is a trip to Italy without sampling their famous gelato? Yes, gelato is also found in North Italy but you should definitely take advantage of sampling the gelato whilst in the South. Served in either a cono (the choices of cones are endless as well) or coppa, you have a wide variety of flavours to choose from. I remember the first time I had a gelato, I was stumped on which flavour to choose. Eaten all throughout the year, come rain or shine, there`s always an excuse to go for a gelato.
Which dolce was your favourite?