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.