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Piemontese Sweets & Desserts

Piemonte is famed for the hazelnut stands that grow on the mountains above the vineyards, and also for the chocolate makers of Torino, Alba and many other cities. With hazelnuts and chocolate to start of with, it's easy to understand why Piemontese desserts are to die for...

Amaretti di Gavi
Amaretti di Gavi: Unlike Saronno's amaretti, which are macaroons, these are almond paste through-and-through, and extraordinarily chewy, with a long almondy aftertaste that really does perk up the day.

Apples or Pears Fried Farmer Style -- Frittura di Mele o Pere alla Contadinesca
Apples or Pears Fried Farmer Style, or Frittura di Mele o Pere alla Contadinesca: These will be quite nice at the end of a meal, though they will also provide a pleasing flavor contrast in a classic Piemontese fritto misto, which consists primarily of savory fried meats and vegetables.

Baci di Cherasco - Cherasco's Kisses
Torino may be the best-known chocolate town in Piemonte, but Cherasco, a town in the Province of Cuneo, certainly isn't second fiddle, and is also in the heart of hazelnut territory. This recipe will in theory produce enough chocolate kisses for four.

Bones of the Dead (For Chewing) -- Ossa di Morto (Ossa da Mordere)
Bones of the Dead (For Chewing), or Ossa di Morto (Ossa da Mordere): There are many variations on Bones of the Dead, the cookies Italians enjoy on November 2. This recipe is from Piemonte, and more specifically the cities of Biella, Vercelli and Novara.

A rustic Piemontese sweet made with toast, sugar, spices, and wine.

Buttered Chestnuts -- Castagne al Burro
Buttered Chestnuts, or Castagne al Burro: A simple Piemontese recipe that will serve 6.

Castagne Confettate (Marrons Glacées)
Though chestnuts were once used primarily to keep the peasants alive, good chestnuts are very good and the aristocracy was quite happy to enjoy them, provided they were elegantly prepared. Marrons glacées are quite elegant, and were doubtless very popular at court. The recipe Mr. Vialardi presents looks involved at first glance, but actually involves brief steps over several days after the initial preparation, so it is fairly easy. And a jar of marrons glacées makes a fine gift!

Chestnut Cookies -- Biscottini di Marroni
This is an old, old recipe for chestnut cookies, drawn from Il Confetturiere Piemontese, which was published in 1790, and whose author suggested that the chestnuts be cooked in the hot ashes of the fire place.

Chestnut Crunch -- Croccanti di Marroni
Something rather different, and not baked -- this recipe was published by Giovanni Vialardi in 1854, and derives from the mountains of Cuneo and the Val di Susa in Piemonte, where chestnuts were a staple winter food. The marrone (marron, for the French) is larger, much more highly valued than the regular chestnut.

Chestnuts with Whipped Cream -- Castagne con la Panna
Chestnuts with Whipped Cream, or Castagne con la Panna: This may not be quite as rich as a marron glassé, but it's definitely headed in that direction. The recipe is Piemontese, and will serve 6.

Chocolate-Covered Figs - Fichi al Cioccolato
Dried figs are an extremely popular winter treat in Italy. They're nice nibbled on, or perhaps stuffed with a walnut half, but one can also do more. In Piemonte they dip them in chocolate, for example.

Croccanti di Marroni
Crunchy Chestnut fritters.

Crumiri are crescent-shaped cookies made with a combination of flour and finely ground corn meal in the Monferrato region in Piemonte. Very good, and in my experience people ask for more.

Fig and Peach Cake: Torta di Fichi e Pesche
An unusual cake made with peaches and figs: Summertime!

Gâteau di Savoja -- Savoy Cake
Gâteau di Savoja, or Savoy Cake: It launched a dynasty!

Hazelnut Cake -- Torta di Nocciole
Hazelnut Cake, or Torta di Nocciole: Hazelnuts are astonishingly delicate, and make for delightful cakes. Though I tend to associate them with Piemonte, thanks to the stands of trees around Alba, they're popular throughout the North. Lisetta made this cake for a wonderful dinner in Valpolicella and was kind enough to share the recipe. It goes by weight and you may find it easier to calculate it thusly, rather than convert it to volumes.

Ossa da Morto
Veronese Bones of the Dead, made with polenta.

Panna Cotta
And while we're on the subject of puddings, here's a recipe for Panna Cotta, a traditional Piemontese specialty. It's translated from Ricette di Osterie di Langa, a book put out by the people at Slow Food, Italy's most influential gastronomic organization (they got it from the Circolo Agricola Boccondivino in Bra):

Pears in Wine -- Pere al Vino
This is Piemontese, and traditionally made with Martin Sec pears, a small golden-russet variety whose slightly grainy flesh is especially suited to being cooked.

Piemontese Almond Cake -- Torta Piemontese alle Mandorle
Though Piemonte is better known for hazelnuts, the region also makes good use of almonds, and this is a fine cake.

Savoiardi are a Piemontese specialty that resemble lady fingers, though they're about twice as thick. In addition to being eaten as is, they figure prominently in many desserts, including puddings and tiramisu. If you buy them in the store, be sure they're fresh because their shelf life is limited. They shouldn't be soft.

Savoy Chocolate - Cioccolata di Savoia
The House of Savoy ruled Piemonte before they became Kings of Italy, and considering the Torinese love of chocolate, it's natural that this sumptuous creamy dessert be named after them.

Torta del Re
King's Cake, a delicate cake made with almonds, which could also be made with other nuts, and is perfect for Passover.

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