Ten provinces compose Tuscany, each one with hundreds of traditional dishes. This is a tasty tour through all these provinces in order to discover the traditional and representative cake or dessert of each area. Enjoy and forget about calories for a while!
Massa Carrara: Rice cake
In the province of Massa Carrara, there is a cake made with eggs, rice, milk and liquor called “torta di riso” or rice cake. The finished product is a circular or rectangular cake, depending on the baking sheet, composed by a layer of rice as a base and a layer of a cream-type pudding. The surface has a caramel-brown colour, inside it is creamy yellow, and the smell is delicate and pleasantly flavoured.
Lucca – BuccellatoThe Buccellato of Lucca is the cake of this city. It is simple but very tasty, dark brown coloured and shiny for the brushing of sugar and eggs on its surface. It can have the shape of a donut or it can be oval. Buccelato is made of a sweet and soft pastry, with a lot of raisins and aniseed. It is sold fresh daily.
Pisa – Torta co’ “bischeri” (cake with “bischeri”)The ” bischeri ” of the cake have different meanings, but for sure is referred to the “pricks” obtained by shaping the pastry around the edges, forming a circle of cones. The base of the cake is a pastry-like and the filling is prepared with rice, cocoa, chocolate, eggs, sugar, pine nuts from the Pisa area, as well as with candies, raisins and enriched with some spices, such as nutmeg and “Strega” liqueur. The “Torta co’ bischeri” is originally from Pontasserchio, near Pisa, and it was first made around the beginning of the sixteenth century as an offering to the pilgrims who visited the town every April 28th for the feast of SS. Crucifix of Miracles.
Livorno – Easter Schiacciata from Livorno
Similar to Panettone, Easter “schiacciata” livornese has a simple recipe. You have to knead the flour with a pinch of salt and yeast, dissolved in a cup of warm water. After letting rise for about two hours, you have to incorporate 4 eggs, sugar, melted butter, crushed anise seeds and a teaspoon of grated orange zest. You have to knead with floured hands, model it on a baking tray, which is greased and floured, making it round. Finally, you have to brush the top with beaten egg and cook for about an hour.
Firenze – “Schiacciata” alla fiorentinaSchiacciata alla Fiorentina is a delicious spongy cake widely consumed during Carnival. It is covered with icing sugar and with a “Giglio” (lily) of Florence in cocoa at the centre. The most appreciated type is the original one: simple, natural and genuine. However, if you prefer, it could be also filled with whipped cream, chocolate, cream and jam. It’s great eaten warm.
Pistoia – Brigidini di LamporecchioThe “Brigidini of Lamporecchio” (in the province of Pistoia) are thin, crispy and fragrant waffles, rounded and curled, gold-orange in colour, with a diameter of about 7 cm. They are made with eggs, sugar, anise or fennel seeds, and very little water and flour. They are traditionally sold in the streets during fairs and festivals, cooked directly by vendors with the help of a special machine, before being packed in transparent, long and narrow bags.
Prato – Biscotti di Prato
You can find cantucci throughout Italy but “biscotti di Prato” is a true local specialty. Biscotti di Prato, called also cantuccini di Prato, belongs to the Tuscan Traditional Products official directory and they also appear on many foodies’ bucket lists. The ingredients are only flour, sugar, eggs, almonds and pine nuts, and no rising agent, butter, oil or milk is used. The biscuits of Prato are made only with eggs, sugar, flour, lemon peel and other spices, with a generous dose of almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, and without any type of yeast or fat, such as butter or oil. They are sweet, crunchy and almond tasty, obtained slicing the loaf of dough when it is still warm.
Read more abot Biscotti di Prato.
Siena – PanforteSiena has got a lot of traditional desserts: “cantucci”, “ricciarelli”, “panpepato”, “cavallucci” and much more, but the most known is the Panforte cake. Panforte (comparable to Gingerbread) is a traditional Christmas sweet of Siena, spicy and very nutritious, circular in shape, low and compact, and slightly chewy on the palate. It belongs to the Tuscan tradition and is a made with honey, nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, spices, candied fruit, flavoured with cloves, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and coriander. The consistency is soft, the flavor is sweet, with an aftertaste of candied fruit, almonds and a hint of spice. In 2014 Panforte from Siena obtained the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) European designation of quality label.
Arezzo – Easter PaninaAmong the traditional cakes of Arezzo, we can count the “baldino” and the “gattò”, but there is one even more known as “panina”, that can be “gialla” (yellow) or (oily).
There are two versions: one that is called “unta” (greasy) and is enriched with Tuscan bacon; the second one, called “gialla” (yellow), it’s slightly sweet and contains raisins and saffron, which gives the classic mixture a golden hue. In Arezzo, the tradition is that you have to eat a slice of hard-boiled egg with panina (blessed by the priest for the believers) and slices of salami.
Grosseto – Lo sfrattoThe “sfratto” (meaning “eviction” in English) is a sweet from an old Jewish tradition, adopted by the cuisine of the Maremma area, in particular in Pitigliano and Sorano, located in the province of Grosseto. It is still prepared for the Christmas holidays. The origin of the “sfratto” is related to the decision of Cosimo II Medici, in the early 1600s, to bring together all the Jews of Pitigliano in a single neighbourhood. The Jews were evicted from their homes and the notice of eviction was carried out by beating with a stick on the door of the house. To prevent the recurrence of similar events, local Jews turned into sweetness things that in the past had caused bitterness, creating sweets in the form of sticks, the same ones with which they were expelled. Their mixture, consisting of honey, orange peel, nuts, seeds of anise and nutmeg, is enclosed in a thin wafer, with a golden colour and modelled into the shape of a stick.
[Original post by Serena Puosi: October 2012. Revised and updated: August 2015]