The pastry shop

The pastry shop

By
Emiko Davies
Contains
12 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781743790038
Photographer
Lauren Bamford

The Florentine breakfast is a reliably quick affair. It can be eaten while on the go and paid for in pocket change. It usually consists of a pastry – consumed while standing at the counter, artfully avoiding powdery icing sugar falling over clothes – followed by an espresso coffee, pulled hard and fast, and finished even faster. This morning ritual is just as often done in the neighbourhood pasticceria (pastry shop) as it is at the bar (a coffee shop), and it is an integral part of the Florentine lifestyle.

Whether short, long, ‘stained’ (macchiato) or cappuccino, coffee usually accompanies an enticing pastry, chosen from a smooth glass counter. Sweet brioche-like croissants known as cornetti are found in all forms, from wholemeal with honey to jam-filled or plain except for a lick of sugar syrup over the top. Deep-fried bomboloni, plump with jam or crema (pastry cream), sit next to sfoglia (puff pastry) with caramelised bottoms and crema or rice-filled insides, while hefty slices of blackberry or apricot jam crostata accompany little tarts filled with sweet rice pudding, as well as an array of cakes and seasonal specialities.

The pasticceria is also the place to buy a whole cake, like a semolina and ganache tart; or a scarlet-tinged zuccotto, proudly displayed in well-lit fridges; or dainty miniature pastries such as bigne; or little cream tarts topped with fresh raspberries to take home. It all gets wrapped up in the pastry shop’s own logo-printed paper and tied with a gold ribbon – the perfect little package to take to friends when invited to someone’s house or when hosting yourself.

Secret bakeries

Without a doubt, one of my best memories of my first time living in Florence as a twenty-one-year-old art student was stumbling upon one of the so-called ‘secret bakeries’ or pasticcerie notturne (nocturnal pastry shops) down an alleyway.

Around midnight, the scent from one of these invisible bakeries would waft up from the street and into the fifth-floor window of the kitchen I shared with a handful of roommates, my wonderful international ‘family’ for the semester. It wasn’t simply the scent of baking bread, it was the smell of hot pastries, the kind of smell that instantly made you crave something sweet and baked. I was properly introduced to the source of this tempting aroma about a week after moving in, when my thoughtful roommates, out on the prowl at 4 am, procured a white paper bag of freshly baked cornetti, filled with pastry cream and apricot jam which greeted me in the morning (along with prosecco and orange juice in cocktail glasses) for my twenty-first birthday.

I visited the late night bakery – which is, in reality, a laboratory rather than a shop – many more times myself in the wee hours of the night. With no signs, indications or anything pointing to what looks otherwise like an uninteresting back door down a rather shady, narrow street between the Palazzo Vecchio and Piazza Santa Croce, you simply have to follow that undeniable, magical perfume of butter, flour, sugar and eggs baking.

Patiently waiting outside of that back door, sometimes in freezing temperatures, along with a few other hungry night owls, for the door to be flung open and orders taken – two cornetti, please! Plain? No, with crema! – and watching the trays of pastries come flying out of the ovens, two piping hot cornetti pulled off them and injected with still-warm pastry cream, is the stuff of dreams.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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