It is a wonderful, true Italian experience. We were at a real bakery, where they prepare bread, pizza and biscuits and we learned to prepare one of the most ancient and noble biscuits of Italy: Il Giglietto di Palestrina.
Prepare the Biscuits and tasting
Laughter is assured. Trying to prepare a biscuit in the shape of a lily is fun because the task seems easy but it is actually difficult and most attempts are made in vain. But if you succeed you will be so proud.
The tasting of the biscuits strait from the oven is a special moment when you feel you are part of the tradition of this are of land located east of Rome. And here in this small town, I assure you, you will leave a piece of your heart.
The trip from Rome was pleasant on board the private bus that accompanied us from the hotel to Castel San Pietro Romano, a small town that rests on the gentle slopes of Mount Ginestro, in the Prenestini Mountains, in the area that everyone knows as the Roman Countryside.
When we arrived, the sweet sun illuminated the landscape, framed by the privileged view of the terrace of this town. Ancient villages, woods and hills embellished the vision. It seemed impossible to think that, until a few hours before, the background noise was the traffic in Rome and yet in this small town we found a silence that was much appreciated. The clean, crisp air made the most natural gesture in the world pleasant: breathing.
Too bad we did not have more time to dwell a little longer and admire the landscape’s generous views. We came for another purpose. We had to measure up to a local Italian baker in a real bakery. Great Cooking Class!!!
The cooking class to learn how to make biscuitsfrom the Roman countryside
The small bakery appears adjacent to a small, stone-paved square, in a decidedly antique-looking, almost medieval-style environment. From the doorway a friendly smiling lady welcomes us into the kitchen with aprons in her hand.
After the introductions, and a round of shared laughs, we donned our aprons and went inside the room where there was an oven ready for use in the middle of the room.
The head baker immediately introduced us to the story of the biscuit that we were about to learn how to prepare. The biscuit is hand shaped to resemble a lily flower, hence the name giglietto. It is a simple dessert prepared with three ingredients: eggs, flour and sugar. It’s color is a pale yellow, and when the biscuit comes into contact with your palate, it reveals a surprisingly delicate crunchiness. The taste is particular … in my opinion exquisite.
We learned that the Giglietto di Palestrina has made its way into the Ark of Taste created by Slow Food, the international association dedicated to the protection of quality food products throughout the world.
The history of the giglietto is very particular. The recipe originated in France, and was borrowed from the Court of Louis XIV by the cooks of the noble Barberini family of Palestrina in the late 1600’s when exiled due to contrasts with the papacy. Upon returning to Italy, the biscuit was made in the shape of a bee, to depict the Barberini family symbol. However, the bee shape was not as successful as the original, so the cooks returned to the lily flower shape which was the symbol of the French royal family. From that day, the recipe was handed down fromgeneration to generation.
After the history lesson, it was time to get our hand dirty. With skilled hands the baker gave the moist dough its traditional shape. Incredible: in just a brief moment, those three pieces of soft dough, were transformed to take on the elegant shape of the lily flower.
We carefully observed the operation several times …. each time our friend baker proceeded more slowly to make us understand the movements. And then it was up to us.
While watching it seemed easy …. but actually doing it was a challenge. My hands and those of the other guests try to imitate what the baker has donewith skill since she was seven years old. The first results were discouraging but the laughtercaused by these small “works” created a fun and euphoric atmosphere.
After trying many times, I finally was able to produce a couple of acceptable biscuits.
Satisfied, we showed our biscuits to the head baker, who, although laughing, complimented us on our demonstrated ability … Her kind laughter, however, revealed the reality of the situation … our giglietti were not exactly the same as hers.
But wait …. finally a perfect giglietto was made from my hands. I was so proud!
The head baker then decided it was time to bake the biscuits.
The trays with our biscuits were placed in the oven and then came out after a few minutes well cooked and very inviting. Even the aroma was delightful. It smelled good … it smelled like something Italian and home made.
The time came to taste what we had made. Everyone took a biscuit and at the same time a glass of Frascati white wine was offered. The combination was spot on and at that moment I seemed to taste the best cookie in the world.
It was really worthwhile to participate in this day in the Roman countryside. A few kilometers from Rome there is a beautiful world, made of love, friendliness, tradition and many good things. My next trip will be here …. discovering the Rome countryside.