Last year, you may remember, I was in Padua searching for its most famous traditional cake whilst waiting for the rain to stop. It was almost impossible to find the pazientina but a long search led me to one of the last patisseries still making it and the only one I could find. Imagine my surprise then when a few days ago I came across the cake in Venice.
It has become one of my fundamental beliefs that you cannot find croissants in Italy. There are things that look like croissants, usually called brioche or cornetti, served up and down the country for breakfast in bars, but buy one and you will soon discover the difference between these sweetmeats and the traditional salt-and-butter French classics. And by croissant, I mean the full-fat, full-French version.
Italian brioche are sweet, with sugar in the pastry and usually a glaze of apricot jam on top. To satisfy the Italian sweet tooth they often come with crema pasticcera or apricot jam inside: to have a plain one you need to ask for an empty one, or una vuota. French croissants are slightly salty and made with lashings of fresh butter which means that they melt in your mouth and don’t stick to the roof of it. Having spent two years living in Paris, for me the Italian ones just don’t cut the butter and croissants are one of the very few things I miss.
As I said in the last post, the name of this cake, Pazientina or ‘little patience’ possibly derives from the fact that it takes a little while to make. So, as it was my mother’s birthday this weekend, I thought it was an appropriate item to make as her birthday cake.
I think it was Woody Allen in his film Midnight in Paris who said that Paris was the only city in the world more beautiful in the rain. Well, unfortunately I wasn’t in Paris last weekend but in Padua and there was a lot of rain. Padua (or Padova as it’s called in Italian) is undoubtedly a beautiful city but when it’s raining you tend to stay under the porticos to keep dry, patiently waiting for the sun to come out so you can see the buildings. I did a lot of patiently waiting over the weekend.
Ever since I came back from Modena, I’ve been dreaming of this pie. Having grown up in England, I love big, traditional, English pies such as pork pies and the game pies you see in TV costume dramas weighing down many a seventeenth-century table. This is the closest thing I’ve found in Italian cuisine to those pies and is just as delicious as well as being remarkably simple to make.
This weekend, my friend Claudio was visiting from Venice. As you may have remember from this post, Claudio was born and has lived in Venice all his life, but his parents are from Puglia in the south of Italy. Claudio’s nonne are therefore a great source of typical recipes from the south of Italy, which always end up being delicious.