February might be the shortest of all months, but in my area, it is the coldest one too.
Famous for being ‘the month of love’ mostly because, the world celebrates ‘ St Valentines Day’ during this month, February is the month, when chocolatiers and pastry chefs around the world are in constant rаce of creating the most beautiful dessert that will be shared among the beloved once or gifted on that day.
I have selected three, actually the top three were selected by my friends and family on the social media, as I run a poll at the beginning of the month and just because next to traveling and good food, I also love history, so I have decided to dig a little in the history of those desserts.
If you are ready and have a chocolate bar near you, this might be the moment to open it, because chocolate came first among my friends and has always been a preferred gift for all major holidays of the year ( think of St. Valentines Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, a Birthday or Wedding celebrations and more).
Well established in our culture today, the history of chocolate goes back to the time of Ancient Mesoamerica ( 1900 BC), present Mexico and Central America. The cacao plant was cultivated by the Olmec, the earliest known civilization in that territory, who believed that chocolate was gift by the Gods and it was the link between the material world and the spiritual such. They used to prepare a bitter drink, a mix of hot water, cacao beans, chili peppers and called it ‘ xocolātl‘ – meaning bitter water or bitter drink. The Aztecs used the cacao beans as currency, while the Mayans were enjoying the cacao drink regardless of social standing and consumed it for special occasions such as weddings and births.
The beginning of the European affair with chocolate was set by Chirstopher Columbus who brought the sacred cacao beans in Spain in the 16th Century. The chocolate drink in Spain was mostly consumed by the wealthy and rich. The people in Spain changed the original bitter receipt and instead of chili pepper, they have added honey, vanilla or sugar to make it sweeter.
In the end of the 16th Century, the chocolate was introduced in Turin, Italy by the House of Savoy, which set the beginning of the chocolate industry in Europe. The city of Turin is said to be the city where the chocolate bar, as we know today was first made and I love that say, as I really like Turin too… Soon after the cacao beans were brought to other countries in Europe. The chocolatiers across Europe start adding deferent ingredients, changing the taste and even shape a little. The chocolate was no longer consider as an elite luxury, but a lovely gift for any special occasion there is.
Macarons – I will be honest with you here by saying that I love macarons so much and I always though that they originate from France. Maybe because, macarons are everywhere in France and they become part its image. I also, can’t imagine a visit in France without stopping in a café, ordering two or three macarons with it or bringing a nice box, when coming back home. But what I didn’t know before is that the history of macarons goes back to the Early Middle Ages and they originate from Italy. The first macarons were made from white eggs, almond flour and sugar ( crunchy from the outside and soft in the middle) in a monastery near Venice. Maybe this is why, there were called ‘priest’s bellybutton’ due to the shape of the pastries and the place where they were first made. In the 16th century, Catherine di Medici, who married King Henry ( King of France), brought the macarons to France and the rest is just a history.
Today there are two main methods for making a macaron – the French method and the Italian method. The difference between the two is the way the meringue is made. When writing about macarons, I would like to add two of the most beloved macarons spots, not only in Paris, in France, but also around the world – La Maison Ladurée and La Maison Pierre Hermé whose confectioners did add a variety of buttercream, jam , ganache and compote between the cookies to create the macarons we all know today.
Tiramisu made the podium by taking the third place, which made me very happy. It turned out that my family and friends love Tiramisu as much as I do. So simple, so delicious with beautiful meaning but so complicated history. The regions of Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and even the Medici are mentioned again and since the origin of Tiramisu is still disputed, I am accepting it all.
First is the name – it means both ‘ pick me up’ or ‘ cheer me up’. Last I followed a receipt ( last Christmas) for an authentic tiramisu by chef Vincenzo, he said in his video that Tiramisu means ‘cheer me up’, because you are literally cheering when you have it, but in some sources I read, it said that it also mean ‘ pick me up’…
One of oldest legends lead us back to the 17th century and it says that Tiramisu was created to honor Cosimo III ( the sixth Medici Grand Duke of Tuscany). I didn’t find much other information in here, but anyone who knows more, please do add to the story below. Most information about the dessert is linked to a restaurant called Le Beccherie in the center of the city of Treviso, Veneto, where it says that this dessert was invented by a clever “maitresse” of a house of pleasure back in the 19th century, while the last evidence of a “Tiremesù” is from area of Friuli Venezia Giulia, since 1938, where the dessert was added to the menu of Vetturino restaurant in Pieris.
After reading a little about the origin of the most beloved dessert in Italy, would like trying to make it yourself? What ingredients you need to make Tiramisu yourself – ladyfingers, good Italian espresso, where the ladyfingers are due to be dipped, eggs, sugar, mascarpone cheese and cocoa. So simple and too delicious to not share with friends or love once❤️.
Happy February, dear All 🌺