Thursday, April 8, 2010

Zeppole and Cornetti

In my frequently circular wanderings around Rome, I happened several times upon a bakery designated only "Forno" by the vertical yellow sign outside, though I finally realized that it was probably the Volpetti listed in my guidebook at the same address. There was always a line of people in the tiny space, which was three-quarters filled with cases of pastries and slices of pizza rustica and shelves of bread loaves. Finally I joined the line and ordered up a bag full of sweets: a chocolate cream filled sandwich cookie, a brownie-like bar of chestnut and walnut cake, a chocolate and nut filled scone, and the confection pictured above, a zeppole.
What is a zeppole? I had no idea, but there were handwritten signs posted in the bakery's windows advertising them, so I knew they must be special. I ate mine for breakfast the next day, and while it might not have been fresh from the oven anymore, it was still delicious. I was quite surprised to find the inside hollow and light as choux pastry, since the outside was hard and crisp, quite unlike a soft chou creme or eclair. The pastry was brushed with a sugar glaze but otherwise unsweetened, and it was the perfect compliment to the dense, rich almond filling and sweet amarena cherries on top. I particularly appreciated the way the piping of the filling mirrored the piped pastry base.
My two other mornings, I had a pastry much like the filled croissant above, one with chocolate and one with vanilla cream. The first one, from Tazze d'Oro near the Pantheon, was amazing - the pastry had a lemon flavor and was so full of chocolate that I made quite a mess and felt like it was smeared all over my lips. The vanilla croissant was much easier to eat (it's the one I got at Castroni) but didn't have nearly as much flavor. An interesting linguistic note - in Rome, these danishy croissants are called cornetti, while in Florence they go by the even more blatently inaccurate name of brioches. Whatever they are, they're the perfect accompaniment to a cappuccino, as millions of Italians and tourists can attest.

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