Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dolci: Italy's Sweets by Francine Segan

Dolci's author writes to the reader in a conversational manner, one first-world cook to another first-world cook.  Your kitchen must be well-equipped with all the latest electrical appliances for you to be able to follow these recipes:  food processors, coffee grinders, cookie presses, electric mixers, mini-food processors.  Oddly, the author stresses:
"...fundamental Italian cookery rule that less is more!"
Well, not less electricity, anyway.

There are many other Italian dessert books.  So what makes this one different? 
  • There are color images of many of the ingredients (but I always want MORE images). 
  • There are quotes that are quite similar to the ones that can be found in the classic Italian cookbook by Artusi.
  • The ingredient notes are for U.S. readers, but the measurements for both U.S. and Canadians.
  • The desserts are presented with their English and Italian names.
  • The region from where the recipe originates is included, and the variations to the recipe in other Italian regions are included.
  • The recipes include ancient recipes.
  • There is a Glossary of Italian chocolate candies.
  • There is an odd aversion to capital letters in the titles.
  • There are many little asides and articles about Italian sweets makers, with tips for travelers.
  • Liquor recipes and after dinner alcoholic drinks are included.
  • There is a Glossary of Italian Dessert Wines and Liquors.
  • Oddly, there are no recipes for gelato, but only semifreddo and spumoni.
  • There are traditional Italian sayings that have to do with food sprinkled throughout the book.  The most disturbing one is:  "Children and fried food; the more you make, the better they come out."

Here is the book's Table of Contents:
  1. Introduction
  2. Note on Ingredients
  3. Cookies & Bite-Sized Sweets
  4. Cakes & Sweet Breads
  5. Refrigerator Cakes
  6. Pies
  7. Freezer Desserts
  8. Spoon Sweets
  9. Weird & Wonderful, Unique and Unusual Desserts
  10. Holiday Traditions
  11. After-Dinner Beverages
  12. Basics
  13. Italian Sweets makers
  14. Online Ingredients
  15. Index

Italian sweets are not particularly sweet, nor are they particularly varied, owing much to the Arab traditions that spread up from Sicily and out from Moorish Spain in the early middle ages, and even owe something to the Ancient Romans.  The Arab recipes use sugar, almonds, citrus, spices, oil and sesame seeds.  The Roman recipes use much honey, sapa (mosto cotto), raison, nuts, oil, lard, various flours including nut flours.

The author tries to vary the recipes in her book as much as possible.  The recipes are, on the whole, not difficult, and they sound delicious.  There are a few recipes that I just have to take the author's word for their deliciousness, however, since they are so strange.  But all the classics are all there, plus many regional specialties.  Sample the book at, and see what you think.  Hint:  it might make a nice gift!

From the book's description:
Join Francine Segan on a virtual tour of Italy with more than 125 recipes for cookies, cakes, pastries, frozen confections, and more.  Favorites such as Cannoli and Zuppa Inglese are featured along with unusual regional specialties such as Licorice Granita and Chocolate Eggplant.  In addition to beloved classics and traditional holiday fare, readers will find contemporary sweets enjoyed by Italians today—including a light and luscious “updated” Tiramis├╣ that does not use raw eggs.  Segan brings each recipe to life, introducing the countless cooks from whom she learned them: Italian grandmothers and young foodies, pastry chefs and bakery owners, food writers and internationally renowned sweets manufacturers.  A chapter on after-dinner drinks rounds out this ultimate, comprehensive guide.

Dolci is published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang, an imprint of ABRAMS Books.

Here are direct links to the book at

Visit the author's website.

Here is the author, Francine Segan, making Perugina Baci (hazelnut chocolates):


This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.

No comments:

Post a Comment