Have you ever eaten food, while thinking about its history and how it first was consumed at the time? Have you ever tried this game with torcetti?
The torcetti are typical Piedmontese biscuits with a form of a hollow drop and a simple dough made with flour 00, water, butter, yeast, malt, and salt, with sugar on the top. Although today they are a very popular product in pastry shops, they were born with simple and poor ingredients.
The dough, the same as the bread, was first passed into sugar or honey and then cooked at the entrance of a common wood-fired oven in town. The tradition was to cook these biscuits waiting for the oven to be hot enough to bake bread. The biscuits, made with more raw flour, were two times bigger than the current ones and didn’t contain butter, that was added later to give friability.
We have testimonies of traditional torcetti already in the XVIII century, when they were mentioned as ‘torchietti’ in the “Piedmontese Confetturiere” book of the 1790 and, later, in the “Treatise of modern kitchen and pastry” of 1854 written by the assistant chef of Carlo Alberto and Vittorio Emanuele II, Giovanni Vialardi. One of the three dough recipes described by him is very similar to the current one, with the main difference highlighted in the use of natural yeast instead of brewer’s yeast used today.
Nowadays the production area is still very wide and there are two types of torcetti. Those thinner and caramelized with a whiter and less butter-rich paste, typical of Agliè, Lanzo Valleys and the western ‘Canavese’, and the ones thicker, with a darker paste and more butter, the so-called ‘torcetti al burro’, of Biella and ‘della Serra’. There are also torcetti made out of Piedmont, in the Aosta Valley, particularly in the city of Saint-Vincent.
Over time, in addition to the ingredients of the recipe, the methods of consumption have also changed. Initially destined exclusively for children on rare occasions, the consumption of these biscuits has expanded at the end of the meal for baptisms, weddings and Sunday lunches, also in combination with sprinkled cream of ground coffee, eggnog or dessert wines.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, they were eaten with other traditional biscuits in combination with bicerin, a typical hot drink prepared with milk cream, hot chocolate and coffee, in the ‘Merenda Reale’, an initiative which is still proposed nowadays by a restricted circle of premises in Turin.
A delicious tradition, unique in its kind, born and raised in our fantastic region. Have you ever tried torcetti? You know, might be the perfect time! You can get them right here, they are made by Brusa, an artisanal producer from Biella.