The new edition of Festa del Torrone leads us to know more about a typical confectionery product that stands strong as a representative of the Italian torrone production and that hints at Spanish history. It is sold in countless variations and in Cremona the restaurants propose it as a dessert on their menus and as part of an intriguing risotto.
With 50% of the national production being located in the city of Cremona only, torrone has by now become a fundamental dessert during Italian festivities. The popularity it has gained during the Festa del Torrone, the festival that takes place in the city and that has reached a new edition in 2016, provides a clear idea of the appeal that this typical product has obtained also above and beyond the mere city of Cremona. There are eighty Italian municipalities where it is produced. Big part of the torrone production is made on an artisanal level and it presents different characteristics: for example, Sardinian torrone is rich in honey and walnuts, the Sicilian one is flavoured with essences, the traditional torrone of Cremona is a harder type of nougat with almonds, honey, sugar and egg white.
Stories and legends – The invention of this dessert, beloved and appreciated in Italian homes, dates back to the dawn of time. In spite of it being considered one of the most traditional Italian sweets, a legend says it was first created in China. According to other sources it seems that the Arabs brought it to the Mediterranean basin and, more specifically, to Cremona. The most accredited theory links to the Roman Emperor Frederick II who stayed in Cremona in the 13th century and who apparently had Arabian cooks who spread the torrone tradition at his court.
Preparation method – As many other Italian sweets, nowadays torrone is produced both on an artisanal and an industrial level. Generally, the preparation method has honey mixed with stiff beaten egg whites, until the two become a white and creamy mixture. The mixture is then slowly baked in particular containers; once it is cooked, toasted almonds or hazelnuts and aromas are added. The baked paste is then rolled and put in specific moulds, so to be cut in sticks and then packaged. The prime quality of the chosen ingredients is very important, especially the almonds.
Two traditional specialties – Torrone, in the almonds or hazelnuts version, presents its two main variations in the soft or hard paste. The percentage of nuts determines the friability of the hard torrone, while the soft torrone is made such because of a higher percentage of water. There are further countless variations: it can be chocolate coated, cut is sticks or small rectangles, crumbly, with almonds, with hazelnuts, flavoured, filled with fruit or chocolate, organic.