First things first: I would never bother to review a cookbook I wasn’t passionate about. Fortunately, when I came across Grace’s Sweet Life, a lovely handbook of classic Italian desserts by Grace Massa Langlois, I was immediately drawn to it.
While I don’t consider myself a dessert lover per se–I must admit I have a salty rather than sweet tooth–I’ve always been enamoured by the simplicity and subtly sweet essence of Italian desserts.
This makes sense given that I’m part Italian and had the good fortune to grow up with such treats.
Grace’s Sweet Life begins with a heart-wrenching recap of Grace’s life to date, with tragedies including the passing of her husband. To help cope with these struggles, Grace turned her attention to food and cooking. And we are fortunate that she did, because this book is brimming with simple, inventive desserts based on traditional Italian classics. It truly is food for the soul.
Grace’s recipe for pizzelle (page 93) struck a particularly sentimental nerve for me personally. As a pizzelle maker myself, I churn out a few batches of the wafer-like anisette flavoured cookies every Christmas, as do my mom and aunts. What I didn’t know, however, was that pizzelle originated from the Abruzzo region of Italy. This is the area where my ancestors, the Del Villano family, were born and raised before immigrating to Canada.
Pizzelle also happens to be the most popular Italian wedding cookie. I am getting married next month and had no idea until I read this book! Now that I have, I’m hoping to incorporate pizzelle into my wedding somehow.
You need a special iron and a full afternoon (at minimum) to make pizzelle, but it’s well worth the time and effort. I can smell the licorice-like anisette aroma as I write! Or, try pizzelle at your local Italian church or other community organization. I can guarantee that somebody there (most likely someone’s nonna) makes pizzelle or knows someone who does.
If you enjoy Italian cuisine and culture, particularly desserts, I strongly encourage you to seek out Grace’s Sweet Life.
Do you have a favourite Italian dessert you’d like to share?