Canestrelli from Biella

During Christmas holiday, I have received a box of “Canestrelli” from Biella (Piemonte), a present of my friend Pietro. I have tasted it and – wow! – absolutely nice! When I think to Canestrelli, the first image calls to mind is a biscuit with a hole in the middle, covered with powdered sugar. Like this one: But in Italy there are different type of canestrelli, both sweet and salty: the famous one comes from Liguria, but you can taste Canestrelli produced in the city of Novara (Piemonte), in Novi Ligure (Piemonte), in the region of Valle d’Aosta, everywhere in the north west part of Italy. The Canestrelli produced in Biella, a town in northwestern Italy, are cookies consisting of a layer of finest dark chocolate sandwiched between a pair of crisp wafers. It seems that the origins of Canestrelli can be traced back to biblical times, with evidence that they were even consumed in ancient Rome. The age-old recipe calls for combining white flour, finely ground corn flour, sugar, softened butter, lemon peel and milk into a consistent mixture, which is then baked “waffle-style” between two red-hot plates (pre-heated in a fireplace). The earliest plates were actually made of stone, but this eventually gave way to forged iron and finally evolved into today’s modern steel. One interesting footnote is that, centuries ago, Italian nobles hit upon the idea of engraving their coats-of-arms on the plates, thus transferring the symbols of their lineage to the wafer. (thanks to Brusa for historical notes)