Roberto Pacella: The 200-year-old cookie recipe that still delights
CITY: Fort Lauderdale
QUOTE: No broken cookies go in the showcase. Ever.
My almond bananina cookie recipe is over 200 years old, maybe older. I have been baking those cookies for 35 years. They were the first cookies I learned to make when I was growing up in Viareggio, Italy.
I have baked breads and pastries since I was a kid and traveled the world as a Princess Cruises pastry chef. My place, Pan’e Dolci means bread and pastry.
I use almond paste and raw sliced almonds, granulated sugar, honey, egg whites and a pinch of baking powder. I put the mixture into a pastry bag and squeeze out 4-inches into a baking sheet of almonds. Powdered sugar goes on top and they are shaped into crescents, like a banana. The raw cookies sit out for a day to dry out before I bake them for about 8 minutes. They don’t have to be shaped in crescents but it makes them prettier, easier to grasp. Eye appeal is important. The powdered sugar and almonds make them crispy but fudgey in the center. If you went to my Tuscany hometown today you would find these cookies there. I make them small so that they will bake evenly. Each cookie must be perfect.
I hire people to bake the almond bananinas now. I get my bakers with no experience so that I can teach them my way. If they come with a culinary background then they want it their way.
It must be my way.
I have an iPhone app that lets me see my bakeries even when I am not there. Are the display trays filled? Who are the customers? I check it all the time.
I don’t need to advertise Pan’e Dolci.
If something is good, people will come to it. My customers do all the advertising for me.