masoniMasoni Pietro...

Aside from Easter and Christmas, when their employees swell to 30, for most of the year Masoni Pietro operate on a staff of four. The day we called into Colle Val d'Elsa, just outside Sienna, Massimiliano who runs Masoni Pietro with his mother Giovanna and brother Gianluca, had Francesco their baker, make a special batch of panforte so we would have something to see.

We tasted all the delicious raw ingredients then watched as the candied fruit, nuts, spices, flour, sugar etc were all mixed together and cooked before being patted into the moulds and baked.

Delightful to watch, delicious to eat...

cialdeCialde di Montecatini...

What a tiny family operation.

We missed the place, thinking that our GPS was not on target, but in fact we had not looked for the sign down the driveway, so we went back to the motorway exit and Giacomo was there 2 seconds later to show us the way.

We walked into the tiny factory to find Giacomo's mother busy sealing and packing, and his father studiously making the wafer-like biscuits from machinery he designed himself to store in cannisters he designed himself to allow them to firm up.

The Desideri family are fourth generation bakers and have been making the Cialde since 1975, now exporting to the extremely fussy Japanese market. At Christmas, a cousin comes and helps and they work weekends.

cialdeThe ingredients are simple: fresh eggs from 500 meters away, local flour, local milk and sugar. They are made, cooked, stored until firm, then filled with a mixture of almond, sugar and vanilla.

As well as the large wafers, they make stars, hearts and fans - all delicious by themselves or with icecream, or mascarpone and fruit. Simply made, simply eaten...