A historic biscuit made of very few ingredients is born from the expert hands of the gigliettas. Between Palestrina and Castel San Pietro Romano there are two ovens that still make it, thanks to two pairs of skilled sisters
The lily, as the name suggests, is a lily-shaped biscuit, a symbol of the Bourbon dynasty. But how do you find a biscuit of French origin in Palestrina and Castel San Pietro Romano, two splendid towns a few kilometers from Rome?
The origin is to be found in the seventeenth century, during the period in which i Barberini, princes of Palestrina, were forced to take refuge in France at the court of the Bourbons. It was the cooks who accompanied them who learned the recipe for the lily from the French pastry chefs. Once back in Palestrina, the Barberinis spread the custom of the royal biscuit, made of few ingredients and rigorously handmade, thanks to a manual skill kept from generation to generation.
Starting from the dough, particularly creamy and therefore to be handled with care, three small pieces are divided, which must be stretched by hand, placed side by side and curled to create the shape of the lily. The real secret? The dexterity, a set of gestures that make a biscuit different from the other and the hand that worked them immediately recognizable.
Over the years, the lily becomes a home sweet, made by the women of the village for weddings and baked in common ovens. A custom that risked losing, at least until, thanks to the commitment of the community of origin, the lily became a Slow Food Presidium in 2014. Today the Presidium ovens are only 2: the Forno Fiasco in Castel San Pietro Romano and the Forno Salomone in Palestrina. Leading both businesses is a couple of sisters and entrepreneurs.
Il Forno Fiasco
Among the beautiful alleys of Castel San Pietro Romano, among the most beautiful villages in Italy since 2017, not only some scenes of the film were shot Bread, love and imagination, but a sign that has mostly remained intact over the years also finds a home. We must let the perfume guide us to the doors of the oven, opened in 1967 by the father of Laura and Erminia Fiasco, the current owners. He was in a cellar where they count all women to work the lily or to prepare bread with mother yeast. It was a local lady who had learned the gesture by a nun of Palestrina to bring the lily here, where it is still made with hand-shelled eggs, sugar, stone-ground Solina flours and a grated lemon zest.
The Solomon Oven
Two other sisters run the oven that prepares plentiful trays of egg pasta in Palestrina. It opened in 1975 in the town center and then move to a more comfortable and spacious area, again on the initiative of the father of Antonella and Monica Salomone, the current owners, who have worked with their parents from an early age and learn from their mother how to prepare the lily. Today they are also supported by the rest of the family, and in addition to the lilies they cook other typical delicacies of the area.
25 g sugar
125 g Solina ancient soft wheat flour
Grated zest of 1 lemon
In a bowl, work the eggs and sugar with an electric whisk for at least 10 minutes, until the mixture is frothy. Then add the lemon zest and the flour. Resume working until you get a uniform dough. To give the biscuit its characteristic shape: with well floured hands, take a quantity of dough (1 generous spoon) and knead it in the shape of a snake. Divide it into 3 equal segments, and on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper place them side by side and join them on one end, stretching the tips of the other to obtain the lily. Carefully space the lilies and bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about 15 minutes until lightly browned.
There is absolute consensus on the great versatility of the lily. Thus, also thanks to the festival that takes place every year, the lily spurs the creativity of the chefs and locals who have created imaginative combinations, as in the recipe in which the lily is the basis for cheesecake, a crumble or an accompaniment to creams and yogurt. Finally, also in a savory version, as in the archeochef proposal Gabriella Cinelli, tireless promoter of this territory, excellent for an aperitif, with the addition of saffron, pecorino and parmesan to the mixture. Between most popular interpretations there is the one that sees the little lily as the protagonist of a sumptuous tiramisu. To find out more, we asked Simone of the Baficchio Restaurant in Palestrina, opened in 1964 by grandfather Pietro, how he prepares his tiramisu with lilies.
At the base there is the tiramisu cream which here is made with 1/3 of mascarpone, 1/3 of custard, 1/3 of cream. The main feature is its crunchiness, which is why tiramisu is made a few minutes before being served. Starting from a baking tray or tray, sprinkle the base with a thin layer of cream, then add a biscuit, more cream, this time abundant, another biscuit, and more cream. If desired, it can be completed with a third decorative lily. First the biscuit must be soaked with ice cold espresso and not stretched with water. Cocoa is added not only on top, but also in the middle layers.