On the hunt for sweetness
Section 7 is dedicated to desserts and contains hundreds of books about the noble art of pastry making.
Among the numerous works in the library, including manuals and cookbooks, you can find a some true gems: Il manuale del credenziere, confetturiere e liquorista di raffinato gusto moderno by Vincenzo Agnoletti, the court chef of Marie Louise, duchess of Parma, published in Rome by Angelo Ajani in 1830 and Il pasticciere e confettiere moderno, a series of books written by Manuali Hoepli and published in 1927.
The series has a wonderful introduction by Alberto Cougnet, a doctor and swordsman, born in Nice in 1823 when the city was still Italian. Alberto was a food lover, cookbook author and insatiable menu collector.
Other great books in the collection include: Il tesoretto della pasticceria e della dispensa, (1964), Come allietare i miei ospiti. Manuale pratico per la preparazione delle pietanze dolci e dei Gelati by Giuseppe Trabattoni, (Milano da Ceschina: 1953), and from Igino Massari Armonie (1996), Il Programma (1998), Cresci (1999) and Monumenta (1999),
Next to the Italian pastry books, you will find books from the other great European pastry traditions. From France, there is Traité de patisserie moderne by Emile Darenne and Emile Duval (Paris: 1911); from Spain, the immense work by pastry chef Paco Torreblanca (Barcellona: 2003) and Conditorei in wort und bilddi Carl von Gruber (1902) from Germany.
Next to these books, there is a shelf dedicated to savory pastries and recipes.
Cakes, cookies, ice cream and chocolate
The sweets and desserts part of the library contains over a hundred books and recipes. There is an interesting collection of cookbooks published by Italian food companies like Lievito Bertolini, Paneangeli, Royal, Cirio and Strega, a liquor producer.
The little books that they put out are straightforward and quite practical. Ask any Italian and they will remember having seen these books in the hands of their mothers, grandmothers and aunts.
Today they are difficult to find, if not in special collections like ours. Other subsections are dedicated to baking, cookies and desserts in general. Look for Cosa preparo ai miei ospiti? Dolci per colazione e pranzo, or “What should I make for my guests? Sweets for breakfast and lunch,” by Eta Polesini, and Manuel de Biscuiterie by Paul Fouassier (1928) in this category.
There are over a hundreds Italian cookbooks about chocolate that explore its history and how it is produced. Among the many books, we suggest Dolceamaro: storia e storie dal cacao al cioccolato, “Bittersweet: history and stories from cacao to chocolate,” by Fratelli Alinari; Che meraviglia... il Cacao, “How incredible…Cacao,” by Emilia Valli (Mondadori, 1988); the interesting manuals for chocolate producers, published by Motta during the Sixties; and Curioso trattato sulla natura e qualità del cioccolato, “Curious look at the nature and quality of chocolate, by Antonio Colmenero de Ledesma (1667) and La passione divorante (Milano Libri, 1987).
Even Italian gelato has its own subsection. There are books about ice cream, sorbets and frozen desserts. Look for the rare book called Direzioni per il gelare, or “Directions for freezing,” which came out at the beginning of the 20th century and has no indication of the author or publisher.
Some of the more fundamental texts include, Gelati, dolci freddi, rinfreschi, refrigeranti, conserve e composte di frutta e l’arte di ben preservarli, (Hoepli: 1926), with an introduction written by Amedeo Pettini, a great gastronome, author of Ricettario Carli and head chef to Vittorio Emanuele II.
Another part of the pastry section is dedicated to confectionary and the art of decorating with sugar and honey, nature’s most ancient sweetener.