Our first trips took us to discover the secrets of two great traditional products of our land, Emilia-Romagna: Branchi’s cooked ham and S. Ilario’s Parma ham.
As regards the third stop, we changed article and, following its sweet call, we went to Rome to visit Laura and to get to know the small world where she makes her wonderful artisan cookies.
Her laboratory, which is also a shop, is located on Tiburtina street, hidden among machine shops and very masculine workplaces: it’s a neat little number that stands out, with a shutter surrounded by a colorful painting and the inside furnished in Occitan style – old furniture painted in white, fuchsia and frivolous wallpaper, flashes of colour given by the ornaments that are spread all over the place, a huge decorative cake covered with white sugarpaste and pink roses, and then Him, the central table, sprinkled with glass jars and cake stands full of cookies.
As soon as the door of that small world opened, a heady scent which smelled like spicy cooking dough welcomed us – we later found out that the oven was full of apple crumbles. Laura immediately appeared, a tiny girl wrapped in a huge work uniform, with a headscarf, a nice face and pink dolly cheeks.
She offered us some cookies, and how could we refuse them?! After a four-hours car drive, we couldn’t ask for a better welcome.
Comfortably sit in a corner used as a small parlour, we started chatting and Laura told us her story.
She was born in Rome, where she attended the hotel-management school – after which she tried to work as a chef, because it was what she had studied for, but she almost immediately stopped, realizing that it’s not at all a feminine job.
Following her interests, she turned to pastry making, but when she was 20 she started feeling not in the right place, so she decided to move with a friend to New York, where she worked as a confectioner in some restaurants.
When she came back to Rome, she went working in a pastry shop which offered very traditional products. Realizing that in that field, in Italy, we were one hundred years late, she left again, with another friend, and she moved to London, where she staied for almost a year. There she worked as a cook, as a baker in a French restaurant – where she learnt the secrets of natural rising – and in the end as a pastry chef in a laboratory which used very rare and precious raw materials.
Life brought her back to Rome, but she soon left again, with a third friend, for Tel Aviv. When she was there, she worked in an artisan biscuit factory, absorbing new influences and learning recipes and the secrets of the trade.
Once back to Rome for the nth time, she worked for a couple of years in a chocolate shop, where the cookies she baked had a great success. At that point she had the idea to start a biscuit production on her own, to then sell them to the owners of the shop.
So, little by little, the “Laura’s World” adventure began: first she rented a laboratory from a friend who gave it to her in the afternoon, then with the help of her parents she managed to open one on her own, and in the end she landed in the current location a couple of years ago.
After opening the artisan laboratory – Laura is one of the very few artisans in Rome, you can count them on the tips of your hand’s fingers! – she was very quick in getting people to know her… for exemple, as soon as she moved to the current building, she went to the Taste fair to introduce her product.
Moreover, this year she participated to CIBUS with the aim to bring Made in Italy in Europe, market of which she’s very fond because she feels it more similar to her work philosophy.
In a word, this miniature woman is totally enterprising and full of experiences that influenced her activity very much and that you can find in the biscuits she makes!
They’re really unique, very different from traditional Italian biscuits but even from the concept of biscuit itself.
They’re small artworks of taste, with three important strong points: the first one is for sure their “clean” flavour, so that you can clearly recognize all the ingredients they’re made of, the second one is the absolute fantasy as regards the names, shapes and colors of packaging, very well-groomed, and the third one is the possibility for the dealers of selling them unpacked, which brings completely back the sensation of craftsmanship and freshness that is the foundation of these products.
So you can find yourself tasting the Pepita (Nugget), a crisp cocoa biscuit, with dark chocolate chunks and Himalaya salt, or the Green Lady, whole wheat, with pistachios, honey and ginger, or the Raggio di Sole (Sunbeam), made of oatmeal, sesame, honey and Corinth raisins… but the options are really a lot, each of them intriguing thanks to the name and the particular look, and so good once tasted!
But how are these biscuits concretely born? We obviously went and looked around the laboratory, with Laura as our guide.
In the backstage of the shop there are various rooms, each of them with a specific function.
We started from the biscuits’ storehouse, where the buckets filled with the ones that will be sold unpacked are parked – not for long. In this time of the year it’s quite empty: the cookies are made and delivered to the addressees almost immediately, at the same rhythm… from August on, instead, the production exponentially increases within sight of Christmas, and sometimes the small storehouse is not even enough to hold all of the boxes, which often invade even other places of the lab.
Then we went in the big room where the biscuits are kneaded, shaped and cooked. In that exact moment, two guys were hand-making some baking trays of Miss Cioccolatissima. We were amazed! Miss Cioccolatissima is one of Laura’s most successful biscuits, it’s a peculiar one, more a dessert than a breakfast biscuit: it’s close-grained but soft, with cocoa and a coffee liquor aftertaste, covered with sugar. The apotheosis of taste. We were very surprised to see how this biscuit is made: while for other kinds of biscuits they legitimately use machines that roll out the dough and make things easier, every Miss Cioccolatissima is hand-made, collecting the soft dough with a tool that shapes it into small spheres (like the ones that are used for icecream, but smaller), and then they’re run over caster sugar and confectioner’s one. One by one, and think that it’s one of the most produced biscuits!
The following room we visited was the one where biscuits are packaged. A few days ago a new machine arrived at the laboratory: it packs them in modified atmosphere, so that they can be stored for a much longer time, without adding any chemical.
In the end, we popped in the ingredients’ storehouse, and we certified what we already knew: all the raw materials are carefully selected by Laura in person, in the strenght of two criteria: quality and being kosher.
After our visit, before leaving the shop with the car loaded with biscuit boxes, we had the chance to taste also a hazelnut brownie… a very gluttonous goodbye!
So, loaded with small sweet artworks, we left bound for Russi (Ravenna). There, at the shop “La Delizia”, you can find also these jewels, both packed and unpacked, perfect as a gift for others or for oneself, even shaped as a maxi colorful cookie-pop.
You have an embarrassing wealth of options, and your taste buds will be very grateful to receive this kind of gifts!