Art at the table


"Giunti i cialdoni e fatto il ballo,/ il Duca diede al fin l'ultimo addio"

They must have been attractive, inviting, decorated, even with written messages. They were made in the street on public holidays or religious feast days. They were even used to wrap up medicinal powders, in addition to being an elegant way of rounding off a banquet accompanied by sweet passito wines.

The cialde, or wafers, were prepared according to the Latin tradition of the panis obelius, as a light, semi-liquid batter based on buckwheat or wheat flour mixed with goat’s milk or water. They were then cooked between two iron plates, joined like a pair of scissors, previously heated and buttered, and honey, cheese, fruit, spices and flavourings could also be added, resulting in something like the Siena panforte.

These irons, also known as tongs, similar to modern waffle irons, may have been imported from the East by the ancient Christians, and sometimes had elaborate decorations on them, such as religious scenes, coats of arms, profane subjects and even the millers’ advertising slogans, signatures, initials or even dates, immortalising forever the date of a marriage, for example...

Ancient recipe

Take 8 eggs and beat them well, then take a piece of fresh butter about the size of an egg, and then melt that in a little orange flower water, and then add a pound of flour and beat all very well together before adding the sugar, with the cream, and then sugar and then afterwards cook them in the irons like those used to make the church wafers, at your discretion.

Modern recipe

Ingredients for six people:
Batter: 120 g flour – 75 g granulated sugar – 40 g milk – 1 egg – 40 g butter – salt.
To serve: 200 g whipped cream – raspberry sauce – butter – sugar – 24 dried apricots.

Preparation time: about 1 hour
For the batter: break the egg into a bowl and blend it with the flour, sugar and a pinch of salt, then slowly pour in the milk and the cooled, previously melted butter, and continue beating the batter with a whisk until it is smooth and without lumps.

Warm the wafer or waffle iron; if it is new first you should grease the plates with oil, warm them, and then dry off with a paper towel and heat again before pouring a spoonful of batter into the centre of one of the two identical plates that make up the tongs. Close the tongs or iron and hold over the fire for 2 minutes each side: the batter will expand with the heat to form the wafer. Release the catch that holds the irons together and tip the wafer onto a rack: repeat this operation until all the batter is used.

When freshly baked the wafers are soft, but they turn crisp as soon as they are cool. They can be served, either whole or split in half, in a variety of ways: with whipped cream, with apricots lightly caramelised in butter and sugar topped with a few drops of raspberry sauce, or with chocolate.

Art at the table