Have you ever bitten into a chewy, almond-studded cookie and been transported to the Amalfi Coast? If so, chances are you’ve tasted napolità, the famous almond cookies from Naples, Italy. Napolità have been delighting taste buds for centuries with their simple yet decadent combination of ingredients – sugar, egg whites, and almonds. As you take your first bite of a napolità, the crisp exterior gives way to a soft, marzipan-like interior flecked with sliced almonds. The flavor is intensely almond, with a subtle lemon zestiness. One taste and you’ll understand why these classic cookies have endured for over 500 years. In this article, we’ll explore the history, ingredients, and baking techniques behind napolità so you can recreate a taste of Naples in your own kitchen.
The History and Origins of Napolità Cookies
The history of Napolità cookies goes back to the late 1800s in Naples, Italy. Local bakers created these delicious treats using simple ingredients on hand – sugar, flour, butter, and eggs. Over time, two varieties emerged: biscotti reale, sweetened with honey and almonds, and savoiardi, lighter sponge-like cookies often used for tiramisu.
Both types of Napolità cookies share some similarities. They’re made from a basic dough of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. The dough is rolled out flat, cut into shapes, and baked twice to achieve a crisp, crumbly texture. But their differences lie in the specific ingredients and baking process.
- Biscotti reale contain honey and chopped almonds, giving them a chewy, nutty quality. The dough is baked once, then cut into strips and baked again until golden brown.
- Savoiardi have a lighter, airier texture thanks to the addition of whipped egg whites. The flat sheets of dough are cut into rectangles and baked only once.
No matter which variety, Napolità cookies are meant for dunking in coffee, wine, or dessert liquors like limoncello. They’re also commonly used as a base for tiramisu and other delicious treats.
Whether you prefer the rustic nuttiness of biscotti reale or the pillowy softness of savoiardi, Napolità cookies showcase the simplicity and perfection of Italian baking. One taste of these historic treats will transport you straight to the sun-drenched streets of Naples.
What Makes Napolità Cookies Unique?
What makes Napolità cookies unique? So many things! Let’s explore what sets these Italian treats apart.
Napolità cookies are made from simple, high-quality ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and lemon zest. The magic comes from using traditional Neapolitan recipes passed down through generations. Fresh, natural ingredients are key.
Shaping and Decorating
Napolità cookies come in a variety of shapes, from circles to squares to seashells. They are usually decorated in colorful icings and sprinkles, with lemon and orange flavors being most popular. Some cookies feature hand-painted designs or chocolate accents for extra deliciousness. The colorful and whimsical decorations are truly works of art.
Light and Crispy Texture
While the decorations may be lavish, Napolità cookies have a light, melt-in-your-mouth texture. They are not too dense or crumbly. Each cookie has multiple thin layers with a flaky, crispy exterior and tender interior. They strike a perfect balance of crisp and chewy.
Citrus and Almond Flavors
Bright lemon and orange flavors shine through in Napolità cookies, complemented by almond extract and zest. The citrus notes are refreshing while the almond lends a nutty, aromatic element. These complementary flavors come together for a truly unforgettable taste of Southern Italy.
With a history spanning over 200 years, time-honored recipes, and unparalleled taste, it’s no wonder Napolità cookies have become world famous. Once you try them, you’ll surely be hooked!
The Signature Ingredients in Traditional Napolità
The classic Neapolitan cookie gets its distinctive taste from three signature ingredients:
Almond paste, made from ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites, provides a marzipan-like flavor and chewy texture. The almond paste is rolled out into sheets and cut into shapes that are then sandwiched between layers of cookie dough. As the cookies bake, the almond paste melts into the dough, infusing each bite with its nutty goodness.
Fresh lemon zest adds a bright pop of citrus that balances the richness of the almond paste and cookie dough. The zest, or grated outer lemon peel, contains lemon oils that provide an intense lemon flavor without the acidity. Lemon zest is folded into the almond paste and cookie dough before shaping and baking the cookies.
Egg yolks are what give napolità their classic golden color and help create a delicate, crumbly cookie that melts in your mouth. Egg yolks are whipped before being gently folded into the almond paste and cookie dough. As the cookies bake, the egg yolks help create an airy, flaky texture and rich color. The egg yolks, combined with the almond paste and lemon zest, are responsible for the unique flavor, aroma, color and texture of authentic Neapolitan cookies.
With just these three simple ingredients—almond paste, lemon zest, and egg yolks—Neapolitan bakers have crafted a cookie that is the epitome of Italian baking. One bite of a napolità and you’ll understand why these classic cookies have endured for centuries. Their perfect balance of sweetness, nuttiness, and citrus make them irresistible. Once you try an authentic Neapolitan cookie, you’ll be hooked!
Where to Find the Best Napolità Cookies in Italy
If you want to taste the most authentic Napolità cookies, head straight to Naples, Italy, the birthplace of this buttery almond treat. Here are some of the best places to find freshly-baked Napolità cookies in Napoli:
This historic pastry shop and cafe opened in 1860 and is considered an institution in Naples. They are renowned for their Napolità cookies, using only the highest quality ingredients like almond flour, sugar, and butter. Grab an espresso and a few cookies for the perfect pick-me-up.
Scaturchio has been baking up Napolità and other Neapolitan pastries since 1905. They are located right on Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, a beautiful historic piazza in the center of Naples, making it an ideal spot to sit, people watch, and enjoy your cookies. Everything is made fresh daily using traditional recipes that have been passed down through generations.
This small bakery near the Central Station is a bit off the tourist path but worth seeking out. Run by the same family for over a century, Attanasio is renowned by locals and visitors alike for their melt-in-your-mouth Napolità cookies and other baked goods. They frequently sell out each day, so go early and buy in bulk!
Aside from these well-known bakeries, you’ll find Napolità cookies sold at many cafes, pastry shops, and grocery stores throughout Naples, as they have become synonymous with the city. However, for the most traditional taste of these buttery almond cookies, you can’t beat buying them straight from bakeries that have been perfecting the recipe for generations. A visit to Naples isn’t complete without sampling a few (or more!) of these delicious treats.
How to Make Classic Napolità at Home
To make classic Napolità cookies at home, you’ll need a few simple ingredients and some patience while they bake. These crumbly, buttery treats are worth the wait!
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Colored sprinkles for decorating (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, salt, and vanilla.
- Gradually stir the flour into the wet ingredients. Mix just until combined. The dough should come together but still be slightly crumbly.
- Scoop rounded tablespoons of dough and roll into balls. Place them on the prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.
- Gently press your thumb into the center of each ball to make an indentation. Fill the indentation with sprinkles if using.
- Bake for 15 to 17 minutes, until the cookies are light golden brown around the edges but still pale on top. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.
- Enjoy your Napolità—if you can wait that long! The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Making these classic Italian treats at home is a fun, rewarding experience. Your friends and family will surely thank you for sharing a taste of Naples with them! Let the aroma of these buttery morsels fill your kitchen and transport you to the Mediterranean. Buon appetito!
That covers the basics on napolità. Now you know these classic Italian cookies are made of two sweet almond-flavored cookie layers sandwiched together with apricot jam or other fruit preserves. Biting into one releases a burst of flavor that transports you straight to the colorful, bustling streets of Naples.
The next time you’re craving something delightfully sweet with an authentic Italian flair, whip up a batch of napolità. Your friends and family will surely thank you – that is, if you’re willing to share! Buon appetito and enjoy this tasty treat. Italy’s favorite cookies are calling your name.