17 July 2016
Valtellina is a land of strong flavors, where the signs left by tradition are important and evident to this day, especially in the local cuisine. Bisciola is made with simple ingredients and an ancient process. You can sample this cake throughout Valtellina, above all at events such as “The Evening of Valtellina Desserts” which takes place in the old courtyards of the centre of Bormio and offers tastings of simple but flavorful traditional cakes.
The Bisciola, the poor folks’ cake par excellence, whose name probably derives from the Latin “buccella”, meaning morsel, is a typical Valtellina dessert which, being a Christmas cake, often substitutes panettone for the festivities. It is of peasant origin and used to be baked at home or at the village bakery and was an occasion for getting together with the family. It’s a fine cake suitable for all ages, appetizing and nutritious, and is eaten all year round. Simple cooking and genuine ingredients mean that it is an actual typical dish that includes the entire Valtellina tradition and history. It is made with a leavened dough embellished with raisins, walnuts and dry figs, which give consistency to the whole.
Various legends are linked to its origins and it is even thought that it dates to the times of Napoleon when, in 1797, he ordered his cook to bake a cake using local ingredients. The cook found buckwheat, butter, honey, grapes, walnuts and dry figs, and thus the Bisciola was created. But this is hard to believe, since there is no certainty that Napoleon ever passed through the valley. It is highly likely that its origin is much older, and it was certainly invented as a dish for the poorest. Initially it probably lacked certain ingredients like buckwheat and honey, which only the rich could afford and were not available to ordinary people.
So we know that in Valtellina “Christmas” means “Bisciola”, because thanks to a simple recipe and few but excellent ingredients, this cake is just the right substitute for the classic panettone typical of other areas of Italy, a cake to be enjoyed with family and friends for a traditional and typical Valtellina Christmas.