Baking with Ada Boni

As Americans, many of us have unique links to our ancestry, some are clear cut and some are fuzzy. Growing up, it was made very clear to me that I am a part of an Italian American family. My grandmother, who is Sicilian, keeps the culture alive for the family. Her baking is the outlet she uses to remember and share her ancestry. Her baking is known within our family and her surrounding community.

I am by no means a professional baker or even a top tier at home baker…let’s put it this way–I don’t weigh my ingredients. Although I am not vying for a spot on the Great British Baking Show, my love for baking is strong and my passion comes from my Italian roots. Therefore, I figured why not start my journey by baking my way through hand-picked recipes from a classic Italian recipe book my grandmother used to use? PSA: I won’t be using any of Mom-Mom’s recipes because they are a family secret :).

I will be using my grandmother’s 1958 copy of The Talisman Italian Cookbook by Ada Boni, translated by Matilda Pei (Pei grew up in Rome and moved to the United States when she was 18. During her time in the U.S., Matilda Pei worked for the Censorship Bureau. In the foreword of the book, Pei discusses Boni’s success.

Ada Boni did not start out as a cookbook writer, rather she was an editor of Preziosa, which was Italy’s then leading women’s magazine. In 1928, Boni tied on her apron and wrote a cookbook bringing together thousands of different Italian recipes to create Talismano della Felicità. Her cookbook became recognized in Italy as the standard national cookbook.

The version I am using is a synthesized version of her original 600 page book that recorded over 2,000 recipes.

Ada Boni’s book was welcoming by Italians and those interested in Italian food. This interest is born from history. Italy is a country of regions. Not only does each region have it own food staples, Italy, throughout history was taken over and settled many times by other countries. Consequently, Italy is filled with a wide range of foods. Because Boni’s cookbook is filled with recipes from all regions is one of the first unifying acts–in relation to food–for Italy. Unification of food is important for Italy because food is a prominent part of the Italian cultural identity.

The Talisman Italian Cookbook includes cooking and baking, but I will be working solely out of the desserts section. I am choosing a handful of recipes that I have never made before. This will definitely be an adventure. These are not easy recipes and they are definitely not “normal” for an average baker… other words, get ready to read about and watch some funny fails or some ecstatic successes.

There are a few rules I will be following

  • I cannot ask my grandmother for advice before or during baking
  • I have to use as accurate ingredients as possible
  • I cannot look up photos for what it is supposed to look like before baking

Follow my Instagram page or on WordPress to keep up with this little baking chapter of mine.

If you have any advice or some fun stories about baking Italian desserts, comment below 🙂

6 thoughts on “Baking with Ada Boni

  1. This is great, I’m Italian. My mother was born and raised in Florence. I have not heard of this cookbook. I had a girlfriend from Rome who used to make these great cookies that had wine in them. I have been searching for the recipe, but cannot find it. She told me these cookies were made for men who would sail on the ships, because they lasted a long time. Unfortunately, I lost touch with my friend… so searching for recipe. I bet it would be in Ada Boni’s cookbook. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love your post.
    My mom bought that book in the 1960’s, when I was a kid. It was a fixture in her kitchen, along with the demitasse coffee pot and serving cups with the tiny spoons.
    She still uses it at 86 years old.
    Happy baking!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Do you have a recipe of Ada Boni’s for cookies made with buckwheat flour and maybe red wine? They might be “ciambelline”. I got it from an Ada Boni book I no longer have.


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