On 13 January, Parma celebrates its patron saint, Saint Ilario, and, as in all Italian cities, there is a recipe inextricably linked to the city’s patron saint: in the case of Parma, the recipe is Scarpette di Sant’Ilario biscuits, which you can also easily prepare in a gluten free version.
Why a biscuit with this unusual shape?
History has it that Bishop Ilario from Poitiers (circa 315-369 A.D.) found himself passing through the city of Parma on a cold, snowy winter day wearing only a pair of old, worn-out shoes. Pitifully, a cobbler gave him a pair of new shoes and the next day, in his workshop, Ilario’s old shoes had turned into golden shoes. So it is that the shoe-shaped biscuits richly decorated with coloured icing want to celebrate the Saint on the anniversary of his death, and the generosity of the people from the Emilia region.
Images of the saint can be found in several monuments in the city, including a fresco in the pendentives of the cathedral dome by Correggio and a fresco inside the Church of San Giovanni by Parmigianinoboth of which you cannot miss if you visit my city.
Decorating these biscuit shoes is therefore a tradition, especially to the delight of children who do not go to school on the holiday and thus have time to engage in such a creative activity together with their parents on a somewhat unconventional festive day. To hear the story of St. Ilario in detail, I tell it to you in this episode of Santi comuni.
The only difficulty you might encounter? Finding the mould to cut the biscuits for which you will probably have to resort to some specialised shops in Parma, such as Dalla A allo Zuccheroin the heart of the city to tempt us with everything you need to have fun with sweets.
Naturally, given the abundant use of sugar for decoration, the Scarpette di Sant’Ilario are not very suitable for habitual consumption, especially for those with diabetes: so be careful not to get carried away either by the decorations (which is why I have not been able to tell you the carbohydrate value of the decorated biscuits because it can vary very significantly depending on the decoration made), or by the consumption of these little gems which are a real temptation!
Scarpette di Sant’Ilario biscuits
carbohydrates of the shortbread 67g per 100 g of baked biscuits
- 250g gluten free flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut**
- 250g brown rice flour*
- 200g softened butter
- 170g sugar
- 3 eggs
- 8g baking powder*
- grated lemon rind
- 1 pinch of salt
Ingredients for the hard icing
- 150g icing sugar*
- 25g pasteurised egg white
- food colours*
Ingredients for the soft icing
- 140g icing sugar*
- 25g pasteurised egg white
- food colours*
**Ingredients specific for celiacs
*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on Prontuario AIC)
- Put the flour, butter, sugar, salt and eggs in a mixing bowl. Mix well, then add baking powder and grated lemon zest. Cover with a piece of cling film and leave to rest for the time needed to prepare the icing, about 10-15 minutes.
- Take bowls with rounded bottoms, one for each colour you wish to prepare (you can also follow my YouTube video to help you with the preparation of the icings). For the hard white icing, place 25g of pasteurised egg white in a bowl and gradually add 150g of icing sugar, stirring with a spoon so that the mixture is smooth and even. For the soft icing, repeat exactly the same procedure, adding 140g sugar.
- Starting with the white bases, add the necessary colours and sugar to obtain the various colours, both hard and soft.
The hard icing will be used with a pastry bag fitted with a nozzle with a hole of about 1mm, while the soft icing will be dispensed using a teaspoon and the rounded tip of a knife.
- Cover all icings with cling film in contact with the surface until use.
- Roll out the short pastry with a rolling pin to a thickness of about 5mm, cut the biscuits into the shoe shape, place them on a baking tin covered with parchment paper and bake them in a convection oven preheated to 160°C for 10 minutes.
- When the biscuits are completely cooled, form the outline with one of the hard icings, white or coloured, placed in the pastry bag; cover the surface of the biscuit inside the outline using the soft icing to be spread with the help of a rounded tip of a knife so that no gaps are left. Let the icing dry for at least 15 minutes before making other decorations with a pastry bag on the soft icing to avoid colour smudging. To enjoy making other similar biscuits, also check out this recipe.
Version with gluten
Replace the gluten-free flour with wheat flour and mix with 2 whole eggs and 1 yolk.