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Some Italian desserts, such as tiramisu, are known worldwide for their decadence and sometimes elaborate plating. Other desserts, such as zabaione custard, are known for their elegant simplicity. Italian desserts may be layered with fruits or filled with chocolate pudding. Savory rice pies and pasta desserts also are made. The amount of variation by region and taste is nearly endless.
The variety of baked cookies in Italy can be taken as an indication that they are among the favorite desserts there. One of the most popular examples of this is biscotti, a twice-baked almond cookie shaped like a long bar and dipped in coffee. Savoiardi are a thick lady finger cookie often used in tiramisu. Pizzelle are light, crisp cookies made on a special iron with a design in the surface and served with powdered sugar on top.
Many Italian desserts incorporate or feature fruit. Everything from apple tarts to simply serving sliced fruit with a plate of cheese and bread can be found on a menu of Italian desserts. One simple dish is to poach a peeled pear and then drizzle a red wine and cinnamon reduction over top of it. When berries are in season, a sweet, mixed-berry pudding can be made by baking the berries in a Bundt pan with flour, sugar, egg and vanilla until it just barely sets.
There are many famous Italian cakes and pies, as well. Tiramisu is a layer cake of ladyfingers — or savoiardi — dipped in liqueur and mascarpone cream and topped with cocoa. A flourless chocolate torte is a cake that is nearly pure chocolate and lightened only by whipped egg whites. One of the most luscious cakes for chocolate lovers, though, may be the chocolate budino cake that looks like a chocolate muffin but contains a pool of rich, warm chocolate pudding in the center.
A confectionary invention that is unique to Italian cuisine is the cannoli. A cannoli is a cylinder of thin dough that is deep fried or baked until it is crispy. Once the shell is complete, cream and other flavorings are piped inside the shell. The ends are traditionally dipped into chocolate shavings, chopped nuts or other small delicacies. The filling for a cannoli also can be flavored with nuts, chocolate, fruits or liqueur.
A special area of Italian desserts is the one encompassing puddings and frozen desserts. One of these is panna cotta, a baked cream dessert of sugar, cream and eggs topped with a layer of chocolate or caramel. Budino di riso is an Italian rice pudding with rum and orange. Finally, many people enjoy gelato, the sweet Italian ice cream. While gelato appears similar to ice cream, it has a sweeter, richer texture and slightly softer consistency.
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