The Brigidini – the history of a wafer born by error

Brigidini Lamporecchio 1The symbol of Lamporecchio, a small municipality of the Pistoiese Montalbano, is a small, sweet, crunchy wafer with a unique and unmistakable flavour: the Brigidino.

There are only a few people who haven’t heard of them as they are generally found on stalls at fairs and festivals all over Italy, and you can’t go far wrong with them. These wafers, with an aniseed aftertaste, are so famous that they have even been mentioned in Crusca’s dictionary.

The Brigidino is a round wafer with a diameter of approximately 7 cm, thin like a host wafer and decorated at the edges. Brittle and crunchy, it has an unmistakable orangey-yellow colour and a unique flavour of aniseed combined with sweet pastry made of sugar, flour and eggs. Manufacturing dates back to the Renaissance period.

There are various hypotheses regarding its name, but the most established one says that the name comes from the “brigidine”, nuns of a local convent devoted to Santa Brigida. Traditionally in charge of the preparation of the hosts for the communion, these nuns invented the recipe for these wafers towards the mid 16th century, which did not randomly have the shape of the hosts given that they were made by pressing the pastry between circular red hot iron plates. This similarity has fed a legend over the years; the brigidini were born by error. Everything began with an error by a Brigida nun who made a mistake while she was preparing the mixture for the hosts. So that they didn’t waste the mixture, the sisters decided to refine it by adding aniseeds. This is how that “special amusement” was created as defined by Pellegrino Artusi in 1851 in his famous volume “Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”. Error or not, the success of the brigidini was immediate and it spread throughout the Pistoiese area, but Lamporecchio has always remained as their place of production, as testified by an old Tuscan saying “all Brigidini come from Lamporecchio”. They immediately became an essential feature at fairs and peasant festivals as is still the case today.

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