Giuseppe Dell'Anno's Top Tips for Italian Baking

In his first cookbook yet, Italian Bakes, bake-off winner and critically acclaimed food writer Giuseppe Dell'Anno distils his knowledge of Italian baking into one recipe-packed book.

Read on to hear Giuseppe's inspiration for the cookbook, his favourite ingredients, and the one tip he would give to anyone just starting baking.   

Photography © Matt Russell 2022


Giuseppe's Italian Bakes, by Giuseppe Dell'Anno

Why did you decide to focus your first book on the Italian classics?

The theme of my first book had to be timeless Italian classics: not only because those are the bakes that I know best and I love the most, but also because they are the ones which carry the most significance for me. I grew up surrounded by those bakes, and each single one of them brings back sweet childhood memories. I have always wanted this book to be not just a collection of recipes, but also a way to share my personal, family and national heritage far and wide. Those classic bakes fit the bill just perfectly.

It is clear from this book your dad was a huge inspiration in your love for baking. What is one secret he passed down to you?

My dad’s most incredible skill was to be able to rustle up a superb cake, a delicious batch of biscuits or a glorious meal with whatever he found in the pantry. He was always capable of elevating the very few and staple ingredients he had available to showstopper status, and he never fell for the lure of exotic, novel or expensive ingredients. He was never afraid to keep it simple and straightforward, and I have happily turned his reverence for simplicity into my own baking mantra.

Italian bakes seem to have crossovers with British classics. How similar are Italian bakes and British classics?

British classics are often warming, they include sweet flavours like vanilla, butter or caramel, whereas the Italian counterparts tend to be fresher, often based on citrus, almond or fresh fruit.

Classic bakes from different countries are often much more similar than one may think. When carrying out the research work for the book, I often stumbled upon recipes, apparently part of the culinary register of very different cuisines, but in reality almost identical… just called different names! However, if I had to identify one major difference between British and Italian bakes, it would be the flavour palette: British classics are often warming, they include sweet flavours like vanilla, butter or caramel, whereas the Italian counterparts tend to be fresher, often based on citrus, almond or fresh fruit.

Which Italian classic bake do you make most often?

I am the one in charge of birthday cakes at home, so I often bake the traditional Italian celebration cake for friends and family. This is made with layers of pan di Spagna (the equivalent of genoise sponge), soaked in boozy or fruity syrup, filled with flavoured crème pat and smothered with swirls of Chantilly cream. It’s a common bake that works every time, it is rather theatrical and can be articulated in a large variety of flavour combinations. A winner every single time!

And which do you think is the biggest crowd-pleaser (and why?)

At home, the bakes that are most often requested are savoury: pizza and focaccia. Every time we have guests, I bake some: I have yet to find somebody that can easily stop after the first slice. I keep the pizza simple, usually a margherita, at most with one extra topping. But I enjoy the variety of the many regional variations to the basic focaccia: barese, genovese, di Recco, crunchy or soft, savoury or even sweet. All of them always leave my guests asking for more.


Microplane Black Premium Zester

Congratulations on winning Bake Off! What is one technique or tip you have taken from Bake off that you now frequently use?

While in the tent, the many challenges concocted by the judges involved making things that I had never done before, so I had to learn many new techniques that I was not familiar with. I brought them all back home with me, but the single, simplest tip I learnt is: when it comes to zest a lemon (or an orange), forget the grater, use a zester instead!

We have all had to scrape off the fragrant lemon pulp from a grater with the tip of a knife. Dedicated zesters are specifically designed to avoid this and to shave off only the flavoursome part of the fruit skin, leaving the bitter white pith behind. I tried a zester in the tent for the first time and I never looked back!

What are your favourite Italian ingredients to bake with?

Nuts are ubiquitous in Italian baking, mostly because of the availability of very good quality produce at reasonable prices throughout the Country. And I enjoy adding hazelnuts, almonds and pistachios in generous amounts pretty much everywhere: in cream fillings, toppings, coatings, mousses, ice creams, biscuits and even sponges. They are very versatile, can be manipulated into different formats, can be caramelised or made into pastes, roasted for deeper flavour or used raw. For me, they tick all the boxes!

Shop Giuseppe Dell'Anno's Sous Chef Top Picks!

What is a lesser-known Italian classic you would love to see more people try?

Many traditional Italian biscuits are based on a mixture of ground nuts, sugar and egg white. These simple ingredients can easily be morphed into delicious (and gluten-free) treats that you can find lining the pastry shop windows all over Italy. Some great examples are paste di pistacchio, ricciarelli, amaretti or brutti ma buoni. They are also extremely simple to make, so I am hoping that through my book more people will try them and fall in love with them as much as I have.

What is a most common mistake you find bakers make most often? And how can we avoid it?

The single, most important piece of advice I could give a baker is to weigh everything. It sounds obvious, but many recipes provide volumetric measurements instead, such as cups or tablespoons. And if you are measuring flour by the cup, for example, depending on how fine it is milled, on its humidity and on how hard you pack it in, its weight may vary quite dramatically. And only very few recipes are robust enough to work well with ingredients measured this way. So my advice would be to be as accurate as possible, do not rely on volumetric measurements, and weigh everything, always!

The single, most important piece of advice I could give a baker is to weigh everything

What is one recipe everyone should try in Giuseppe Bakes first?

One sweet bake I cannot stop going back to is torta caprese, a Neapolitan classic based on ground almonds and chocolate. Simple yet delicious! And a savoury bake that I will never have enough of is pucce alla pizzaiola: small, rustic buns of soft bread, flavoured with onions, capers, olives and tomatoes. Try them, you’ll thank me later!


Shop Giuseppe Dell'Anno's Sous Chef Top Picks, or shop his book Italian Bakes!


2 comments

  • It will be good to have pictures of Guiseppe’s Colombia cut up to show the inside of it – the wrapping is very presentable .

    Grace on

  • Giuseppe, great advice! I’m getting your book Friday! Then I’ll shoe all my friends and family your book!! Good luck! God bless

    Debbie Leone on

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