Try them on their own or, even better, dunk them in a cup of hot chocolate, krumiri biscuits from Casale Monferrato are an institution since Domenico Rossi invented them in 1878. Easily recognizable due to their typical moustache shape, they are a must in the classic Royal Merenda (afternoon snack). Crumbly and a little grainy on the tongue, krumiri make every breakfast or snack more fun and, with the right accompaniment, they are also a perfect after meal treat.
A Royal Tale
The term krumiri derives from the African tribe, khumir, who caused France to occupy Tunisia. According to an early 20th century interpretation, the striped and curved shape of krumiri biscuits was associated to the hunched backs of those who, out of cowardice, did not take part in the workers’ strikes in Marseilles in 1901. The term krumiro is still used today in a derogatory way to signify a worker who does not take part in a strike action, however the origins of krumiri Casalesi are much more regal. As a matter of fact, their shape is dedicated to King Victor Emmanuel II to represent his famous moustache and as a commemoration to his death. After all the inventor only wanted to find a friendly, original and memorable name.
The purpose of Domenico Rossi, official father of the krumiri from Casale Monferrato, was to celebrate his king and to enter into the favour of the aristocrats; krumiri biscuits were officially born from his hands in 1878 and since then, their buttery simplicity continues to delight every palate. Today krumiri are renowned internationally: exported to Asia and the United States, they are offered as a treat to sweeten the waiting time at Diego D’Ambrosio’s barber shop, the most famous in Washington DC, where ambassadors and statesmen have had their hair and shave done for thirty years. Even Bill Clinton, in his letter of thanks for having received a basket full of Piedmontese products, said krumiri were “wonderful”.
The krumiri of Casale Monferrato: gourmet tips
Krumiri are prepared with very simple ingredients – type 0 soft wheat flour, butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla berries – but no water. They can be preserved for a long time (better if kept in a tin box) and give off an intoxicating scent. The most delicious way to enjoy them is with a hot chocolate, but they go perfectly with a strong black Ceylon tea, a warm zabaglione or a glass of passito (sweet wine).
Ideas for a weekend out
After tasting some krumiri you may want to go discover the town where they were born. A weekend in Casale is a good idea especially in spring, when the longer and warmer days also invite you to take a walk through the scenic surrounding rice fields. The splendid Cathedral of Casale Monferrato, an ancient church dedicated to Saint Evasio, patron of the city, is a jewel of Gothic-Romanesque architecture and the result of a long and complex construction project. The blue ceiling that dominates the central nave is a real charm. Furthermore, the Synagogue is considered one of the most beautiful in the world, with its colourful mosaics, wooden decorations and baroque stuccoes. Please note, however, that it is closed on Saturdays, the Jewish day of worship.