When I think of the words ‘stars’ and ‘Italy’ in the same sentence, two thoughts pop into my mind:
- Vague memories of learning about Galileo Galilei when I was a child, and
- Dreamy starry night skies in Italy, and bright lights that illuminate the cities/towns – like in movie scenes set in Italy that are filled with wonder and adventure.
Now, I can add chocolate cookies to the list!
I’ve seen cookies called ‘Pan di Stelle’ during my customary biscuit/cookie aisle browses in some supermarkets here in the Lion City. However, I had yet to grab a pack of these chocolate cookies… until one faithful shopping trip.
In this shopping trip, I was seeking something that would satisfy my inner chocoholic in the form of cookies. While browsing the cookie aisle, it felt like the Pan di Stelle had read my mind and was exclaiming “pick me!” from the shelf. That’s when I decided it is time to welcome Pan di Stelle into my snack stash. Little did I realize that this seemingly humble chocolate cookie is actually a beloved stella (star) in its home country, Italy! Slipping into my sleuthing boots, I took a step into the Italian sweet tooth realm to learn more about my snack stash’s new member.
Ciao, Pan di Stelle!
The Pan di Stelle is made by a cookie brand called Mulino Bianco, which is owned by Barilla (yes, the pasta people). It turns out that this treat isn’t any ordinary dessert-like cookie… it was created with the idea of being a breakfast cookie! Peeking into Italy’s breakfast world, a brekkie consisting of coffee and cookies is indeed a common option. Pan di Stelle has been delighting Italian chocoholics for a few decades, and it has become an icon in Italian supermarkets’ cookie sections.
Pan di Stelle’s Italian website is what chocolate dreams are made of, digitally. DIYs of upcycling their products’ packaging, printable crafts and recipe ideas are some of the fun finds online. This is also where I discovered that the cookie has its own spinoffs: from gelato to various boxed chocolate cakes and breakfast cereal. And there’s even a Pan di Stelle chocolate spread, which made a buzz in the foodie universe when it was first introduced.
Also, I’ve got to mention that their Christmas adverts are adorable!
In the realm of homemade desserts, Pan di Stelle cakes (or torta Pan di Stelle) are popular. The cookies themselves are transformed into decadent starry chocolate eats. Many of the recipes I found include cheeses such as marscapone and ricotta for Pan di Stelle cheesecakes and tiramisu. Some add Nutella to their cakes too.
The Cookie Reveal
With a similar anticipation that Cookie Monster has before feasting on cookies, I eagerly opened my cookie pack. Much to my delight, this bag of treats was filled pretty well with chocolatey goodness simply at first glance.
The Pan di Stelle are roughly the size of Oreos, but they have a similar thickness to chocolate chip cookies. Sugar stars are iced on top of the cookies, and some sugar sprinkles are dotted around the stars. While I was admiring the cookies on my plate, the cocoa’s aroma invited me to take a bite!
In my first bite, the cookie’s holistic flavor note was a combination of chocolate breakfast cereal and cookies – the breakfast vision is identifiable. To my taste buds, the cookie had a slight reminiscence to one of my favorite chocolate breakfast cereals. The fabulous taste and quality of the cocoa, which is sourced from a chocolate producer called Barry Callebaut, shined instantly.
I could imagine sitting on a balcony overlooking beautiful views of Rome or along the Amalfi Coast on a sunny morning, sipping on a cappuccino (which is commonly seen as a ‘breakfast coffee’ in Italy) and having a bite of this cookie. After all, when in Rome (or as close to Rome as you can get), do as the Romans do.
By my third bite, my taste buds registered the Pan di Stelle more as a cookie rather than breakfast cereal, but there is a different depth in flavor in comparison to regular chocolate cookies. I feel it might be credited to the butter, as butter is a primary ingredient that is featured alongside cocoa on the package.
The iced sugar stars on top are lovely too. Their touch isn’t overly sweet, as cocoa is the main note. Overall, the flavor feels like home to the palates of chocolate fans.
The cookie is crumbly and crisp. Munching on my second cookie, I realized that this is one of those cookies that cookie dippers would enjoy with a glass of milk. While I’m not a cookie-dipper, I did enjoy the cookies in other fun ways.
Cookie Transformations & A Tea Party
As the cookies are a hit at home (it was love at first bite!), they were transformed into two different sweet eats for a cozy tea party. One version was a celestial topping on banana bread with banana slices, and the other was a cookie sandwich with a filling of diced bananas.
The verdict: banana and Pan di Stelle belong together. The cookie elevates the banana cake to the next level with its beautiful chocolatey note. And, it works perfectly as a sandwich cookie. The crunchy and soft textural contrast in both treats is pleasant too. It was an absolute joy to munch on them!