This Italian chef makes miniature worlds out of pastry

Imagine a world made of pastry... chocolate rivers, gingerbread houses and buildings made of dough.

This Italian chef makes miniature worlds out of pastry
Photo: Matteo Strucchi/I dolci di Gulliver

That's exactly what Italian pastry chef Matteo Strucchi, 23, did.

Strucchi has been working as a pastry chef in Lecco, northern Italy, for two years, but since this summer, he's also been working on a passion project: a food photography account on Instagram which transforms his delicious desserts into a landscape for tiny people

The account, I Dolci di Gulliver, takes its name from the book Gulliver's Travels which sees an ordinary man travel to Lilliput, a nation of miniature people. Using models of people and vehicle, Strucchi creates scenes showing the people of Lilliput living in a world of pastry.

From sailing down a chocolate river to building complex desserts using trucks and cranes, Strucchi's characters have clearly captured people's imagination, and the account now boasts over 67,000 followers.

“I wanted to present my desserts differently from others,” he told The Local. “There are lots of artists who create miniatures using food, but I focus on desserts. I try to use my imagination as much as possible in order to surprise people.”

As for how he comes up with the unique ideas, Strucchi says he first focuses on making a beautiful pastry, and then tries to look at it from a new perspective. “Then, I think about how I can make my characters interact with it,” he explained.

See some of his creations below.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Aug 6, 2016 at 11:35pm PDT

“The brownies wouldn't be complete without the nut topping, carefully chopped by my little helpers!”


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 5, 2016 at 11:26pm PDT

The photographs show classic desserts from a new perspective, like these delicious profiteroles.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 22, 2016 at 11:19pm PDT

This peach tree was created to celebrate the Italian harvest season


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 10, 2016 at 11:08pm PDT

“Today, there's a fishing competition in Lilliput!” said Strucchi; the Italian 'gara di pesca' is a play on words as 'pesca' is both a conjugation of 'pescare' (to fish) and the noun 'peach'.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 27, 2016 at 11:03pm PDT

“Even monsters have to take care of their hands,” Strucchi commented on this Halloween special.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Nov 4, 2016 at 12:00am PDT

Have you ever seen such a sweet wedding ceremony?


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Nov 17, 2016 at 11:00pm PST

The people of Lilliput help Strucchi to prepare some biscuit dough.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 6, 2016 at 11:15pm PDT

A delicious fairground set up in Lilliput.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Oct 17, 2016 at 10:57pm PDT

Strucchi and his little helpers take on the tricky Italian dessert, tiramisu.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 29, 2016 at 11:13pm PDT

If all weight-lifting was done with macarons, maybe we'd be more tempted to go to the gym…


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Sep 12, 2016 at 11:26pm PDT

Observing pastry swans in their natural habitat.


A photo posted by Matteo Stucchi (@idolcidigulliver) on Aug 8, 2016 at 10:11pm PDT

The tiny adventurers ascend Mount Muffin.


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Kipferl: Explaining the Austrian (not French) roots of Italy’s cornetto

Italy's beloved cornetto is known as a cousin of the French croissant - but did you know both are thought to have originated in Austria?

Kipferl: Explaining the Austrian (not French) roots of Italy's cornetto

As popular a breakfast food as the cornetto (or brioche, if you’re up north) is in Italy, you won’t find anyone who claims the iconic pastry is an Italian invention.

But what may come as a surprise, given the croissant’s strong associations with France, is that it didn’t originate there either, but in Austria.

READ ALSO: Italian pastries: Is it a cornetto, croissant or brioche?

Although there is debate over the origin story, some say the crescent-shaped pastry can be traced back as far back as the 12th century. 

The City of Vienna says the oldest representation “can be found in the (medieval manuscript) ‘Hortus deliciarum’ from the time of Frederick I Barbarossa; there are also a few croissants that can be seen on a set table”.

The first written mention of a crescent-shaped baked good can be found in the 13th century, in Jans Enenkel’s ‘Princes’ Book’, according to the City of Vienna

At the beginning of the 17th century, the Kipferl appeared as a specialty from bakers in Mödling, south of Vienna, who were competing with Viennese bakers. It is also said to have appeared in cookbooks of that time..

Other tales point to the Kipferl being founded as a celebration of the Ottoman Empire’s defeat in the Battle of Vienna in the late 17th century. 

According to one legend, when the Ottoman empire besieged Vienna, they wanted to work their way into the city with the help of a tunnel.

But they hadn’t reckoned with Austrian bakers. As usual, the bakers practiced their craft at night, and since it was quiet, they heard the underground digging, shoveling and scratching.

READ ALSO: Four myths about ‘traditional’ Italian food you can stop believing

So the industrious bakers sounded the alarm, and in gratitude for their vigilance they received a license to bake croissants in the shape of the Turkish crescent. One particular couple, Peter and Eva Wendler, are cited as the inventors of the Kipferl. However, most historians and experts say this is likely incorrect. 

According to pastry chef Jürgen Davis from the Institute of Culinary Education (ICF), who trained in Vienna, these tales are “almost certainly untrue”. 

From Vienna to Venice

The Kipferl eventually made its way to Paris where, as our sister site The Local France explains, it was popularised by Austrian migrants August Zang and Ernest Schwartzer, who opened a bakery in Rue de Richelieu, Paris in 1837.

But the same pastry is thought to have reached Venice quite a bit earlier than that – around the late 1600s – thanks to the intense commercial relations that existed between Venice and Vienna in the 17th century. From there, the croissant and the cornetto evolved differently.

If you’ve ever tasted a cornetto (which means ‘little horn’ in Italian), you’ll know that the flavour and texture differ noticeably from those of a French croissant.

A custard cream-filled Italian cornetto.

A custard cream-filled Italian cornetto. Photo by Filippo Ghiglioni on Unsplash

That’s because the Italian version has eggs and sugar in the dough (and is often dusted with icing sugar), while the French version uses neither and contains more butter, leading to a softer, richer pastry that has a more neutral flavour.

Italian cornetti, like other pastries popular in the south, are also sometimes made with lard instead of butter, and tend to be straighter and less curled than a croissant.

Quite why this is the case is unclear, but, as mentioned above, in the north of Italy cornetti are widely referred to as brioche (pronounced the French way), despite having almost nothing in common with actual brioche.

In the Sicily, meanwhile, a brioche is something much closer to the French version; a very soft and light sweetened bread, usually topped with a distinctive ball of dough (‘brioche col tuppo‘) and often served filled with gelato or granita.