Copate: typical Sienese torrone
The origin of this cake is uncertain, as is the origin of its name. The word “copata” should derive from Latin “copatus” which in this case, would take on the meaning coupled, to indicate that the mixture is enclosed among two hosts, but it is also possible that it might come from the Arab “qubbaita”, which means “almond cake”, and this would prove that its story begins very far away.
Let’s start in 1450, white sugar has already reached Siena and is used mainly in apothecary shops. Convents, following the traditions of that time, also came to use it for medicinal purposes. The story that I will tell you today is a mixture of historical and popular stories, and it attributes the origin of the copate to the nuns in Montecelso, the same involved in the creation of the Panpepato.
THE NUNS IN MONTECELSO
These very nuns it seems had news from the nuns in Convent San Baronto in Lamporecchio, who produced hosts to be blessed for religious ceremonies, and there it seems were softer and more pleasant because they added small doses of honey. The idea was liked by the Abbess of the Montecelso convent, so much so that she copied the recipe, although with a big change: the hosts were paired and kept altogether with a thin layer of honey.
These sweets were to begin with called “nebulae” and resulted in being so good to deserve a place of honour during festive days. The final step toward the copate as they are today is attributed to a monk from Monte Oliveto who mixed together sugar, honey, nuts or almonds toasted and chopped, cooking it all over a low flame. Once it was cool, this mixture that was dark as the sugar and honey were caramelized was then spread over the two hosts. In the 1700’s cocoa was added, and in more recent times beaten egg whites, in this way the mixture results being white, practically. Today black copate are no longer found, but it seems that they were even tastier than the present day ones!
400 g of honey
375 g di sugar
3 egg whites
300 g of almonds
Gently cook the honey and sugar. After about half an hour add the egg whites beaten stiff and cook until the sugar is caramelized. Add the almonds after toasting and chopping them. When the mixture is still warm with a spoon spread it over the hosts with a spoon. Cover the mixture with another host and squeeze. Leave to cool and serve with a glass of Vinsanto.