Ta’ Barbetta among one of the oldest bakeries – Lenten confectionery at its very best
When entering Manwel Zammit’s bakery, the aroma of confectionery titillates the palate.
For Manwel there are no Sunday’s and no feast days or public holidays. At 2.30 am every morning he is at his bakery to start the day’s work.
Better known as Ta’ Barbetta, Manwel said he had first put foot into the bakery 36 years ago when he was employed by his uncle. Today he is 62 years old and often deliberates about his intended retirement but at the same time he is reluctant to leave a bakery trade and its roots over the years.
Over and above the normal confectionery, at this time of the year, bakeries prepare Lenten confectionery, including ‘kwareżimal’, a highly-sought confection during Lenten abstinence for those that have a sweet tooth.
He said people seek such confectionery and ask for it and even those that try to abstain experience the temptation.
Manwel said that when Good Friday approaches he starts preparing for carob ‘karamelli’ and Apostles’ Rings studded with almonds that are much sought after at this time of the year. He said the dough is prepared for these and to make the bread crusty they are lightly baked because strong heat fails to create a crust.
Asked about the origin of these rings, Professor Carmel Cassar said these had a different significance than the present. He said these used to be baked and then distributed to the poor in the parish during feast days.
He said that what used to be the Retirement Home for the Jesuits in Floriana and is now the Curia building there was a painting that went back to the mid-18th Century showing edible food products, including Apostles’ Rings studded with almonds.