At Artuso Pastry Shop in the Bronx, the demand was there, but over on the supply side in the Vatican, the cardinals were not immediately obliging.
“So many people were calling for pope cookies and we didn’t know who the new pope would be,” said Natalie Corridori, a manager at the bakery.
So on Wednesday, under lingering black-smoke conditions, the bakers at Artuso, famed for their Pope Benedict XVI cookies, jumped the gun and started making papal cookies with a question mark for a face.
The timing was rotten. Just before the question mark could be printed out on sheets of sugar paper to apply to the cookies – stop the presses! — Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church.
But it did not take long for bakery workers to download a photo of the new pope. Soon his confectionery likeness adorned the first batch of Pope Francis cookies.
Ms. Corridori, an Argentine-born Catholic of Italian descent, just like His Holiness, could not have been more pleased by the selection.
“When it was announced, I called my parents, and they sounded like we just won the World Cup,” she said. With a little luck, the cookies could be a crossover hit for Artuso, a holdover Italian-owned business in the Belmont neighborhood, where Latinos (and Albanians) have moved in great numbers in recent years.
Artuso’s papal cookies are made from the same recipe as a standard bakery black-and-white, but with the pope’s photo printed with food-coloring ink and layered onto the icing.
By Thursday morning, the bakery had made so many Pope Francis cookies – pope in white, with an orange background – that the main printer broke. The bakers switched to a backup printer, turned out a few batches and put them on the shelves with the sfingi and zeppole (for St. Joseph’s Day on Tuesday), the Easter candy and the St. Patrick’s-themed pastries.
By midday, Artuso had sold nearly 100 of the cookies, as several customers tasted and debated the religious implications of eating them.
“I don’t think it’s a sin – it’s a blessing,” said Yada Santos, a native of Puerto Rico who hailed the selection of Pope Francis. She decided to buy a cookie even though she had come for a cheesecake, which she also bought. “Hopefully it’s a blessing that will keep the calorie count down, too.”
Ms. Corridori decided to also make a final batch of Pope Benedict XVI cookies, for old time’s sake, and for anyone who might buy one as a collector’s item.
“Last chance to get Pope Benedict the 16th cookies,” she called out from behind the counter.