Category Archives: Cakes (yeasted)

Hot cross buns, Easter 2014

Hot cross buns 2014

It’s Good Friday, and there’s a very interesting story in our local paper today. I’ve eaten hot cross buns on and off all my life but learned a few new facts from Kevin Gordon’s piece in the Sussex Express. These sweet, fruity buns, with their cross-shape commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus were traditionally baked “in preparation for the end of Lent on Easter Saturday.” Okay, that I knew, despite how much crass British supermarkets might start promoting them pretty much straight after Christmas these days.

Gordon continues though: “It was often a tradition that one bun would be saved until the following Easter for good luck. A hot cross bun hung up in your home would protect if from fire until the following year. It was thought that hot cross buns baked on Good Friday would never go mouldy.”

Note – this is quite a sticky dough, something that can intimidate less experienced bakers. I recommend you read my tips for handling sticky doughs here.

Makes 16

Sponge/pre-ferment:
140g strong white flour
18g fresh yeast (so about 9g ADY, 6g easy-blend yeast)
150g water

Dough:
320g strong white flour
6g salt
55g light soft brown sugar or light muscovado
55g butter, melted
1 egg, beaten [approx 58g beaten egg]
125g milk
3 t mixed spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, ginger. Whatever you like
85g peel
85g currants, sultanas or raisins

For the crosses:
60g plain flour
40g water
10g veg oil
Pinch of baking powder

1. Combine the 140g flour, yeast and 150g of water to make a starter, sponge or pre-ferment. Leave to ferment overnight in a cool place or the fridge (but take it out in plenty of time the next morning). Alternatively, leave it in a warm place for a few hours.
2. When the sponge is nice and bubbly, get started on the rest. Mix flour together the flour and salt.
3. Melt the butter.
4. Warm the milk to about body temperature. You can infuse it with Earl Grey tea if you like. If you’re using tea bags, don’t forget to remove them!
5. Add the sponge to the flour and salt.
4. Mix together the melted butter, milk, sugar, beaten egg and spices then add this to the flour too.
5. Bring the mixture to a dough. Turn out the dough and knead for a few minutes. Once you’ve formed a ball, put it back in the bowl, cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.
6. Stretch out the ball, add the fruit, then fold over the dough, and knead it again to mix in. Form another ball, then cover and leave to rest for another 10 minutes.
7. Give the dough another brief knead. Rest for another 10 minutes then do a final knead.
8. Put in a clean bowl, covered, and leave to prove until doubled in size – perhaps two-three hours, depending on your room temperature.
9. When it’s proved, weigh it. It should be about 1100g. If it’s not, either I’ve cocked up or you have.
10. Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces, weighing about 70g each. Or go larger, 13 at about 85g (a baker’s dozen).
11. Form the pieces into neat, tight balls.
12. Place the balls on baking sheets lined with parchment then cover and leave for a final prove. Again, this will maybe take two hours, depending on ambient temperature.
13. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Piping crosses

14. Mix the cross batter; you want a fairly thick gunk. When the buns are proved, pipe crosses onto them. Mine were a bit messy this time… Hey, it’s artisan, rustic…
15. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until nicely browned – this will depend on your oven.
16. Optional: while still warm, glaze with stock syrup – made from half/half water and caster sugar, about 50g each, heated to dissolve.

Enjoy for a Good Friday afternoon tea, or similar. The in-laws have arrived and we scoffed several for afternoon tea. Not sure if any will survive long enough to test the theory about them never going mouldy.

Bakers’ percentages

Note – the total flour is 460g, 140 in the sponge, 320 more in the dough, that is 30% and 70%.

Ingredient Percentage Quantity (g)
Flour (sponge) 30% 140
Flour (dough) 70% 320
Water 33% 150
Milk 27% 125
Egg 13% 58
Yeast (fresh) 4% 18
Salt 1.5% 6
Sugar 12% 55
Spice 2.5% 12
Butter 12% 55
Peel 18.5% 85
Currants 18.5% 85
TOTAL 242 1109

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Lardy Johns and the simple pleasures of pig fat-based baked goods

Johns on plate

Here’s another traditional Sussex product that doesn’t really seem to exist any longer. Much like the Sussex plum heavies I did a month ago I’ve never seen the superbly named Lardy Johns in bakeries, and there’s very little information about them online. Also much like plum heavies they sit on the fruit pastry-scone spectrum and utilise that more old-fashioned baking fat: lard.

This recipe is from ‘Sussex Recipe Book With a few excursions into Kent’, a collection of traditional recipes by Margaret Samuelson, published in 1937. Some are her own or her family, many are gathered from interviews, while others are from 18th and 19th century sources.

The book doesn’t provide the source for the Lardy Johns recipe, which is given in the following wonderfully abrupt format: “Quarter pound flour, 2oz lard, 3/4 teaspoonful baking powder, 2 teaspoons sugar and a sprinkling of currants. Rub all together in your hands, and add enough water to make a stiff paste. Cut the paste into squares and bake for about 10 minutes.”

Putting that into a modern recipe format:
120g plain flour
3/4 t baking powder
60g lard
12g sugar
25g currants
40g water – more or less

1. Sieve together the flour and baking powder.
2. Cut the lard into small pieces and rub into the flour.
3. Add the sugar. I used granulated, but caster would be fine while Demerara or other brown sugar would give a slightly richer flavour.
4. Add the currants.

Lardy mixture
5. Bring the dough together with water. It’s 40g, more or less – what Italian recipes would put as “QB” – quanto basta, “how much is enough”.
6. Roll the dough out about 12mm (half inch) thick.

Unbaked
7. Cut into squares of about 50mm (2 inches). This recipe produced six, so if you want more double it.
8. Bake in an oven preheated to 200C for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned.

Baked
9. Eat warm, or let them cool, split and eat like scones (skohn, skon) with jam.

Scone-style

These really are very basic. Ten minute jobs. Simple fare from an era before fancy fats and flavourings. But they are surprisingly good. Slightly sweet, with a texture that’s light, slightly crisp and shorter than you’d get with a crumblier scone, which is likely made with butter and/or buttermilk.

And discuss
In ‘English Bread and Yeast Cookery’, Elizabeth David says, “If you cannot lay hands on pure pork lard, don’t attempt lardy cakes.” Well, I’m not sure of the purity of the stuff I’m use. It’s certainly not pure in a moral sense, being a product of the heinous industrial meat industry, something I try as much as possible not to engage with. But as I said in the heavies post, it seems almost impossible to source lard of good provenance. I’ve asked one of the meat purveyors on our local farmers’ market if she could do me some lard, so hopefully that’ll come through.

My vegetarian younger self 10 or 20 years ago would be horrified, but I’m enjoying these lard baking experiments – never mind the fact that products like these are a big part of the English culinary heritage. David suggests lardy cakes were traditionally made when people didn’t have their own stove and would bulk bake once a week. She explains, “… all the lardy cakes, the yeast dumplings, the buns and small cakes … were made from any extra dough not used for bead.” She goes on to say, “For these lovely cakes and rolls, lard is essential to achieve the proper texture, richness and weight. There is no such thing as a really light lardy cake.”

This suggests the Lardy Johns recipe from Samuelson is fairly modern,  developed from the yeast dough recipes with the advent of baking powder – a 19th century invention. Interestingly, the more common surviving members of the English lardy cake family are yeasted. Central and southern English counties like Hampshire and Wiltshire are associated with lardy cake, and the Wikipedia entry says lardy cake is found in “in several southern counties of England”. David, however, also gives a recipe for a Northumbrian version that neatly defenestrates that anonymous Wikipedia contributor’s theory.

I would hazard that lard, and a bit of sugar, and a few currants, when combined with a basic dough, would have been used by poorer folk throughout Britain to make a treat through from the early modern era to the mid-20th century, when intensification of farming made butter more cheaply available. They’re modest treats, sure, but compared to the absurdity of the cupcake, and suchlike contemporary middle-class obsessions, they have an assertive honesty and simplicity.

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Italian breakfast, and why a cornetto isn’t a croissant

Cornetto, saccottino and cappucino at Baylon Cafe, Trastevere, Rome

Let the Games Begin (Che la festa cominci) is the latest novel by Italian writer Niccolò Ammaniti. He’s probably best known for Io non ho paura (I’m Not Scared), the 2001 novel that became a film in 2003.

A pretty broad satire of contemporary Roman society, Let the Games Begin is passingly entertaining, but it suffers from less-than-perfect translation and editing. As well as some fairly rudimentary editorial errors, the idiomatic translation doesn’t feel quite right. It’s also quite haphazard with its translation of Italian food names. While it’s content to refer to supplì as supplì, it seems to determinedly translate cornetto as croissant.

A cornetto (“little horn”) is not a croissant (French for “crescent”). Nor is it an ice-cream. It’s an Italian relative of the croissant, likely with the same origins, but today a distinct product. Sure they look similar, but they’re slightly different. Read on.

No one is in agreement about the origins of the crescent-shaped pastry, but one abiding story (or myth) is that it was invented in Austria to commemorate the defeat of the Ottomans, who besieged the city in 1683. Wikipedia gives more background. Whatever the origins of the pastry (other variables include chiffel and kipfel), since its birth the regional and national versions have diverged.

Breakfast pastries
Both the croissant and the cornetto are breakfast pastries. The quintessential breakfast I witness being consumed day-in day-out in Rome is a coffee – either a simple caffè (espresso) or cappucino (often just called cappuccio in Rome) – with a cornetto, normally just a cornetto semplice (“simple”, ie plain).

Many cafés offer a large selection of different breakfast pastries, or lieviti (literally “yeasteds” or “risens”, meaning pastries made with a yeasted dough) and if possible I get a saccottino al cioccolato. In Italian, a sacco is a sack, so this literally is a “little sack with chocolate”. And yes, it closely resembles another French – or Viennese – pastry: the pain au chocolat, known by many ignoramuses as a “chocolate croissant” . Guys, it’s not a crescent-shape, so how can it be a croissant?

The cornetto semplice is also apparently also known as the cornetto vuoto (“empty”), to contrast it with various types of cornetti ripieni (“filled”). These include cornetto alla crema (with custard), alla marmellata (with jam, marmalade or other conserve), al miele (with honey; this is often made with an integrale, wholewheat, dough), and cornetto al cioccolato. The latter is an actual cornetto that is usually filled with that vile brown vegetable-oil product beloved of Italians, Nutella.

Choice of pastries at Baylon Cafe, Trastevere, Rome

The (subtle) difference
The French really don’t go in for all these filled variables, beyond ones with almond paste, but the biggest difference between cornetti and croissant is the lamination.

A proper croissant must be made with butter, and must be repeatedly folded and rolled, to achieve a lamination wherein the rolled dough contains several thin layers of the fat. When the croissant is baked, water in the dough is turned to steam, but this is trapped by the fat, causing pressure and rising between the layers. The resulting pastry, when done right, should be crisp and flaky, with a taste of butter but no greasiness.

A cornetto on the other hand isn’t so assiduously laminated, and can even be made with lard, not butter. The dough also contains more sugar. The result is a pastry that is just a lot sweeter than a proper French croissant, and can have a more enriched bread or cake-like texture, more like a French brioche. Some cornetti are very flaky and like croissants, but many others are more cakey; there’s a lot of variation.

Indeed, cornetti are sometimes called brioche in some northern parts of Italy, though in Naples, Sicily and parts of south with a historical French influence, the name brioche is used for a pastry more like the Gallic version. But that’s another story.

Cappuccio, spremuta, pastries at Caffe Arabo, Trastevere, Rome

A couple of cafés
Our lifestyle at the moment takes us to two cafes regularly for weekend morning cornetti. I’m not saying these have the best cornetti in Rome – how could I, without sampling cornetti in every single one of the thousands of cafés and pasticcerie in Rome? – but they’re places we enjoy.

The first is Baylon, which we started frequenting because… well, I can’t really remember. They’re so grumpy and resolutely unfriendly that even after we’ve been going there two years only one of the staff actually acknowledges us. The Ricardo Darin-lookalike is a particular sourpuss. Unlike many more traditional Roman cafés, however, it has space to hang out, and Wi-Fi. Plus, unlike many places in the tourist nexus of Trastevere, they don’t charge stupid prices.

So we keep on going back – partly for the space, partly as we can get our Saturday morning weekly English language paper nearby, and partly because they it has great selection of lieviti. Apparently it used to be a local landmark pasticceria (pastry bakery), so at least they have their own kitchens for the baking.

Our Sunday routine, on the other hand, developed as we used to go down to the farmers’ market in Testaccio’s Ex-Mattatoio every week. Although that’s now sadly been shunted further out of town, at least a direct-from-farm shop has opened near Ponte Testaccio, on the Trastevere Station side of the river, where we can get many of the same quality fresh products. There’s also Porta Portese market every Sunday, with its enormous selection of tat, junk and bric-a-brac.

Case of pastries at Caffe Arabo, Trastevere, Rome

On our route down the hill from our house, via the massively grand 19th century, weed-infested, broken-glass strewn, graffitied Ugo Bassi steps, we go to Caffè Arabo on Viale di Trastevere. This is a more traditional Roman café, no Wi-Fi or anything of that poncy nonsense, but it’s still kinda idiosyncratic. Plus, a couple of the staff not only recognise us but are friendly, even amiably laughing at my ordering a (hot) tea on a hot day. “The British drink tea in every season, every weather,” I shrugged.

They don’t have a kitchen, so their cornetti are bought-in, but they’re not bad. And occasionally they even have saccottini al cioccolato to satisfy my chocolate cravings.

Neither places, however, has croissant. A few Roman cafés do apparently do French-style croissant, but I’ve yet to sample them.

Of course, not everyone has a coffee and cornetto for breakfast or elevenses here in Rome. We sat down at Arabo last Sunday, Fran ordered a cappucino and cornetto, I ordered a spremuta d’arancia (freshly sqeezed orange juice) and a saccattino al cioccolato – then two guys sad down beside us and ordered beers. It was 10.30am.

Info
Baylon Café
Via San Francesco A Ripa 151, 00153 Rome
bayloncafe.com

Caffè Arabo
Viale di Trastevere 20, 00152 Rome

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Maritozzi con la panna recipe

Maritozzi con la panna

A while back, we went on a field trip and scoffed maritozzi con la panna at Regoli. They are reputedly Rome’s best. They are indeed delicious, albeit a bit OTT with the whipped cream (panna montata. Not to be confused with hannah montana).

Seeing as I made splits the other day, and splits and maritozzi con la panna are basically both variations on the enriched dough cream bun, it seemed fitting that I try and make maritozzi too. Me living in Rome, and them being a local speciality and all. My version isn’t quite so generous with the cream as Regoli’s, though how much you use is really up to you.

Maritozzi ingredientsLemon zest

My research took me to numerous recipes on Italian websites1. The basic gist really is an enriched dough, some with milk instead of water, some with oil or butter, all with egg and/or egg yolks.

My recipe is a kind of hybrid, though relatively authentic in that it contains the key flavourings of candied peel, citrus zest, raisins (or sultanas) and pine nuts. Some of the recipes I found use a biga, but I decided to use the sponge-and-dough technique. Here’s the nice active sponge:

Nice active sponge for maritozzi

For this recipe I agonised with professional-style recipe calculation 2, bakers’ percentages and scaling weights. Then I made a schoolboy error and left a key ingredient out of the dough. Then I burnt the buns.

So I made a second batch too – and tried to remember all the ingredients and tried to not burn them. (In my defence, my oven has fierce bottom heat, even when I use multiple sheets for some shielding, so it’s hard to get nice colour on top without the bottoms getting a little bruciato…)

This recipe makes 10.

Ingredient Bakers’ percentage Quantity (g) Notes
Sponge:
Strong white flour 10 43 Aka manitoba
Milk 47 224 Warmed
Yeast 5 22 Fresh. If using ADY, use 11g, instant, easyblend use 9g
Caster sugar 5 22
Dough:
Strong white flour 60 258 Aka manitoba
Plain flour 30 129 Aka all-purpose, or Grano tenero 00
Salt 1 4
Caster sugar 7 30
Butter 12 52 Melted and cooled. Or oil. See ‘Options and decisons’, below
Egg yolk 8 34 Separate a few eggs, beat the yolks then weigh off on electronic scales
Zest 1 4 Lemon, orange or mix
Pine nuts 8 34 Aka pinoli
Raisins or sultanas 8 34 Soaked in hot water for 10 minutes or so, squeezed out
Candied peel, chopped 8 34 Orange or citron or both

Method

1. Make up the sponge by combining the first four ingredients: the milk (warmed to about blood temp), yeast, sugar, flour. Whisk together.
2. Leave the sponge, covered, to ferment. You want it nice and bubbly. Time will depend on the warmth of your kitchen or chosen location. With all that yeast and sugar it won’t take too long – around 20 minutes.
3. When it’s nice and active, add the rest of the ingredients (except the pine nuts and fruit) and bring to a dough. Do by hand or with a mixer with dough hook. If the dough feels a bit dry and tight, add a little more tepid liquid – either water or milk.

Adding the fruit and pine nuts to maritozzi dough
4. When you’ve achieved a nice smooth dough, stretch out, then add the fruit and pine nuts. Fold it over and knead again.
5. Put the dough in a clean bowl and leave to prove again. Prove until doubled in size. Again, time will vary.

Dough, before 1st proveDough, after 1st prove
6. Gently deflate the dough, to regulate the structure. (This is called “knocking back” in Britain, but all that business with thumping it with your fist is far too violent – you don’t want to lose all the inflation.)
8. Form a ball and rest for 10 minutes.
9. Divide the dough into 10 pieces, each weighing 85g or thereabouts.
10. Form the pieces into balls, then allow them to rest again for 10 minutes.
11. Form the balls into cylinders by turning over (so the rougher base is upwards), flattening and rolling up. You can roll the ends to a tighter point if you want. You might want to also pinch the seam (on the underside) closed so it doesn’t open up again.

Shaping a finger roll 1: ballShaping a finger roll 2: ball, undersideShaping a finger roll 3: ball, squashed/rolled outShaping a finger roll 4: ball, squashed/rolled out and rolled upShaping a finger roll 5: cylinder, rounded endsShaping a finger roll 6: cylinder, pointed ends
12. Place on a lined baking sheet, and leave to prove again, until doubled in size and soft to the touch.
13. Preheat oven to 200C.
14. Bake until nicely browned on top, around 15 minutes. (Again, depends on your oven.)

Final prove, beforeFinal prove, after
15. While they’re baking, make a stock syrup with 50g sugar and 50g water, brought to the boil together. This is optional (see Options and decisions, below).
16. When the rolls are baked and still warm, brush with the syrup.

Fresh from ovenGlazed
17. Leave to cool entirely on a wire rack.
18. Whisk 500g whipping cream to stiff peaks. (You might need more, but healthy types might get upset if I put “whisk 1 litre” of cream…)
19. Split each roll long-ways and fill with cream, with piping bag.
20. You can also serve with a sprinkling of sieved icing sugar (see bel0w).

Maritozzo crumb - plenty of fruit and pine nuts

Options and decisions

The last two steps are involve some decisions, depending on you how you want to present your calorie bombs. Although some of the photos you’ll find online have the creamed piped with a star nozzle, many of the maritozzi I see in Rome have the cream smoothed off (with a palette knife presumably). I think I prefer the latter.

As for the icing sugar, this is why I said the stock syrup glaze was optional. If you’re going to sieve icing sugar all over (again, this is very popular for the presentation of cakes and pastries in Rome), the glaze could arguably be seen as useless. So you could either not bother with the glaze, or you could even brush the rolls with beaten egg, egg yolk or even milk (full-fat) before baking, to give them varying degrees of golden crust as they bake.

Maritozzo con la panna - and with icing sugar

As for the butter – if you want to be more wholeheartedly (southern) Italian with this recipe, replace the butter with good quality olive oil , which some of the recipes I’ve looked at use. Some also use sunflower oil, or similar.

One final option – you can also add some vanilla essence when making up the dough. Maybe a teaspoonful, around 6g.

Enjoy!

Footnotes

1. Here are some of the recipes I looked at online, all in Italian: Giallo Zafferano (Italy’s biggest online recipe resource); Alice (a cookery channel; this one uses a biga and some “qb”); Arturo (another cookery channel, related to Alice); Cookaround (a forum); PaperBlog (an online magazine); La Cuochina Sopraffina (a blog, though this one seems to be missing some vital info); Paciulina (another blog); also the book La Cucina di Roma e del Lazio by Maria Teresa di Marco and Marie Cécile Ferré.

2. This style of recipe calculation is very handy if you’re trying to accurately scale up quantities, and for doing costings. You start by adding up all the bakers’ percentages (ie, all the ingredients given as a percentage of the total flour used. Comprehensively explained here). In this case, that gives me 215. You then divide the total dough required by that figure to give you a “recipe factor”.

Here, the total dough I want for 10 buns each made with 90g of dough is 900g. Add a little extra (2%) for loss/wiggle room, giving a total desired dough weight of 918g. 918 divided by 215 gives a recipe factor of 4.3 (rounded).

Then, multiply the bakers’ percentage by the recipe factor to give the ingredient weight (which you can also round, obviously).  The total of these ingredient weights should be the total dough. As I rounded a few figures up, the total weight of ingredients here is 924g.

So If you wanted to do 30 buns instead, simply work out a new total dough weight, ie 90g x 30 = 2700g. Add 2% for loss, giving g. 2754 divided by 215 gives a recipe factor of 12.8 (rounded), etc.

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Maritozzi at Regoli Pasticceria, Rome

Pasticceria Regoli, Rome

We – me, Rachel, and Luca, 22 months – went on a field trip this morning. To do research. Honest. Serious research. Which involved eating serious cream cakes. Specifically maritozzi con la panna (maritozzi “with cream”). Specfically at Pasticceria Regoli.

This is what I wrote about maritozzi some time in 2012:

“Typical to Lazio, or even more specifically, Rome, this is a vaguely more exotic cousin to a British cream bun, in that it’s a bun made with a sweet yeasted dough, which it split after its baked and cooled and filled with cream. Go on, Google both and the pics will look remarkably similar. The only major difference is that the maritozzo dough may contain raisins or sultanas, candied peel and pine nuts.

Pasticceria Regoli, Rome

According to Italian Wikipedia they (or an older sweet bun) were given to people getting married and the name relates to that – possibly in Romanesco. (In standard Italian marito means husband.)”

I can clarify that a little more now, after a visit to Regoli, and a few hours to come down off the semi-delirium induced by consuming about a litre of whipped cream slathered on a sweet bun and a hot journey across Rome. Regoli is a renowned pasticceria and came highly recommended by Rachel and her knowledgeable foodie contacts.

We headed across town on the number 8 tram. It’s too hot to walk in Rome now without getting horrendously sweaty, and the tram is a far more civilised way to travel than the bus. Regoli is in Esquilino neighbourhood, roughly between the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and Piazza Vittorio Emmanuele II, location of the intriguing but easy-to-miss-among-the-snoozing-drunks Porta Alchemical. Oh, and MAS, the most bonkers shop in Rome. But that’s another story.

Panella window display

It’s just around the corner from Panella bakery, which has some impressive bread sculptures in the window, but that’s another story too. (Panella’s website – beware un-turn-offable audio spam.)

Regoli (“dal 1916”) itself is a modest-looking establishment, its window display its wares. And those wares – including the baked goods inside – consist entirely of pastries and biscuits, with a choice of perhaps a few dozen. Now, I find this reassuring for any establishment – a degree of focus. Do just a few things, and do them well.

Serious maritozzi at Regoli, Rome

I must admit I found Regoli’s maritozzi con la panna slightly intimidating. Whereas many of the maritozzi seen in Rome are a finger bun with a modest split along the top filled with smoothed-off whipped cream, Regoli’s version were split in two, folded outwards and totally covered in a thick layer of whipped cream. By weight, I’d imagine each bun was equal parts dough and cream. I like cream, but, well, I couldn’t even imagine how to eat it, at least not in a civilised manner.

Rachel didn’t seem to have any reservations though, and leapt in to make the purchase. Luca didn’t have any reservations either and dived into all the creamy goodness face-first.

Luca dives in

I struggled with my wife’s DSLR in one hand and the massive treat in the other. Cream escaped. It wasn’t pretty. But boy was it tasty. Sure, it was very like a British cream bun, but it just felt like such a treat, such an epic indulgence, guzzling all that cream.

We chatted a bit with the staff, and it does sound their maritozzi are made with a fairly standard enriched bread dough. They also sold maritozzi quaresimali – Lenten buns. Even though it’s July. These differ in that they don’t involve whipped cream, but instead the dough contains dried fruit (sultanas or raisins), candied peel (probably cedroCitrus medica), zest and even pine nuts. As such, they’re not dissimilar to something like a hot cross bun, but in a finger roll form. Regoli’s combination of dried fruit and citrus flavours give them a delicious tang.

maritozzi quaresimali, Regoli, Rome

So all in all, a good field trip. Hard work though. Despite how much of a glutton I am, I don’t think I could handle a Regoli maritozzo con la panna more than a few times a year, given the truly epic amount of whipped cream involved!

My maritozzi con la panna recipe can be found here.

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Easter in Rome – colomba, casatiello, seasonal pizzas and the like

If you like baked goodies (and considering you’re visiting a blog named Bread, Cakes and Ale, I have to conclude that you do), Easter is a great time to be living in Rome. Sure, the Spring might be making half-hearted attempts to arrive, and sure the mild + damp has resulted in my first 5am mosquito strafing (damn them), and sure the city council might have decided to move my favourite farmers market out of walking distance (from Testaccio’s Ex-Mattatoio to Garbatella – *weep*. End of an era) BUT the bakeries the past week of so have been full of seasonal specialities. Which compensates nicely.

This is my, um, second Easter in Rome, and I vowed I’d try and make X or Y after seeing, buying, consuming and enjoying them last year. But you know what, I can’t get that really nice light airy crumb on an enriched dough in my domestic oven, and I’m working long hours, so I thought stuff it, I’ll just buy an X. In this case the X refers to colomba.

Colomba di Pasqua

Colomba means dove in Italian, so this is an Easter dove cake. No doves are used in the bake though. Instead, Colomba is basically the same kind of enriched dough as used in a Panettone, just baked in a different form. Indeed, it’s shaped like an X, appropriately enough for Easter and considering my phrasing above. Though the X isn’t supposed to represent a cross, it’s supposed to represent the shape of a bird, in flight. You know, wings outstretched on either side, head, tail. Ta da.

We bought ours from Pasticceria Nonna Nani, Via Giacinto Carini 35, Monteverde Vecchio. It was made with a natural leaven though it had no trace of a sour sourdough flavour, presumably thanks to the generous presence of sugar, eggs and candied peel. Very nice.

Casatiello

While buying the Colomba I also spied Nonna Nani’s Casatiello. I’ve seen these a lot in Roman bakeries the past two Easters, though apparently they’re not Roman traditionally, they’re Neopolitan. Indeed, a Neopolitan lady who was giving me Italian classes last year gave me some.

This bread is most notable for the presence of eggs placed in the dough before baking, whole, intact and intero, including the shell. The dough is made with lard, and also contains cheese(s) and cured meats. This recipe on the Giallo Zafferano site includes pancetta and salami, but the Italian Wikipedia entry says it should contain cicoli. Otherwise known as ciccioli. In the ‘Pig’s Fat’ entry of Gillian Riley’s Oxford Companion to Italian Food, she says “Strutto is the name of lard: fat from all parts of the carcass, internal and external, rendered down – the delicious crispy bits left over are called ciccioli.”

So now you know.

Now, I’m not much of a meat fiend, so I’ve never really been that drawn to Casatiello, though my wife Fran is a meataholic, and was keen to bake something meatily traditional this Easter. It’s the end of Lent, so a blow-out is kinda traditional I suppose. As I was researching Italian Easter baked goods, sweet and savoury, I came across pizza gaina/pizzagaina, also known as pizza chiena.

Pizza gaina, aka pizza chiena

This seems to be a type of pizza rustica or pizza ripiena that’s made for Easter. Before you say, “eh, pizza?”, note that the word doesn’t just refer to flat bread discs with stuff smeared on top here in Italy. Pizza rustica, for example, is a generic term for things that are basically rustic pies – though rather than being made with a pastry crust, they’re made with a yeasted pizza dough crust. Pizza ripiena, meanwhile, literally just means stuffed or filled pizza. No one really seems to be that in agreement about the origins of the word pizza, so I’m not going to go on an etymology ramble. If you read Riley, or John Dickie’s Delizia!, the term seems to have had many and varied uses.

Oddly, I can’t really get a handle on where pizza gaina/chiena is from. I’ve not actually seen it in bakeries here in Rome and most of the recipes online seem to be American, or Italian-American, rather than Italian. And even Britain’s own Nigella Lawson has a version, though she makes no mention of Easter, and simply calls it Pizza rustica. Indeed, it’s quite a natural fit with British food, as it’s really not unlike a ham and egg pie.

The version Fran did was basically just an excuse for a meat (and cheese) fest. She made a basic white dough and used it to line a springform cake tin. She then filled the case with various strata of cheese and meat. Vegetarians – look away! Vegans – look away and weep!

In this pic (above) you can see the freshly baked pizza gaina, still cooling in its springform tin. Alongside is a wholemeal farro loaf.

Pizza ricresciuta (or cresciuta) di Pasqua

Another type of Easer pizza I have seen in Rome is the pizza ricresciuta. This is even more unlike your familiar disc-shaped pizzas because it’s tall, round loaf or cake eaten for Easter breakfast. Indeed, it seems to come in sweet and savoury versions, though I’ve mostly seen cheesey ones in the windows of Roman bakeries. Crescere, btw, means to grow, to grow up, to increase, so I guess you could imagine it as a pizza dough that’s been left to expand, to shake off the shackles of disc-like flatness.

And finally

Look, I know the Simnel Cake is the traditional British Easter cake, but I really don’t much like dense fruit cakes, okay? In our family, we’ve always just made a lemon sponge decorated with lemon butter icing and Mini Eggs. So that’s just what I did. Annoyingly, I didn’t really get to thinking about it until Easter Sunday then made it Easter Monday. What I really thought would be a nice Italian twist would be to put a layer of mascarpone in the middle, along with a layer of lemon curd (maybe that bit’s not quite so Italian), then maybe just a sprinkle of icing sugar on top. None of that happened though. I noobed my lemon curd, and we couldn’t get any Mini Eggs, so instead went with those sugar-coated chocolate eggs that resemble real eggs. And are really hard on the teeth.

Then I forgot to take a proper photo, which is a shame as it was cute. All I’ve got is this crop, with the cake nestled among many wine bottles. We were  doing a sensible, sophisticated wine tasting, honest.

Wine and Easter cake

Anyway, Happy Easter, belatedly.

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Christmas kringle

Kringle cut

Most Christmases I like to try a different type of seasonal cake. Anything but a British Christmas cake. Yuck. So in the past I’ve done stollen, and a few years ago a panettone (scroll down a bit on this page). This year, despite being in Italy, I’ve made a kringle, from a recipe I found in an in-flight magazine.

The recipe is from Norwegian-raised, London-based Signe Johansen. She doesn’t give much pre-amble, but says “Kringle gets its name from the Old Norse for a ring, and is eaten across Scandinavia during the festive period.”

As with the Italian ciambella though, the name kringle seems to cover a broad variety of baked goods, ranging from things that resemble a pretzel, to various ring-shaped cakes, and even ring-shaped variants make with flaky pastry. It looks like something that’s doesn’t just vary throughout Scandinavia, but also varies extensively across the Scandinavian diaspora, notably in the US.

This version is an enriched yeasted dough and much more like stollen (especially as it also has a marzipan filling) or panettone than the strudel-like versions in the above link. It’s also made with white spelt flour (farina di farro bianco in Italian). As much as I like to eschew using too much modern wheat, I’m not sure about this and if I did it again, I might be tempted to use half-half plain and strong white flours.

Spreading the filling

Anyway, I’ve no idea how authentic it is, whether it resembles a particular kringle from a particular nation or location, or whether it’s a total mongrel. It’s just a pleasing bit of seasonal baking, with a rich dough, plenty of almonds and a delightful touch of cardamon.

So, ingredients:

Dough
300g milk (whole, full-fat)
75g butter (unsalted)
525g refined spelt flour
100g caster sugar
1 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp fine sea salt
15g fresh yeast (or 7g fast action dried yeast)
1 egg, beaten

Kringle rolling

Filling
100g raisins (soaked for 15-20 minutes then drained)
150g marzipan (she uses mandelmasse, which is another almond paste variable that. According to my Scandinavian baking consultant Tom Rönngård “marzipan has more added sugar”. So maybe just make some marzipan – which is v easy* – and reduce the sugar.)
75g almonds
50g butter (unsalted)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
caster sugar to taste

Glaze
1 egg, beaten
flaked almonds
Demerara or granulated sugar

Kringle round

Method:

1 Warm the milk and butter. Scald them, take off the heat and allow to cool.
2 Mix the flour, caster sugar, cardamom and salt together in a large bowl.
3 When the milk and butter have cooled to around 28C, crumble in the yeast.
4 Leave the milk and yeast for a few minutes, then add one beaten egg.
5 Pour the liquid into the flour and beat to combine. Beat until it starts to come together as a dough. You could use a food processor or mixer with a dough hook. She doesn’t seem to knead it at all.
6 Form the dough into a ball then leave to prove in a large, clean bowl, covered with cling film.
7 Turn around and ready your food processor.
8 To make the filling, blitz together the marzipan/mandelmasse, almonds, butter, vanilla, one more beaten egg, salt. You want a rough paste.
9 Add caster sugar to taste to the filling – 30-45g or so.
10 When the dough has doubled in size, take it out of the bowl and put on a lightly floured work surface.
11 Stretch and roll the dough out into a rectangle 60x15cm.
12 Spread the filling on the dough.
13 Starting from a long edge, roll the dough up.
14 Dampen the other long edge to seal the cylinder.
15 From the cylinder into a ring shape, pinching the ends together. (I’m not entirely sure how this works; it felt a bit bodgy to me.)
16 Preheat the oven to 200C.
17 Transfer the ring to a large baking sheet, lined with parchment.
18 Cover the dough and leave to prove again, until roughly doubled in size. She says “If it has proved enough, the indentation should stay after a gentle poke.” Which is nice.
19 When it is ready to bake, glaze with egg, and sprinkle with flaked almonds and Demerara sugar. I had some egg whites so used them. I also didn’t have any flaked almonds, so just sliced some blanched almonds. And I used granulated sugar instead or Demerara.
20 Bake for around 40 minutes, then cool on a rack.

Kringle close-up

My blasted oven has fierce bottom heat, so despite triple-traying it, I still got a slightly burnt bottom. Otherwise, it was jolly good when we had it for breakfast this morning. The recipe says serve “on the day of baking”, but with a dough that’s so rich in fats and sugar I’m sure it’ll last happily for a several days.

* Marzipan tweaked a bit to become more like mandelmasse

30g golden caster sugar
60g icing sugar, sifted
120g ground almonds
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp lemon juice

Mix the sugars and almonds.
Add the egg, lemon and vanilla.
Blend with a knife then knead briefly.
Wrap with cling film and store in a cool place.
It’ll keep fine for a few days, if not more.

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