Tag Archives: enriched dough

Plum shuttles or Valentine buns for Valentine’s Day, 14 February

Plum shuttles, Valentine buns

Me and my wife Fran have been a couple for, blimey, nearly 17 years now. Through the years, Valentine’s Day has always been a bit of an issue for us. I think it’s a load of old bollocks and try to ignore it, she buys into the notion that it should somehow be more romantic than other days and tries to make a thing of it. We usually meet in the middle – with a bit of teasing and bickering. Maybe she’ll give me a card and I’ll feign confusion.

It is a funny feast day, any genuine older traditions now lost into the spoon-fed, commercial morass. It’s the ultimate Hallmark holiday where sales of cards and bunches of red roses have a massive spike.

In Cattern Cakes and Lace (pub 1987), Julia Jones and Barbara Deer talk about the theory that it’s a modern incarnation of the Roman fertility celebrations of Lupercalia, transferred into an association with not one but two characters martyred in Rome in the 3rd century AD. The Catholic Encyclopaedia meanwhile says “At least three different Saint Valentines, all of them martyrs, are mentioned in the early martyrologies under the date of 14 February.” How confusing! “One is described as a priest at Rome, another as bishop of Interamna (modern Terni)”. It also says the Roman city gate now known as the Porta del Popolo was called the Gate of St Valentine in the 11th century. “Of the third Saint Valentine, who suffered in Africa with a number of companions, nothing further is known.”

The idea that St Valentine’s day was a Christianisation of Lupercalia was suggested in the 18th century and has been rejected by modern scholars. Instead, it’s suggested that the association of St Valentine’s day with romance arose in the 14th century, notably with Chaucer’s Parliament of Foules, which drew attention to the date as when birds partnered up:
“For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate.”

Other medieval writers referred to the same avian motif. Clearly, modern society isn’t the only one to generate and perpetuate whimsical piffle. I’m not going to go on about it all here. If you’re really interested in such things, the Wikipedia page is, naturally, respectably comprehensive. Instead, here’s a recipe from Jones and Deer for some enriched dough buns.

Plums but not plums
The name “plum shuttles” might confuse – it doesn’t contain plums and what’s a shuttle? Well, Jones and Deer say “These buns are shaped like weavers’ shuttles”. It’s a nice idea, though if you look at a weaver’s shuttle, it’s longer and pointed at both ends. These are more bun-shaped. As for the “plums”, that’s just an older British English usage of the word used to cover not just fresh Prunus fruit, but also dried fruit such as prunes (dried plums) and raisins and currants (dried grapes).

There’s not that much sugar in this enriched dough but a high proportion of dried fruit makes for a notably sweet currant bun.

Currants

I found their dough a bit tight, so have increased the liquid. It also uses a lot of yeast, proportionately, and has a resulting short fermentation. I’ve reduced the yeast a bit, but if you prefer a really good, proper, healthy long fermentation time, knock it back even more.

450g plain flour (all-purpose, low protein)
5g fine sea salt
4g active dried yeast or 8g fresh yeast
5g caster sugar
60g warm water
50g unsalted butter
160g full-fat milk
1 egg, about 55g
225g currants

Extra egg to glaze

Makes 12 buns

1. Combine the sugar, yeast and water and leave to activate. The sugar really boosts the yeast so it should go seriously frothy.

Frothy yeast mix

2. Warm the milk with the butter until the latter is melted. Leave to cool a little.

Butter, milk, egg, frothy mix
3. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl.
4. Add the yeast mix, milk and butter and egg to the flour mix and bring together to form a dough.

Combine

5. Turn out and knead until smooth.
6. Stretch out and add the currants. Fold the dough over and knead again to combine and distribute.

Smooth dough, with currants

7. Clean and grease the bowl, return the dough, cover and leave to prove until doubled in size.

Doubled in size

8. The total dough weight should be about a kilo (with slightly variation depending on the size of your egg etc). Divide this into 12 pieces scaled at about 84g each.

Divide into 12 pieces

9. Form the pieces into balls, leave to rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Form balls

10. Stretch and roll these to form long ovals with pointed ends. Like weavers’ shuttles.

Shaped
11. Place the ovals on lined or greased baking sheets, with plenty of room for expansion.
12. Cover with damp cloths and leave to prove again, doubling in size, or until a finger pushed in forms a slight dent.

After final prove
13. Heat the oven to 200C.
14. Brush the buns with beaten egg.
15. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until nicely browned.

Freshly baked
16. Cool on a wire rack.

Eat how you like – plain, with butter, with butter and jam or, if you really want to go crazy, add a load of whipped cream and pretend they’re maritozzi con la panna*. And of course, enjoy with your special someone… while arguing about what a lot of old nonsense Valentine’s Day is.

Plum shuttled Valentine bun, split

 

 

* Similar shaped Roman buns. Boy I miss Rome, especially at this time of year when it’s been grey and cold for weeks, and it’s apparently already 20C there. Bloody British winter. If we have a bad October and April, the British winter can last six months. Half the flippin’ year! We had sun today (see pic above) but it’s not due to last. Boo hoo.

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Pizza di San Martino for Martinmas

Pizza di San Martino

November 11 is Martinmas, the feast day of St Martin, or San Martino as he’s known in Italian. I talked about St Martin and his feast day here, and one of the related food products I mentioned was pizza di San Martino. This is a kind of enriched bread – as in Italy, “pizza” doesn’t necessarily imply a thing topped with tomato sauce and cheese. There are many variations on the theme.

Do a Google image search, and pizza di San Martino comes in several forms but they’re all basically yeasted cakes. It probably originates from the small Italian region of Molise, which reaches from the east coast into the Apennines, or possibly from the region to its north, Abruzzo. This area of central Italy, along with Umbria, has suffered recently from a series of earthquakes and aftershocks this year, so making this is one way of saying I’m thinking of friends living there, and anyone who’s lost their homes and livelihoods.

The patron saint of protection against earthquakes is actually Emygdius or Emidio, but he’s pretty obscure and I’m not aware of any baked goods associated with his feast day (5 and 18 August). I’ve adapted this pizza recipe from one found in Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf; he doesn’t mention St Emygdius.

As I wrote in my previous piece about St Martin, a traditional pizza di San Martino would contain trinkets, favours, much like the inclusion of a silver coin in traditional British Christmas pudding or ceramic baby Jesus in galette de rois. This recipe doesn’t include any. There’s nothing to stop you adding trinkets though, for luck to whoever receives them.

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

Make the sponge, preferment

2. Add about 150g of the strong flour, and blend to form a sponge or pre-ferment.

Bubbly sponge

3. Allow the sponge to develop until it’s nice and bubbly – an hour or two, depending on warmth.

Combine the ingredients
4. Put the rest of the flour and the salt in a large bowl, then pour in the sponge, milk, beaten egg and melted butter and add the sugar, raisins and zest. I used orange and lemon zest.

Bring together - almost more a batter than a dough.

5. Mix to combine. It’ll be a fairly sticky dough. With just the water and milk, it’s about 67% hydration, but factor in the eggs and melted better too and that’s a fairly high proportion of liquid to flour.

Sticky dough

6. Turn out onto an oiled worktop and bring to a dough. For tips on how to handle sticky doughs, read my notes here.
7. Return to the bowl, cleaned and oiled, then cover and leave to prove until doubled in size.
8. Butter a round cake cake tin, ideally 26cm,  or even larger. (If you don’t have one, you could bake the pizza freeform, shaped like a disc, on a baking sheet.)
9. Turn out the dough and form into a ball. Push the ball down into the cake tin, then cover and leave to prove again.
10. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put in round cake tin

11. When the dough is nicely risen, put it in the oven.
12. Bake for about 40 minutes. If it’s browning too much, cover with foil or turn down the oven.

Freshly baked pizza di San Martino

13. Take out, turn out and cool on a rack.

It’s not unlike a kind of brioche, so eat for breakfast, or morning coffee, or with tea. If I’m honest, I’ve no idea how an Italian family would eat it. During my time in Italy I never really managed to inveigle myself into households to watch people eating Easter Colomba or Christmas panettone or other enriched feast day breads like this. So any central Italians reading, please do let me know.

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Michette di Liguria: sweet buns, strange legend

Michetta, michette di liguria, Dolceacqua

After a slice of my torta di Santiago, a friend of my brother’s asked if I knew of any cakes that are traditionally eaten for the Christian feast day of the Assumption of Mary, celebrated on 15 August. I didn’t.

My native England has lost so much of its traditional festival foods, and I hadn’t encountered any Assumption baked goods while living in Italy. So some research was undertaken. The Feast Day Cookbook suggested veal cutlets and shrimps in béchamel. Neither of which satisfies the cake remit. Digging around more though, I came across a sweet bun from Liguria, northwest Italy. Specifically they’re from the town of Dolceacqua.

They’re called michette. Michetta is a term that’s more commonly used in Italy to refer to a type of hollow bread roll, originating from Lombardia; I knew it in Rome as a rosetta. The Dolceacqua michetta is a little different though: it’s a small, enriched bun. It also comes with such a striking, disturbing folkloric origin story.

Once upon a time…
Here’s the story, or an interpretation thereof based on me plodding through various Italian sources and a couple in bad English.

In the 14th century, a Dolceacqua baker had a beautiful 19-year-old daughter called Lucrezia. She was set to marry a young lad called Basso. Unfortunately, Marquis Doria, the ruler of Dolceacqua, enjoyed his droit de seigneur, or lus primae noctis: the supposed right of the feudal ruler to claim peasant brides on their wedding nights. With claim basically meaning rape. Remember the scene in Braveheart? (Fictitious. Apparently droit de seigneur is fictitious too, or at least historians agree there’s no conclusive evidence for it happening in the Middle Ages in Europe.)

Understandably, Lucrezia and Basso were not happy about this and tried to hide. Doria, however, had had his eye on Lucrezia and tracked her down, taking her back to his castle. Desperate, she tried to throw herself from the window of a castle tower. The Marquis stopped her, and to subdue her, locked her in a hot, damp dungeon. She remained steadfast though, and died there of hunger and thirst.

Hearing of the death of the popular girl, the locals had had enough and approached the castle. Basso was able to sneak in and, at knife point, forced the Marquis to abolish the lus primae noctis.

To celebrate – and commemorate – local bakers like Lucrezia’s dad started to make a small, sweet bun – michette.

I’m a bit confused at this point, but some of the sources say the bun was supposed to resemble female genitals – it was like an offering to the feudal lord, an alternative to the rape. It’s the sort of thing that sounds like it has its origins in older, even weirder, stories, but I’m not sure. Some of the source even had quotes in Ligurian language, which really threw me.

Anyway, the day after the Marquis relented was the Feast of the Assumption, which in Dolceacqua also became the Festa della michetta. Since then, “the word ‘michetta’ is still used to define the virginity and the female womb”, apparently. I suspect locals could explain it all better.

Not many sweet buns come with such heavy historical and cultural associations though. Take the Chelsea bun – it’s a sweet bun, which was first made in Chelsea. That’s its story.

Michetta, michette di liguria, Dolceacqua

Shapes and notes
The most common shape for the michette seems to be a small elliptical bun. Then on this video (at 1.00 minute) you can see a baker making a version with snakes of dough rolled into three ball shapes. I’ve given instructions for forms. I’ve also read of the existence of a cross form, the crocetta, but I haven’t done these.

Note, this is a very yeasty dough – it’s not a nice healthy long fermentation bread, it’s an indulgent, feast-day bun. Even if you can buy them all year round now in Dolceacqua. It’s also a very rich dough – as befitting a feast-day sweet – containing sugar, eggs, butter and olive oil.

Butter in doughs can be problematic if it gets too warm, it’ll become greasy and ooze. If your dough is getting too greasy, cool it off in the fridge, to firm up the butter a bit.

Also note that Italians may well make the dough volcano-style, that is with the flour piled up on the work surface, a crater in the middle and the liquid ingredients added. I do this for pasta, but I find it easier to use a bowl for bread doughs, as it’s more familiar and gives me a better sense of how it’s feeling.

Recipe
500g flour – 300g strong white, 200g white plain (all-purpose)
40g fresh yeast (or 25g active dried yeast)
100g water, tepid + about 80g more
100g unsalted butter, not warm
2 eggs (about 100g, without shells), lightly beaten
120g caster sugar
2g fine sea salt
Zest of one lemon
40g extra virgin olive oil
Water
Extra caster sugar

1. Mix the yeast with about 100g of the water.
2. Put the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.
3. Stir in the sugar, salt and lemon zest.
4. Add the yeast mix, eggs and oil.
5. Bring to a dough. Add more water if it feels tight. I ended up adding about 80g more, so about 180g total.
6. Turn out the dough and knead. You want it quite moist and sticky – but manageable. Don’t overwork it, or the butter will get to oily. The best way to handle this is a few more short kneads over half an hour.
7. Clean out the bowl, oil it slightly, then put the dough back in and cover. Leave 10 minutes then give it a short knead. Return to bowl, cover, leave 10 minutes then give it another short knead.

Michetta dough, first proveMichetta dough, first prove, doubled

8. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl, cover and leave to prove until doubled in volume. As there’s so much yeast in this mix, it’ll be quite quick, especially if the room temperature is warm.
9. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently deflate to redistribute the gases.
10. Divide the dough into pieces, scaled at 60g if you’re being accurate.

Michetta dough, scaled at 60gMichetta dough, form balls

11. Form the pieces into balls.
12. Form the balls into the final shapes, as mentioned above, there seem to be two variables. For the basic buns, they’re small ellipses, so just squash and stretch the ball slightly. For the longer form, roll out the ball slightly, then using the karate chop side of your hand, roll slightly to make two indentations all around the circumference of the cylinder (see pic below).
13. Place the michette on baking sheets and allow to prove up again.
14. Preheat the oven to 200C.
15. Bake for about 12 minutes, until lightly browned.

Michette - two shapesMichette, baked, caster sugar

16. While still warm, brush the top with water and sprinkle with (or roll in) caster sugar.

Enjoy as a breakfast bun or for afternoon tea.

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Kubaneh – Yemeni Jewish breakfast bread

Kubaneh

The latest addition to my cookbook library is Honey & Co’s The Baking Book, by Sarit Packer and Itomar Srulovich. It has the same UK publisher as my friend Rachel’s Five Quarters (which boasts a couple of my recipes), so I went along to the launch event a few weeks ago, bought a copy, got it signed and have been trying out the recipes since.

I love enriched doughs, so I was drawn to the recipe for kubaneh. Sarit’s family has Egyptian and Yemeni connections, and this bread is from the latter culture, specifically it’s a Yemenite-Jewish Sabbath breakfast bread. Reading more about it now, it’s traditionally baked overnight in a sealed tin. While Sarit’s version bakes for a fairly long time, it’s not overnight.

Some versions include whole eggs, and can be eaten as more savoury affair, with tomatoes or a tomato dip, or skhug, Yemeni hot sauce*. This one is sweeter. It’s rich in butter (or smen/semneh fermented sheep or goat milk butter; or margarine, depending on your dietary restrictions and inclinations and shopping options) and drizzled with honey, which caramelises together slightly.

Why haven’t I heard of this before?! Just my kind of thing.

Notes
I’ve tweaked the process slightly and given the ingredients in a more consistent format, so as to also include bakers’ percentages (below).

It’s a fairly moist dough – the original recipe says 300-350ml water, but I split the difference at 325ml: 325g. That works out at about 65% hydration, so quite wet and sticky. Check out my post on handling sticky doughs.

For this baking vessel, they use a “traditional lidded aluminium pot” but say you can also use a 20cm fixed bottom round cake tin, with a “lid” made of foil.

I used fresh yeast. You could use 10g active dry/granular yeast instead. If you only have instant/powdered yeast, you don’t need to mix it with liquid first – just combine it with the flour.

The dough
60g light soft brown sugar
15g fresh yeast
325g water, at about body temperature
250g strong white bread flour
250g plain (all-purpose) white flour
6g fine salt

Plus
Vegetable oil
Unsalted butter, softened (or margarine or smen, if you can get it. Very unlikely here in England!)
Runny honey

Here is it in bakers’ percentages (rounded):

Ingredient Quantity Percentage
Light soft brown sugar 60g 12%
Fresh yeast 15g 3%
Water 325g 65%
Strong white flour 250g 50%
Plain white flour 250g 50%
Salt 6g 2.5%

1. Mix together the water, sugar and yeast. Stir to dissolve the yeast.
2. Weigh out the flours into a large bowl and add the salt.
3. Add the yeast mixture to the flour and bring together a dough. I don’t have a mixer, so my instructions are for doing it by hand. If you do, just mix until well combined and smooth.

Kubaneh shaggy doughKubaneh - kneading doughKubaneh - smooth dough
4. Turn out the shaggy mixture onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead. I used the Dan Lepard technique of not kneading too much, then returning the dough to the bowl, cleaned and oiled, leaving for 10 minutes, then kneading briefly again. Repeat this twice more, then return to the cleaned, lightly oiled bowl.
5. Cover with plastic or a clean, damp tea towel and leave to prove for a couple of hours, or until doubled in size. The time will depend on the ambient temperature. It’s about 20C in my kitchen on a mild English summer’s day, and it took about two and a half hours.

Kubaneh dough - proved
6. While it’s proving, liberally grease the cake tin with butter, and grease the underside of the foil lid too. If you have a lidded pot, grease that similarly.

Kubaneh dough - slapped around
7. Sarit describes the next step as “the strange bit” – you moisten your hands then “flip the dough about in the bowl to knock it back”. Do it three times, keeping your hands moist.

Kubaneh dough - pieces
8. Oil a tray, then divide the dough up into eight pieces and place them on the tray. The dough weighs 900g, so eight pieces at around 112g.
9. Oil your hands a bit then take each piece, stretch it slightly, and put a blob of butter in the middle. I used pieces at about 10g, half a walnut size.
10. Smear the butter a bit then wrap the dough around it to form rough balls.

Kubaneh dough pieces in tin
11. Put the balls in the prepared tin, one in the middle, the rest equally spaced around it.
12. Put some more flecks of butter on top, drizzle with honey then cover and prove again until the dough “almost reaches the top” – too high and it’ll “overflow when baked.” I drizzled a bit more honey and added a bit more butter before baking.

Kubaneh dough ready for baking
13. Preheat the oven to 220C.
14. Put the tin, with its lid, in the oven and bake for half an hour.
15. Reduce the heat to 200C and continue baking for another half an hour.
16. Reduce the heat again to 180C and continue baking for another half an hour.
17. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven “for at least an hour”.
18. It’s best served warm, so if you’re an insomniac and have been doing this all night, or proved it overnight in the fridge and baked it early, enjoy it thus.

It’s surprisingly soft and chewy, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get nice caramelised bits. I won’t be doing it every week, but it’s a great addition to my enriched breads & breakfast bakes armoury. It’s also reminiscent of English lardy cakes, particularly the fruit-free versions from my part of the country, Hampshire and Sussex. Though obviously the fats used are a bit different for that gentile bake.

It’s also got me thinking about that most indulgent of fatty-sugary-doughy caramelised concoctions, the Breton kouign amann, which is more a pastry than a bread. Still, I might have to revisit that soon.

* Aka zhug, zehug; the Honey & Co The Baking Book also has a recipe for this, to accompany their lahooh, Yemeni pancakes.

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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
50g water
10g veg oil
Pinch of baking powder

1. Combine the 140g flour, yeast and 150g of water to make a 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). It should be nice and bubbly.
2. The following day, 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.
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. 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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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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Filed under Bakeries, Cakes, Cakes (yeasted)

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, here). 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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Filed under Breads, Cakes (yeasted), Recipes