ITALY: Just when I think I’ve settled on my favorite loaf, another one comes along that moves it down to second place. This Italian sweet(ish) bread is tradionally made around All Saints’ Day during October and November. It’s packed with raisins and walnuts (the Saints) and flavored with cinnamon, black pepper and red wine. Serve it with a green salad, some cheese, a vin santo, and call it dinner!
Step 1: Make dough
- 400 g bread flour
- 25g sugar
- 7g salt
- 2g cinammon
- 3/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon yeast
- 125g raisins
- 150g chopped walnuts (they taste better if you toast them, but it’s optional)
- 125g water
- 75g red wine (like a Cabernet Sauvignon)
- 50g extra virgin olive oil
- 1 egg yolk for brushing on surface just prior to baking
- In a med-large bowl, measure the flour, sugar, salt, spices and yeast together and whisk well to combine.
- Add the raisins and mix with the whisk, breaking up any clumps
- Measure the water, wine and oil into a separate container and stir to mix.
- Add to the flour.
- Mix with one hand until a soft, but fairly stiff dough forms. You don’t want any dry bits of flour. If it doesn’t come together fairly quickly, after about a minute, then make sure you’ve poured in everything from the container that had the water/wine/oil, and add just 1 Tbsp of water. That should do the trick. Don’t worry about any bits of flour stuck in the walnuts, it’ll get absorbed.
- Scrape off any bits that are on your hand into the bowl. Pat it down so the surface is fairly flat, i.e. not a ball.
- Cover and let rest at room temperature overnight, 12 – 16 hours.
Step 2: Shape and proof
- Next day, remove dough from bowl and do some stretch & fold kneading. It’s a tight dough, so it won’t stretch a whole lot.
- Flip it over and let rest 2 hours in a warm place
- Remove the dough ball onto an oiled countertop.
- Stretch the sides out, then fold over into the middle. Turn over and shape into a ball. Place on a baking sheet, cover and let rest another 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
Step 3: Bake
- Brush with a beaten egg yolk, then score with a cross.
- Bake 50 minutes until dark brown and glossy.
- Remove the bread from the oven and let it cool thoroughly. It’s best if you can wait a day before opening.