Trump countdown

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sicilian Buccellato

It's not often I get the opportunity to make something as ornate and large as this.  Our office holiday party was yesterday and I thought it would be just the thing.  It did take quite a bit of work and time, but it was the construction mainly that appealed to me.  I enjoy the hand work.

What I used.
Traditionally, buccellatos are decorated with a special tool called a pinza per buccellato, appropriately enough.   A pair of hotdog tongs worked nicely.

   What you're supposed to use.

The only real challenge to making this is its size and weight.  You don't want to have to move it any more than necessary.  I thought I was being tricky by baking it on parchment paper; I shaped it on the paper, and then just slid the paper and pastry easily onto the baking sheet.  The problem arose when I was trying to remove the parchment from under the baked pastry.  It took two hands -- and I could have used a third -- to lift the ring without breaking it, and then I needed still another to pull the paper off the bottom of the ring.  In the end, I did break the ring a little, but due to the deep indentations of the design, the breaks were easily disguised.  I recommend moving the ring as little as possible:  shape it on the baking sheet, and after baking slide it straight from the sheet onto the cutting board or serving platter.   Whatever you serve it on, it should be sturdy and able to take cuts from a sharp knife.  This is a substantial loaf!

Some buccellato recipes call for chopping the filling mixture in a food processor until it is chopped fine.  Chopping by hand produces larger, uneven pieces of fruit and nut, particularly the citrus peel.  It takes longer, but gives a nicer texture.  I highly recommend using a high-quality dark chocolate.  I used Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips, and they were the low point in the dessert.

Here's what I used:

For the filling
500g (17 oz.) dried figs, chopped
250g (8.5 oz.) apricot or fig jam
100g (3.5 oz) almonds, chopped
100g (3.5 oz) hazelnuts, chopped
50g walnuts (1.75 oz), chopped
50g pistachios (1.75 oz), chopped
200g candied cherries, chopped
100g (3.5 oz) raisins
100g (3.5 oz) candied orange zests, chopped
100g (3.5 oz) dark chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon clove powder
1 espresso shot
100ml (3.5 oz) Marsala or Muscat wine
125g (4.4 oz) honey

For the dough
500g (17 oz) flour
150g (5.25 oz) sugar
200g (7 oz) lard
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1 tablespoon honey
8g (a little more than 1/4 oz) ammonium bicarbonate (or baking soda)

For the glaze and the decoration
3 tablespoons apricot jam
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
Candied cherries
Pistachios, ground

Start by preparing the filling.  Best to do this the day before so it can cool down completely, and because it's time-consuming. 

Toast and roughly chop/crush all the nuts.  Chop the dried figs and candied fruits. Put all the ingredients (apart from the chocolate) in a pot over low heat and let it cook on a slow fire for 5 minutes.  Stir well.  Allow to cool completely, then add the chocolate.  Stir well and set aside.

For the dough, put all the ingredients in the bowl of a mixer with a hook attachment and knead for 5 minutes, or until you obtain a smooth and pliable dough.  Wrap tightly and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Take the dough out and roll it into a rectangle 15 cm x 30 cm.  Make a log out of the filling and put it in the center of the rectangle.  Bring the sides of the dough up and over the filling, overlapping slightly; press to seal.  Gently transfer the log, seam side down, onto a baking sheet.  Bring the ends together to form a ring and close the joint by pressing with your fingers.

To decorate, go around the cake four times with hotdog tongs to create a zigzag pattern of angled pinches close together.  Make longer pinches by placing two pinches side-by-side, as shown.  With each pass, angle the pinch in the opposite direction.   (You can also use a fork by digging and slightly dragging it into the dough.)  Refrigerate the buccellato for 1 day BEFORE baking it.

The following day, pre-heat the oven to 390°F.  Bake the buccellato for 35 – 45 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool completely.

In the meantime, prepare the glaze by simmering all the ingredients for 5 minutes.  Brush the cold buccellato with the hot glaze.  Decorate with candied cherries and ground pistachios.

This was very challenging, and interesting.  It wasn't as good as I'd hoped, although I got compliments on it and it was almost entirely consumed.  It's one of those things you learn and perfect by doing, year after year.  The filling might benefit from being made well in advance and being allowed to ripen, if it won't go bad.  The dough was VERY soft; the pinches did not stay deeply pronounced but were still very visible.  (The softening smoothed out most of my clumsy design work.)  It was also huge – 14" in diameter and several pounds.

Conclusion:  This was very European-tasting. It was impressive, but more trouble and expense
than it was worth.   Very rich and sweet, it might have benefited from some ice cream to cut the intensity.  If I made it again (unlikely), I would make the pastry barely sweet so it contrasted with the filling.  I might also use all butter, as the pastry wasn't very tasty.  (That rhymes.)  I'd probably play with the filling flavoring a little more as well.  One teaspoon of vanilla?  I doubt that made any difference.  A little anise might have been nice, though, a little more salt, and perhaps a stronger booze.     

Recipe:  Buccellato via Manu's Menu, also referencing this recipe at Cooking with Rosetta.

No comments:

Post a Comment