Friday, October 7, 2016

changing the topic

Draw a slit down the middle. Lengthwise. Not all the way through but deep enough so that the bottom remains intact and the top opens to welcome fresh whipped cream. I warn you, this can be a messy affair. Slurping your tongue around the corners of your mouth and licking your fingers a few times is part of the pleasure but, if you really think it’s necessary, you can always use a napkin. In any case, your instinct will drive you to a voracious bite and you won’t really care if it’s messy or not.

Soft, sweet, with bits of candied fruits and pine nuts, this bun is known in Rome as Quaresimale similar yet different than the well known Maritozzo, which I'm sure you may already know all about. This, is a treat you can find in Roman bakeries and cafes when entering the Lent season - the solemn religious observance that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends approx. six weeks later, before Easter. In Italian, Lent translates to Quaresima and from here the name Quaresimale. Now, I'm expecting the question and before you even ask, here's the answer.  The reason why I'm proposing this glorious bun of all sorts in October - when it's not even Christmas and far from Easter - is simple.

So, let me explain.

Every morning, for years, and more than once a day I go to my favorite cafe, Moma, right next door from where I work. The first morning stop is the one I prefer most because Pino, my favorite barman, makes a cappuccino that deserves a separate solemn observance just for that. Then, there's Franco, one of the owners, the man who makes all the pastries and cookies you see lined up on the counter every morning. The Quaresimale, which Franco makes year round, is my favorite, not too sweet, not too much candied fruit, not too many pine nuts.  Everything meets my morning desire in a bun made of two-three bites. He doesn't accompany it with whipped cream unless you ask for it. The thing is that no matter how many times I'd ask Franco for the recipe, he'd always end up changing the topic. Years have gone by and I still have not been able to get that recipe from him. The trick of changing the topic keeps distracting me and so you know what?  I made it a point to make my own Quaresimali and to then take a picture to show Franco. This is the picture I showed him and trust me they look just the same! So Franco looks at the picture and says "where did you get the recipe?" ...and I, well, I changed the topic :)

I have to admit that even if they do look the same, Franco makes them so delicious that I'd rather just eat his than make my own. So, for those of you that can't go to Moma, here's the recipe.


1/2 kg bread dough
a handful of raisins
2 heap tbsp pine nuts
1 heap tbsp candied orange peel, in small diced pieces
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 heap tbsp of powder sugar

Flatten the bread dough on a clean surface. Add the raisins, the pine nuts, the diced candied orange peel, the powdered sugar and the extra virgin olive oil.  Knead the dough to work in all the ingredients.  Divide the dough in small equal pieces, the size of a small bun.  Place them on a lined baking sheet, cover with a clean cloth and let them rest in a warm corner of your kitchen.  When they've doubled in size, bake in a preheated oven at 200ºC for about 20 minutes.

Glaze the buns hot out of the oven.

For the glaze, mix some powdered sugar in very little water, enough to dissolve the sugar,  Once you've glazed the surface, put the buns back in the still warm (but turned-off) oven.  Leave them in the oven just a few minutes, enough to dry the glaze.

If you decide to try these with whipped cream, allow the buns to cool completely before filling them with fresh whipped cream.

Or eat them as they are, nice a warm.

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