Sweet Italian Easter bread

Gubana is a half brioche, half strudel from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. It's traditionally eaten after Lent.
Sweet Italian Easter bread

Sweet Italian Easter bread

Ben Dearnley
1H 10M
2H 10M

As Pasqua (Easter Sunday) approaches, rich, eggy breads grace breakfast and lunch tables to celebrate the end of the Lenten fast. This mesmerising snail-shaped cake from Friuli-Venezia Giulia – half brioche, half strudel – is traditionally filled with a crumbly paste of walnuts, raisins, pine nuts, lemon and vanilla in proportion of decreasing quantities. Other additions of dried fruits and liqueurs is what sets one gubana apart from the next. The filling here (adapted from Colman Andrew’s The Country Cooking of Italy) is a long list of ingredients but each one plays its part in creating a rich, intensely-flavoured cake. The caramelised sugar crust on top and dousing a wedge in grappa (which tradition calls for) puts this cake on an all-year-round list, not only Easter.

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1.For filling, pulse nuts and amaretti separately in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Combine with dried fruit, orange peel, chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, zest and liqueur, in a large bowl; stir to form a coarse, crumbly paste. Set aside for 1 hour or overnight. Just before using, add egg and stir well to combine.
2.For dough, combine flour, sugar, yeast and 1 tsp salt in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Whisk eggs, milk, vanilla seeds, and zest in a separate bowl, gradually add to flour mixture, mixing on medium speed, scraping down sides of bowl occasionally, until dough pulls away from side (1–2 minutes). Beat in butter, a little at a time until dough is smooth and glossy (4 minutes). Form into a round, transfer to a bowl, lightly greased with butter, cover, and set aside in a warm, draught-free place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).
3.Grease a 25cm springform tin with melted butter. Knock down dough with fist and knead on a lightly floured work surface for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Roll out to 1 cm thick to form an oval about 40cm wide x 50cm long. With long side facing you, spread filling over dough, leaving a 3cm border. Starting from one corner, roll dough up diagonally into a tight log and pinch ends to seal. With seam face down, wind log into a loose spiral, with sides touching. Finish by tucking tail underneath. Transfer to tin, cover and rest in a warm place until risen by about one third (about 1 hour).
4.Preheat oven to 180°C, brush top with eggwash, form one hand into a funnel and use to sprinkle over sugar in a spiral and bake for 20 minutes. Reduce temperature to 160°C; bake until top is dark golden and bread sounds hollow when tapped on base (45-50 minutes). Cool in tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. Cut into wedges to serve. Drizzle with extra liqueur, if desired. Best enjoyed on day of baking. Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days and warm in low oven.

Prunella Mandorlata, an almond and plum liqueur, is available from Italian wine stores. If unavailable, substitute amaretto or dark rum.


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