We are on a road trip!
Tonight, we are in the inland town of Gundagai. First stop in what is shaping up to be a trip through historic inland towns and villages.
I haven’t driven our car for weeks, and for at least a couple of months before that, since I prefer to walk or take public transport to get around our patch of inner Sydney. It took a while to get used to the manual gears, the road, other cars, but then I settled back into familiarity with our good little car, and we were away, to quieter and greener places.
When I was not driving, I nibbled on a slice of gubana.
Gubana. A special Easter cake/bread I stumbled across almost by accident. I made the recipe, and found the flavours intriguing, lingering, in a way that says old fashioned good things. Bread-like, not quite as rich as brioche or challah, crammed full of walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, chocolate, hazelnuts, and more. The bread is almost like panettone, and filling is so flavoursome, with a lingering sweetness that comes from dried fruit rather than sugar.
Then, I began to read about its origins, and I was hooked.
This is a short post, since I am typing on a tablet in a quaint B&B that used to be a Methodist church, nibbling on complimentary chocolate and port. So I’ll let others tell you about this fabulous bread.
Just as the German city of Dresden is forever tied to Stollen, the city of Cividale del Friuli is firmly connected to Gubana. This sweetly stuffed, spiraled cross between bread and a cake originated in neighboring Gorizia and over the border of Slovenia, but Cividale is its true home.
Considering that this sliver of Italy lies along the border of Slovenia, it’s not surprising that this cake has more similiarities with cousins in Croatia and Slovenia than any cakes or sweet breads in other Italian regions.
Gubana is unique in both flavor and texture. Sweet butter is folded into the dough for flakiness, the milk and eggs yield a soft, pillow-y texture, and the “oompf” from the yeast lends a light, airiness. After rising, the dough is rolled out into a flat rectangle, and spread with delicious, grappa-spiked filling of chocolate, cocoa, raisins, orange zest, nuts and spices, rolled up into a long snake and then spiraled into a turban before baking. The truly Friulian way gild the lily is to anoint a wedge of Gubana with a small splash of local grappa.
Every city, every homemaker, will have the “original” recipe for Gubana and they will differ from town to town however, the origins are widely attributed to Cividale. In 1409 Gubana was listed as part of the menu’ during a dinner sponsored by the city in honor of Pope Gregorio XII. In numerous songs, telling the history of Friuli, the Gubana is mentioned as one of the specialty for celebrations. In many areas, brides will give pieces of Gubana instead of the confetti used in the rest of Italy.
The recipe I used comes from Carol Field’s book, The Italian Baker, and adapted by Citrus and Candy.
125ml C milk
320g plain flour
14g instant dried yeast
60g caster sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt
60g unsalted butter, softened
150g hazelnuts, roasted, peeled and finely chopped
50g walnuts, roasted and finely chopped
2 Tbl of pine nuts, roasted
80g plain Italian sweet biscuits (like savoiardi) or brioche crumbs
85g raisins, roughly chopped
1/4 C apricot jam
40g chopped glacé orange rind
finely grated rind of 1 lemon
1 Tbl dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbl sweet Marsala
1 Tbl Grappa
1 Tbl Amaretto
1 egg for eggwash
Place milk, 1 cup of the flour and yeast in a bowl and stir until smooth. Cover with clingwrap and in place in a warm, draught-free place for 10 minutes or until it becomes bubbly.
Place remaining flour, sugar, egg, egg yolk, lemon rind, vanilla and salt in a large bowl and stir. Add in the yeast mixture and stir until it forms a dough.
Add softened butter and knead into the dough with your hands until mixed.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic, adding extra flour if it starts to get too sticky.
Place into a greased bowl and turn to coat the dough. Cover with clingwrap and leave for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
For the filling, place all ingredients in a bowl and combine well.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to form a 25 x 45cm rectangle. Spread filling over the dough leaving a 3cm border.
Roll up the dough tightly lengthways to form a sausage shape and pinch the ends to seal.
Twist into a lightly greased 20cm springform tin to form a coil. Cover and leave for an hour, or until the dough has risen by a third. In the meantime preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat 1 egg for eggwash and brush the top of the Gubana and bake at 180°C for 25 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 150°C and bake for another 25 minutes or until a deep golden colour,
Turn out onto a wire rack to cool. Slice to serve. Store in airtight container.