Twisted Bread Ring with Prunes and Marsala - Ciambella
Makes 1 Wreath-Shaped Bread
The windows of pasticcerie throughout Italy are filled with delirious displays of delicious-looking sweet things, but the real test is in the taste. My favorite pasticceria is still Sandri's on the main Corso Vanucci in Perugia. When I ask about particular ingredients for some of their pastries, I am always proudly told, Tutto fatto con burro (Everything is made with butter).
Some of my favorites are the dried prune pastries. In this version, inspired by Sandri's, a prune paste made with sweet Marsala wine fills the elegant-looking twisted bread ring known as ciambella.
2 cups pitted dried prunes (12 ounces)
3 tablespoons sweet Marsala wine
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 recipe Simply Sweet Dough
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
2 tablespoons turbinado (coarse brown) sugar
Put the prunes and Marsala wine in a food processor or blender and pulse to a smooth paste. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in the orange zest and set the mixture aside.
Lightly butter a baking sheet.
Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes, until smooth and no longer sticky. Roll the dough out into an 18-inch round.
With a rubber spatula, spread the prune filling evenly over the dough to within ½ inch of the edges. Starting at the side nearest you, roll the dough up tightly like a jelly roll, tucking in the ends as you roll. Pinch the seam closed and turn the roll seam side down.
Place the dough on the buttered baking sheet. Bring the two ends together to form a ring shape and pinch the ends firmly together so they will not come apart as the ciambella bakes. Cover with a clean towel and let it rise for 1½ hours, until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 375F.
Lightly butter the outside of a small metal or heatproof glass bowl, or spray with vegetable oil spray, and place it upside down in the center hole of the ring. Or use a piece of greased aluminum foil crumpled into a ball. (This will keep the hole from closing during baking.) Brush the ring with the egg wash and sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top. With scissors, make 1½-inch-deep slits all around the outside edge of the ring, 1½ to 2 inches apart.
With your hand, spread the pieces slightly apart and twist each piece to expose the cut sides. (See pictures on pages 94 and 96 of WHAT YOU KNEAD illustrating the technique for creating the finished ring.)
Bake the ring on the middle rack of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until nicely browned on the top and bottom. Let the ring cool slightly on the baking sheet for 5 minutes. Carefully remove the ramekin or foil, then, with a metal spatula, transfer the ring to a rack to cool slightly.
This is best served warm. Once cooled, it can be frozen, well wrapped in foil and then in a plastic bag, for up to 2 months. Thaw, unwrapped, and serve at room temperature.
This recipe is from WHAT YOU KNEAD by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1997.
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