Makes 1 Large Ring-Shaped Loaf
Torcolo is the classic sweet bread of Perugia made on January 29th to commemorate the feast of its' patron, San Costanzo. It is also a tradition for a man to give this bread to his lover. The story goes that if the statue of San Costanzo winks at you on the day the bread is presented, a couple will marry within the year. It would be nice to speculate that this is true, and that the breads ring shape is symbolic of the wedding ring, but even if this is not the case, it is easily made for any occasion in a stand mixer. The dough is very heavy and laden with citron, raisins and anise seeds. The dough can also be made by hand in a bowl. Start the process early in the day.
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup warm milk (110 F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs, slightly beaten, plus 1 yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely diced citron
1 tablespoon anise seeds
1/4 cup pine nuts
Grated zest of 2 large lemons
6 cups (approximately) King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover them with water. Let them soak for 30 minutes to plump them, then drain off the water, mince the raisins, and set aside.
Pour the milk into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk and quickly whisk it to dissolve the yeast. On low speed blend in the butter, sugar, the whole eggs, salt, citron, raisins, anise seeds, pine nuts, and zest. Begin adding 1 cup of the flour at a time on low speed and blend the mixture well before adding the next cup of flour. Continue adding flour until the dough forms around the paddle and leaves the sides of the bowl. Do not add so much flour that the dough will be tough and too dry. It should not be sticky on your hands but just feel slightly tacky.
Remove the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough with your hands several times to form it into a ball. Put the dough in a large buttered bowl and cover it tightly with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a not-too-hot-area, (75 F is ideal), until it is doubled in size; this could take 2 to 3 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Butter a 9- 2-inch ring mold and set aside.
Punch down the dough with your fists. Transfer the dough to a work surface and roll it into a 23 or 24-inch long rope. Bring the two ends together, pinching them closed and place the dough in the prepared mold. Cover with a clean towel and let rise for 30 minutes. If you do not have a ring mold, place the dough on a greased baking sheet and place a well-greased 2 1/2- to 3-inch round oven proof dish in the center of the dough to keep its shape while baking.
When ready to bake, beat the remaining yolk with a fork; use a pastry brush to paint the top of the bread; this will give the finished bread a nice shiny look.
Bake the bread for 30 to 40 minutes or until the bread is firm to the touch and sounds hollow when tapped. You can also insert a cake tester into the center of the bread and if it comes out clean, the bread is baked. If the top browns too fast while baking, cover it loosely with a piece of aluminum foil.
Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Use a butter knife to loosen the sides of the bread from the mold. Invert the mold and remove the bread to a cooling rack. Allow the bread to cool completely. If the bread was baked on a baking sheet, carefully remove the greased bowl in the center before transferring the bread to the cooling rack.
The recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN UMBRIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2002.
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