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The Capuchin Nun's Serpent

Serpentone Delle Monache Cappuccine

Makes 1 Large Snake

Serpentone, the serpent, is a sign of fertility and also a sign of a good and abundant harvest, and is another specialty of Perugia. They were originally made by Capuchin nuns who sold them to the public in order to get needed funds for their monastery. The dough is quickly made in the food processor or by hand. Other versions of this pastry are made with egg whites, sugar, and ground almonds and are called Anguille di Lago Trasimeno, Eels of Lake Trasimeno.

Ingredients

FILLING

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/3 cup dark raisins

3 tablespoons vin santo or brandy

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

5 dried figs, stemmed and diced

5 dried prunes, diced

2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon Filippo Berio Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 tablespoons sugar

DOUGH

1 cup warm (110ºF) water

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

2 tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

3 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour

DECORATION

1 egg, slightly beaten

2 coffee beans or candied cherries

1 whole almond

Coarse white sugar

Directions

Pour the water into a food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade or pour the water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and pulse or stir to dissolve it. Add the olive oil, salt, sugar and blend well. Pulse or stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time. Three cups should give you a non-sticky smooth dough; if the dough is too tacky, add a bit more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough is smooth and non-sticky.

Transfer the dough to a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm (75ºF), but not too hot area until it is doubled in size.

Meanwhile make the filling. In a small bowl combine the raisins and the vin santo or brandy and allow to soak for 30 minutes. In another bowl combine the walnuts, figs, prunes, apples, olive oil, and sugar. Add the raisins and all the liquid and combine well. Set aside.

Punch down the dough and transfer it to a work surface. Roll the dough out into an 18-inch circle and spread the filling ingredients evenly over the surface of the dough to within 2 inches of the edges. Roll the dough up on itself into a tight jelly-roll, tucking in the sides as you roll. Lift the roll and place it on the baking sheet. With your hands, create an "S" shape with the dough but leave the head larger than the tail area.

Insert the coffee beans or candied cherries into the head area to form the eyes. Use the almond for the tongue. Cover the serpentone with a towel and allow it to rise about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Brush the serpentone with the egg wash and sprinkle the sugar evenly over the dough. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes on the middle rack of your oven. If the top browns too much while baking, cover the dough loosely with a piece of aluminum foil. The serpentone is done when a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer the serpentone to a wire rack to cool slightly. This is best served warm.

This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN UMBRIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2002.

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