Ciao Italia: My Lifelong Food Adventures in Italy
Mary Ann's newest book contains over 150 recipes, 60 gorgeous food photos, and many scenic pictures of Italy taken by Mary Ann on her travels through the years.
Makes 4 Small Ciambelle
In the southwestern-most corner of Umbria in the town of Otricoli, a special ciambella, ring-shaped bread, said to have its origins among the poor, is made to honor Saint Joseph for his intercession in multiplying the townspeople's grain harvest and thereby saving them from famine and death. So on his feast day, March 19th, and also at Christmastime, the ciambelle are made in abundance and distributed to everyone along with cooked fava beans in celebration of this miracle. Flavored with anise seeds, they resemble large bagels and are boiled then baked, resulting in a chewy texture that is just right for accompanying soups, stews, or eaten plain as a snack.
1 1/4 cups warm (100 F) water
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup dry white wine such as Orvieto Classico at room temperature
2 tablespoons Filippo Berio Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds or 1 teaspoon anise extract
5 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Pour the water into a large bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast and allow it to proof or get chalky-looking, about 5 minutes. Stir in the wine, olive oil, salt, and anise seeds. Mix well by hand or use the paddle blade on the stand mixer to blend to ingredients.
Begin adding the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. If using the stand mixer, beat each cup of flour in before adding another. This is a soft and silky dough and 5 cups should be just about the right amount. If the dough is still sticky after 5 cups, gradually add in 1 tablespoon flour until the right consistency is obtained. The dough should come away from the bowl with ease.
Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead it with your hands for 2 or 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces and roll each piece into a 12- or 14-inch long rope. Bring the two ends together and place the ciambelle on a clean towel. Allow them to rise covered for 30 minutes. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to the boil. Boil the ciambelle one at a time and when they bob to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them on a towel-lined baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 375 F.
Remove the ciambelle from the towel-lined baking sheet and space them evenly on the parchment-lined sheet. Bake the ciambelle for 35 to 40 minutes or until they are golden brown. Transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Variation: Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and roll each one into a 12- to 14-inch long rope. Use two ropes to make a braid; pinch the ends together and continue as above for the recipe. Or divide the dough into small orange-size pieces and make ciambelline, mini ciambelle.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN UMBRIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2002.