Gubana: Sweet Italian Easter Bread

March 30, 2010

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Do you know what I’ve been doing the past couple of weeks instead of doing my homework?

(Jeez, when was the last time I used the word ‘homework’! Like so totally cool right?! But I digress).

Anyway, I’ve been researching Easter foods! Gawd, I’m such a dag. Serious nerd territory here, but I have an endless geeky fascination with who ate what during religious festivals and holidays. To be honest, I wish I was learning about what ancient civilians ate and drank and how they partied instead of Roman military history. Sigh.

 

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In any case I wanted to learn more about Easter foods past the de rigeur chocolate eggs and hot cross buns (though these buns have a pretty interesting history itself). Listen up my faithful students, because for this lesson, we are travelling to Northeast of Venice for a slice of Gubana.

Gubana is somewhat an Italian version of babka or kugelhopf. A curiously dense, almost dry cakey brioche-type bread with a filling of chocolate, raisins, nuts and booze. Awesome.

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This traditional Easter bread hails from the Natisone Valleys to the east of Cividale del Friuli; a region northeast of Venice near the Austrian and Croatian borders. Thank you Google for making me sound geographically brilliant! Random fact about moi, it is Italy and in particular, around the Northern regions that I want to spend the rest of my life in; eating, getting fat and drunk on wines and grappa.

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Want more Google magic for your buck? How about a historical story?

“A tale is told about a poor mum living in the Natisone Valleys who had nothing to sweeten the Christmas meals with. So she prepared for her children a cake made with what she had at home: flour, eggs, walnuts and honey. The regional tradition requires the “Gubana” as an unfailing presence for the high festivities, such as Christmas and Easter but also for wedding banquets; the bride and bridegroom used to present every guest with this delicious cake. The “Gubana” is a very well-known confectionery speciality, which was born in the green valleys the Natisone river runs through, creating a landscape of rare beauty a few kilometers east of Udine. The term “Gubana” is a Slovenian word deriving from “gubat”, which means “to roll up”. In the local dialect it is called “Gubanza”, which became “Gubana” in Italian.”

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Thank you Google for writing most of my post! Now in my own intelligent and eloquent words; straight out of the oven, this sweet Italian bread kicks some serious boozy Easter ass.

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Gubana

Handy printable!

Bread

125ml milk
320g plain flour
14g instant dried yeast
60g caster sugar
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1 tsp finely grated lemon rind
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt
60g unsalted butter, softened

Filling

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 cup 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

Method

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.

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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.

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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.

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Adapted from The Italian Baker by Carol Field