It is Bread Baking Babes bread of the month time again and this month I picked the bread we all baked. Easter is celebrated this weekend so it seemed fitting to choose an Easter bread. I picked Ciambella Mandorlata, an Italian Easter bread. Ciambella Mandorlata originated in Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region. It is typically baked in the shape of a twisted ring. The ring shape of the bread is supposed to represent the unity of the family.
The name is self explanatory if one knows Italian. Ciambella describes any ring shaped cake and Mandorla is the word for almonds. So this ring shaped bread has a soft brioche-like texture and is decorated with a crunchy sweet cinnamon spiced almond topping. Though baked for Easter, it is generally eaten throughout the year, and mostly at breakfast.
This recipe for Ciambella Mandorlata is adapted from my copy of Ultimate Bread by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno. It is an enriched yeast dough and really quite easy to make. Traditionally, the dough is shaped into two long ropes and twisted together. The ends are pinched together to fashion a ring shaped bread. I did see a couple of Ciambella that were braided into a ring as well.
This bread can also be baked as a loaf. According to Guiliano Hazan, his grandmother always baked her Ciambella as a loaf. Apparently there’s a saying in Italian and quoting Hazan, for when things don’t always work out, “non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco, meaning “not all ciambelle come out with a hole.” He also says that Ciambella keeps well for as long as a week.
This recipe makes a largish ring or loaf of Ciambella, ot two smaller rings. The full recipe is a bit too much for the two of us but luckily, I have family living very close by. They’re always happy to share my bakes. A half recipe would make a ring that would see us through two days.
Beth Hensperger suggests having this bread with jam and Italian Roast coffee. We topped our slices with strawberry jam and had it with a cup of Indian filter coffee and it was pretty good. My husband was asking me the next morning if there were any leftovers that he could have with his evening coffee!
The recipe below is the adapted version of the original. I used a little less butter (100gm instead of 9 tbsp) and reduced the eggs from 3to 2. I used all-purpose flour instead of bread flour. The book suggested blanching and toasting the almonds which I didn’t bother with. It seemed too much work especially since the almonds were getting baked anyways.
I added 1/2 tsp each almond extract and lemon extract to the dough for a deeper flavour. Instead of using an egg wash which I don’t like, I used a mixture of cornstarch and water. Then I sprinkled the cinnamon sugar and chopped almonds over this. Lightly pressing in the almonds made sure they stuck to the dough.
Let me also add a few words about proofing times. The recipe says the first rise will take 4 hours. Summer is here and my days (and nights) are quite hot. My dough had doubled in 2 hours. So you might want to make adjustments depending on the ambient temperature where you live. Finally, there is the possibility of the bread browning very quickly while baking. If this happens, tent the bread with aluminum foil to prevent the top from burning.
The Bread Baking Babes (BBB) is a closed group, but you’re most welcome to bake with us as a Bread Baking Buddy. Bake this month’s bread using the above recipe. Post it on your blog before the 28th of this month. Mention the Bread Baking Babes and link to her BBB post in your own post. Then e-mail Tanna with your name and the link to the post, or leave a comment on her blog post with this information.
For the dough:
- 2 tsp dry yeast
- 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup sugar
- grated zest of 3 lemons
- 100 gm unsalted butter soft at room temperature
- 2 eggs beaten lightly
- 1/2 tsp almond extract
- 1/2 tsp lemon extract
- 1/2 cup water
For the topping:
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 3/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
- 2 + 2 tbsp A mixture of cornstarch and water or 1 egg yolk
For the Dough :
- You can knead the dough by hand or in a machine. As always, I use my food processor on low speed and finish off the kneading by hand.
- Mix the yeast and the milk in a small bowl. Let it stand for 5 to 10 minutes till frothy. Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the butter, eggs, extracts and dissolved yeast.
- Mix in the flour from the sides of the well. Add the water, a little at a time, till a soft, sticky dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead until the dough is smooth, springy, and elastic.
- Shape into a round, and place in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat well. Cover loosely and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 4 hours (See my note above, about rising times). Deflate the dough gently, cover and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each piece into a 16-inch-long rope. Twist the two dough ropes together.
- Place the dough rope on a parchment lined baking sheet. Shape it into a ring by bringing the two ends of the rope together. Pinch them well to seal and cover loosely. Let the dough rise again until doubled in size, about 11 ⁄2 hours (once again, a reminder about my note on proofing times).
For the Topping:
- Mix the cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and egg yolk in a bowl. Use a rubber spatula or brush to spread the mixture evenly over the top of the ring. If you don’t like using egg on top of your breads like me, leave out the egg yolk. Instead brush the cornstarch mixture on top of the ring. Then evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar nut mixture over this. Gently press in the nuts using the tip of your fingers. Be careful not to deflate the dough.
- Bake at 200C (400F) in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until it is golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Check after 15 minutes. If the bread is browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil.
- Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Serve with jam and coffee.
The Bread Baking Babes are –