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.
The Bread Baking Babes are –