Sunday, 13 January 2013


This is the other traditional Italian Christmas bake, the more famous one being the panettone. Like in the case of panettone, it is matter of an enriched sweet dough, which technique has something to borrow from puff pastry making. It has a very characteristic starred shape, so first you will need a pandoro mould (sold by Bakery Bits): it is a bit pricey, but if you are to make this, it is really worth the investment. This is an amazing cake (well, more or less a cross between brioche and puff pastry), which is nto easy to do but it is very rewarding (hey! I won the Bake Off with that!).
The recipe I followed is a slight adaptation of the Giallo Zafferano one, which I will be translating into English here. I will link to the same images of the italian recipe so that it will be easier to follow.


Makes a 1kg Pandoro (but I found that a 750gr mould worked just fine) 

170 gr butter
450 gr strong bread flour
60ml milk + 3 tbsp
18 gr fresh yeast [or 3 1/2 tsp dry yeast]
1 tsp salt 
3 whole eggs + 1 yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract [actually, the recipe called for the seeds of a vanilla pod, but I never saw a pandoro with vanilla seeds, so I opted for extract instead]
125 gr caster sugar + 1tbsp


First you need to prepare the starter. In a bowl dissolve the fresh yeast with 60ml of lukewarm milk (1) , then add a tbsp of sugar (2), the egg yolk (3) [Seq 1] then add 50gr of flour (4) and mix it all together (5). [Seq 2] Cover with cling film and let it prove until doubled in size (more or less one hour).
Next, dissolve 3 gr of yeast in 3 tbsp of lukewarm milk and pour over the starter (6). Then add 100gr of sugar (7), one egg (8) and mix weel together, then pur the mixture over 200gr of the flour which you would have put into a large bowl (9) [Seq 3], then mix well with a wooden spoon. Add then 30gr of softened butter (10) and knead until the dough wil become smooth [My variation: from step 7 to 10 I put everything into a mixer with a bread hook and kneaded at medium speed for 5/6'.] Cover and let it prove intill it doubles in size (about one hour).
Next, add the remaining 200gr of flour (12) [Seq 4], two eggs (13), 25gr of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, vanilla extract and incorporate. Knead until you have a smooth and elastic dough [again, here I have used my mixer to incorporate the ingredients and then I have kneaded for 5']. Create a ball and put into a bowl greased with butter and prove until it double its size again. [Seq 5]. Next chill it in the fridge for ideally 8/12 hours, but as little as 40' if you are in a hurry [I tried both: the more it says in the fridge the smoother and pliable gets the dough, but I got very good results with 40' too, in the end].
When you take it out from the fridge, turn it out onto a lightly floured worktop and roll it out into a square (16), distribute the softened 140gr of butter (17), fold the four corners toward the centre in order to completely seal the dough (18) [Seq 6]. pay attention to seal properly the borders otherwise the butter could leak out (19). [My variation: I decided to follow other people advices and I have instead followed the same method as for doing puff pastry: I have put cold butter between two sheets of cling film, then I have pond it with the rolling pin and rolled into a rectangle, then folded into my pastry which was rolled into a rectangle double the length of the sheet of butter, one third at a time (see a similar method used here)]. Roll the pastry gently into a sheet of the same dimension as before the fold (20), then fold it in three (21) [Seq 7] e chill it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. Roll it then fold it again (22) and chill it again for 15-20 minutes. Do it three times in total; each time you put it in the fridge, put it inside a plastic bag (23). 
After the last chill, roll it again (24) [Seq 8] into a square, then fold the corners toward the centre (25), smooth the corners (26), then roll it over and shape it into a ball (27) [Seq 9]. Once the ball is formed (28) brush your hands with butter (29) and keep rotating the ball on the worktop (30) [Seq 10]. 
Grease with butter a pandoro mould of at least 20 cm high and with about 3l of capacity (31). Pot the shaped ball into the mould (32), cover with cling film, and let it prove until the dome will come out from the mould (4 to 5 hours). Toward the end of the proving time, heat the oven to 170 degrees, put a heatproof bowl with some water into the bottom of the oven and bake fro 15', then lower the temperature to 160 degrees and bake for other 50' [in my case after a while the dome had gain too much colour so i loosely covered it with some foil]. When ready, test it with a stick: if it comes out clean, then it is ready, otherwise bake for further 5' then test again. 
When you take it put from the oven, turn it onto a wired rack, take it out from the tin and let it cool. Dust it with icing sugar before serving. [Seq. 11]

Tip: I have discovered that it takes a bit of time for the pandore to release its lovely aroma, so make sure is completely cold before serving and ideally wait for a few hours. 

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Bulgarian baklava (egg variation)


  •           1 packet of phyllo pastry
  •           4 eggs
  •           1 cup sugar (brown or moderately sweet white)
  •          1 cup crushed walnuts
  •           1 cup plain flour
  •           3 tbsp melted butter
  •           1 tsp baking powder
  •           lemon zest (1 lemon)
  •           olive oil for greasing

For the syrup:
  •          2½ cups water
  •           2½ cups sugar (white)
  •           lemon zest (½ lemon)
  •           vanilla essence (few drops)


  1.  Preheat the oven to 200C (fan).
  2.  Grease the baking tin with olive oil.
  3.  Mix the ingredients in a bowl.
  4.  Separate the phyllo pastry into 4 parts. Put the first ¼ in the tin, greasing each pastry sheet. Spread approx. of the mixture on top of the pastry. Layer up the next part of the pastry the same way, then pour the next part of the mixture. The top layer of pastry should be greased well and sprinkled with sugar.
  5.  Cut into small rectangles/triangles.
  6.  Bake for 15-30 mins (depending on the oven), until golden on top.

NB! Burns easily.

The syrup:
  1.  Put the sugar and water on a slow fire until they boil. Leave them to boil for 30 mins, until the substance thickens. Test with basic physics – pour a teaspoon of the syrup on a cold saucer. If it doesn’t spill and remains in a drop, it’s ready.
  2.  Put in the lemon zest and vanilla, take off the fire and put the lid on.
  3.  Leave to cool down.
  4.  Pour the syrup over the baklava. Leave it to soak in well.

NB! Before pouring, one of the two has to be cold and the other one hot. Depending on your preparation, you could leave the syrup to cool down while baking the baklava, or vice versa. 

Focaccia Pugliese

Credit for this recipe goes entirely to Gabriella Lapesa, who thought me by example. As any recipe that comes from family and tradition, there are no exact measurements and I've pretty much made up my own. It might take a bit of practice to bake the perfect Focaccia Pugliese, but this tasty bread is hard to get wrong.

The focaccia lasts for about a day, it's great on its own with an olive oil dip, or as bread for sandwiches with mortadella - that's a bit of a Roman touch for you ;) Enjoy!


Strong flour - 500g
Sea salt - 2 Tbsp
Sugar - 1 Tbsp
Dried yeast - 7g (1 sachet). or about 20g fresh
Extra virgin olive oil - 2 Tbsp + drizzling
Cherry tomatoes - 5 or 6
Half onion
Fresh rosemary (or dried) - [Gabriella uses oregano instead]
A pinch of coarse sea salt

In a large bowl, put 500 grams of strong flour. Add the dry ingredients, sea salt, sugar and dried yeast.

Add 1 glass of water and start working the mixture with a fork. Add more water until you obtain a wettish dough. Add 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and work the dough with a fork for 2-3 minutes.

(If you use fresh yeast, use about 20g. Mix it in a glass of warm water and add to the mixture. Add more water if necessary.)

Cover the bowl and leave to raise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven at 220C. Cut the half onion in strips. In a lasagna baking dish, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil and evenly distribute the onions in the dish.

Pour the dough over the onions and spread it to fill the dish if necessary. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and stick each half in the dough, with the cut side up. Make sure to press the tomatoes in, so that they are not higher than the dough.

Drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil, break and add the rosemary leafs (to taste) and sprinkle with a pinch of coarse sea salt (getting a piece of focaccia with a large grain of salt on the top is one of my favourite things in the world).

Stick in the hot oven for about 30 minutes (a bit less if the oven is fan assisted) or until golden.

Wait for the focaccia to cool down a bit before serving.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Christmas Creatures

The pastry is actually for a more traditional French brioche-like bread. But around Christmas, the pastry takes the form of the small men/women we had at the bake off.

  • 500 g flour
    • make a well
  • 15 g of yeast
  • 3 dl of milk
  • a pince of sugar 
    • mix these three ingredients separately
    • add them to the flour
  • 60 g melted butter
  • 8 g salt
    • add to the four
    • mix and knead (between 15 and 30 min., the more the better)
    • while kneading add raisins or as variation chocolate chips (or both).
Rest the dough for 30 min. Then form the pastry to the shape you like. Rest the bread again for about 1 hour. Brush the top of it with beaten egg. Cook for 25-30 min. at 180°.