Friday, April 2, 2010

Venetian Easter Bread

To celebrate Easter, Venetians eat a special bread called Focaccia Pasquale. The best one I ever had was made by Mr. Colussi, an awesome baker who still makes this tasty Easter treat, and despite its price (of which the locals complain constantly), it always sells like crazy. Mr. Colussi's pastry shop was one of my favorite destinations as a kid, only blocks from my home, his craft legendary, his pastries unforgettable (I remember thinking that I would be an overweight child if I were his daughter, stuffing my mouth constantly). One of my dreams is to learn the craft by working with Mr. Colussi before he retires for good, which might be soon. He has three daughters and sadly none of them is taking the craft in her hands, so he and his wife are still making people happy when they should be retired and enjoying their old age. He has been trying to sell his laboratory for years, and I guess he can't simply close it, it has meant everything in his life, it is his child, his soul is permeating every corner, like flour particles.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Last year for the first time I made the more traditional Easter bread shaped as a dove, or Colomba Pasquale. It turned out really tasty and beautiful. This year I plan to make another colomba, and when I saw a recipe for a Venetian fugassa posted by Paoletta, at Anice e Cannella, I decided to try it. Paoletta is always experimenting and finding great recipes on the wide web to keep us wanting for more. She recently posted this recipe not knowing whether it was truly for the Venetian focaccia so I was not only intrigued to try it but to taste it as well.

The bread takes more than half a day to make. I supposed it would be faster if the first two doughs are allowed to rise overnight in the refrigerator. The bread was super springy with a nice crumb and tasted very close to the traditional focaccia from Venice. It would make two small colombe and two small focacce. I was so tired the night I made it that I forgot to bake it before going to bed, luckily it was a super cold night so the bread rose very slowly and by the time I woke up it was perfect. I would make this bread again, but probably I would use the glaze I made last year as it was thicker and really tasty. If using an electric mixer I assume you can add all the ingredients for the third and final doughs at once, except the butter which has to be added after there is some gluten development. Adding the butter beforehand prevents the gluten from developing resulting in a very heavy bread with little holes.

Please read the instructions well, as this is a slow rising dough so you have to plan accordingly.

Focaccia veneta
adapted from Paoletta

575 gr bread flour
7 gr dry yeast (15 gr fresh yeast)
135 gr water
4 eggs
3 yolks
125 gr sugar
125 gr burro (50 gr of which melted)
10 gr salt

1 tablespoon of rum
zest of one lemon
40 gr candied orange zest
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or the seeds of one vanilla bean)

For the topping:
1 egg white
whole almonds
Cake pan with a capacity of 10 cups or two smaller ones.


Dissolve the yeast in 135 gr of warm water, add 125 gr of flour to make a smooth batter. Let rise one hour at room temperature.

Second dough:
to the sponge add one egg, mix well, then add 125 gr of flour, 10 gr of sugar and mix well. Let rise in a bowl for 1h30m.

Third dough:

Add in succession, mixing well after each addition:
1 yolk
20 gr of flour
10 gr of sugar
30 gr of flour
1 egg
30 gr of flour
15 gr of sugar
30 gr of flour, mix well.
Add slowly 50 gr of cooled melted butter. Add 15 gr of flour and mix to develop the gluten, 10 minutes. Cover and let rest for 2 and half hours. The dough should triple its volume.

Final dough:
Grind the orange peel and the lemon zest with 90 gr of sugar.
To the third dough add:
1 yolk
20 gr of flour
10 gr of the prepared sugar
1 yolk
20 gr of flour
20 gr sugar
1 egg
30 gr flour
30 gr sugar
1 egg
50 gr flour
30 gr sugar
Add the salt, then the rest of the flour saving few ounces for the final shaping. Before the final mixing add the rum and the vanilla. After the gluten has developed add the butter slowly, then mix until the dough is elastic and shiny. Turn the dough into a ball and let rest for 20 minutes. Butter one or two cake pans (depending on the capacity), divide the dough into two balls, shape again and add to the pans. Let rise in the pans for 3 or 4 hours. Brush the tops with the egg white, add the sugar and the almonds. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, lower the oven to 350 and bake until nicely brown and a tooth picks comes out clean or the dough has reached 180F, about 30 minutes.

Buona Pasqua!


natalia said...

Cara Laura buona pasqua a voi !! Dopo pasqua la proverò sounds goo d !

Simona said...

Ho visto l'invitante ricetta di Paoletta e anche la tua ricetta per la colomba e' molto allettante, ma credo che per quest'anno mi limitero' ad ammirare e applaudire dagli spalti, senza scendere in campo. Buona Pasqua!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

That bread looks fabulous! A delicious treat, I'm sure.

Happy Easter!



dsm said...

Laura, this bread looks absolutely delicious.
Nothing can beat home-made bread.
Love your blog and your photographs.
Happy Easter, Daniela

Julia @Mélanger said...

What a beautiful bread. I am almost knee deep in yeast baking this weekend. It's so rewarding and relaxing. I definitely want to try this recipe. Even if it takes a while!

bake in paris said...

Love the look of your Focassia. One of my all time favorites. And Happy Easter!

I hope your dream to work for Mr. Colussi will come true soon :-)

Sawadee from Bangkok,

Laura said...

Natalia, Buona Pasqua anche a voi! Spero che a Roma sia una bella giornata. Qui e' ritornato il freddo!

Simona, spero ti aggiungerai il prossimmo anno!

Daniela, thanks for stopping by. I hope you start your own blog soon!

Hi Rosa! Happy Easter to you as well! I hope it is warmer in Switzerland that here!

Julia, I am glad to know I am not the only one spending my weekend baking! Happy Easter to you too!

Kris, yes, I hope one day I will be working with Mr. Colussi, maybe next summer! Happy Easter to you as well!

Marcellina said...

What a labour of love! The Easter Bread looks gorgeous. You really must get around to learning from Mr Colussi because these traditions and recipe will otherwise be lost. The old people have such knowledge and wisdom.

Gaia said...

In ritardo, ma spero che tu abbia trascorso le feste in serenita'!

Laura said...

Marcellina, I agree with you about learning from the old. I hope that he feel the same about teaching to the young. Sometimes the masters are jealous of their recipes and won't teach them. One day I will hopefully work with him. I bet he doesn't even have a recipe book, he must have the recipes in his head.

Gaia, grazie per gli auguri. Abbiamo passato una bella giornata a casa di amici che hanno preparato l'agnello e altre bonta'. Le mie colombe sono state divorate, erano molto buone, e fatte con le uova delle mie galline! Spero che anche voi abbiate passato una bella pasqua.

natural selection said...

What a great story, it will be interesting thing to see what happens with this incredible bread. I have a feeling this tradition will go on in some way.
Thanks inspirational to say the least..
come over for some fish and a great movie trailer.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I hope that you'll like that carrot cake... What kind of restaurant are you working in?



Y said...

What an interesting bread, and the end result looks so beautiful. I'm bookmarking this and hopefully I'll get a chance to try it some time.

Laura said...

Natural selection, thanks for your visit! I will come by in few minutes!

Rosa, once I try few recipes I will post about the best one and the restaurant. It is small, but in town (I could bike there!), and the owner just bought a used 20QT mixer which will make my pastry making life so much easier!

Y, the bread is good, but the "colomba" from last year is even better. I just made is again for Easter and it was amazing. The focaccia is good but the colomba recipe has so much more butter and yolks, it is amazing!

Molly de Vries said...

Im so excited to be here, I am inspired to bake because of your beautiful post Laura. Is the a good bread for beginners that you recommend?

陳哲毓念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界 said...

阿彌陀佛 無相佈施


之為腥。所謂「葷腥」即這兩類的合稱。 葷菜
(重定向自五辛) 佛家五葷



興渠另說為洋蔥。) 肉 蛋 奶?!

念楞嚴經 *∞窮盡相關 消去無關 證據 時效 念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

不婚 不生子女 生生世世不當老師

log 二0.3010 三0.47710.48 五0.6990 七0.8451 .85
root 二1.414 1.41 三1.732 1.73五 2.236 2.24七 2.646
=>十3.16 π∈Q' 一點八1.34

Laura said...

I with I could read the last comment. Thanks for visiting anyway.

Molly, the knot bread is easier, this one is a sweet bread, not an everyday type of bread.

lisaiscooking said...

This is a beautiful bread! I'd love to try this some day.

Juliana said...

Wow, what a nice way to celebrate Easter...your bread looks delicious...and great pictures as well :-)

Valen said...

What delicious looking bread and what lovely photos!

Laura said...

Lisa, Juliana, and Valen, thanks for stopping by. The bread was delicious and to my surprise it stayed soft for a while and it was really good toasted as well.

Laura said...

Daniela, did you go to USC? Are you the same Daniela I used to know in LA? I hope you visit again and see the comment.

Jen said...

This bread looks so good, I can almost smell the wonderful aroma from here!


Related Posts with Thumbnails