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Easter Sweet Bread from Civitavecchia




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Easter Sweet Bread
from Civitavecchia


The Italian Baker icon
by Carol Field, 1985, HarperCollins

“The sweet Easter bread of the port of Rome is always distinguished
not only by its slanting domed top but also by its unusual taste
derived from the Port, ricotta, and anise seeds that flavor it. This
makes extraordinary French toast.”

Makes 2 tall domed loaves

3 1/2 teaspoons active fry yeast or
1 1/3 small cakes (24 grams) fresh yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup (100 grams) bread flour

Stir the yeast into the water in a small bowl; let stand until creamy, about
10 minutes. Add the flour and stir vigorously to make a thick batter. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

3 1/4 cups (420 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) salt
4 eggs
9 egg yolks
1/3 cup (75 grams) ricotta, pressed
through a fine-mesh sieve
1/2 cup Port or rum
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons crushed aniseeds
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 sticks (225 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg white, beaten

By mixer only:
Beat the flour, salt, sugar, eggs, and egg yolks in a mixer bowl with the paddle until blended. Add the sponge and beat 6 to 7 minutes, half at
medium speed and half at high. The dough should be golden, springy and stretchy. Mix the ricotta, Port, aniseeds, lemon zest, and cinnamon and
beat into the dough. Cut the butter into 7 or 8 pieces and place on top of
the dough.
First Rise. Cover the dough, leaving the butter on top, with plastic wrap,
and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The risen dough should be soft
and very elastic. Beat in the butter by hand or with the dough hook until
the dough is quite smooth and no longer ropy, 3 to 4 minutes for the mixer.

Shaping and Second Rise. This sticky dough seems more like pound-
cake batter than bread dough. You can simply pour it into 2 well-buttered
2-quart charlotte molds or soufflé dishes, or, if you want to shape it before
you place it in the molds, flour the work surface and your hands well, place
a small mound of flour nearby, and shape the dough into 2 round loaves. Cover with a towel and let rise to the tops of the molds, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Baking. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg white. Bake 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees F and
bake 1 hour longer. The loaves will rise high above the baking dish like
a panettone, and the dome will always be tilted.

Note: To double the recipe, double all the ingredients, but use 20 egg yolks
and 7 eggs in the dough.

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