Saturday, January 7, 2012

Pane co' Santi {Saint's Bread}

This bread is typically made around All-Saint's Day in November, but really I think it's a lovely loaf year round.  I normally associate sweet or enriched breads with this "holiday", but that's not the case with this loaf.  The dough itself is a cinch to work with...it's totally the fruit and nuts that make it.  Bright bursts of sweetness from the yellow raisins and a triple-nutty punch that comes not just from the pecans and walnuts, but also seems to emanate from the olive oil that they were sautéed in.  

Tessa Kiros shares that while many think the name of this bread refers to the day on which you can usually find it popping up, others think it's so named because it is "only fit for a saint".  Another explanation...perhaps my favorite...is that the name refers to the ingredients (olive oil, walnuts, sultanas) as being saints themselves.  This is equally fitting served with your morning coffee or after a meal with a glass of Vin Santo.
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Pane co' Santi (Saint's Bread)

by Heather Schmitt-González (adapted from Twelve: A Tuscan Cook Book by Tessa Kiros)
Prep Time: 2½-3 hours
Cook Time: 45-50 minutes
Keywords: bake bread nuts raisins Easter Tuscan Italian

Ingredients (2 loaves)
  • 8.75 grams active dry yeast
  • 310 ml (1¼ c.) lukewarm water
  • 27 grams (2 Tbs.) superfine sugar + a pinch
  • ~500 grams (1 lb. 2 oz.) bread flour
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 60 grams (½ c.) yellow raisins
  • 62 grams (½ c.) pecans, chopped coarsely
  • 62 grams (½ c.) walnuts, chopped coarsely
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg yolk
  • splash of milk
Instructions

Stir yeast into water and a pinch of sugar in a small bowl until it looks a bit foamy, ~10 minutes.

Mix flour and sugar together in a large bowl. Pour in liquid mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon. Once it gets too stiff to mix, turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, ~10 minutes. Adjust by adding a touch more flour if dough is too sticky...or adding a bit more water if dough is too dry. You're looking for a texture that is slightly tacky, but not sticky at all.

Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a film of plastic or a clean kitchen towel. Let sit until doubled in size, ~1½ hours.

In the meatime, saute the raisins and nuts in a small pan with the olive oil over low heat until they just begin to turn golden in spots. Stir in salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and flatten it slightly. Spread the raisin-nut mixture over the top and knead gently to work in to the dough. Divide in half and form into two flattened rounds or ovals.
Place them on a lined baking sheet, cover with plastic and allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until slightly risen.

Preheat oven to 350° F during last 15 minutes of rise time. Remove plastic and beat the egg yolk with a splash of milk. Brush over the loaves.

Slide into oven and bake for ~45-50 minutes, or until golden. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

note
When kneading in the raisins and nuts, I recommend pushing any raisins that are sticking out back inside the bread before baking. Otherwise, the ones that are sticking out will turn puffy and black...as in little puffs of charcoal. Not too appetizing.
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