Let's Cook with Meg and Ted


This is a traditional sweet easter bread from Friuli, in north-eastern Italy, with a nutty, alcoholic filling. {Update (June 2004)! Marko emailed me, letting me know that gubana actually originated in Slovenia. The Slovene name, gubanca, means 'wrinkled'. Marko has sent me a traditional recipe for gubanca which looks fantastic, and includes walnuts, chestnuts, raisins, pine nuts, almonds, marjoram and various spices. I'll try it soon and report.}

I combined aspects of various recipes I found on the web to make this, using primarily this one for the dough and this one for the filling. I thought that I had rum and marsala in my cupboard but was wrong, so I substituted a combination of grappa, amaretto and cointreau in the filling and it tasted great. I expected that this would be a bread which was best eaten on the day it was made, but I actually found that I really prefered it the next day. Perhaps that was because the memory of coddling this bloody dough like a baby for six hours was starting to fade, so I didn't have such high expectations. I am trying to cultivate the art of yeast cookery, and I must admit I was squealy and thrilled when I saw how much my sponge had risen, but I'm just glad that I made this on a rainy public holiday, so I didn't actually mind being tied to the house all day.

Anyway, tired, but very triumphant, I present: gubana! This recipe makes one loaf, about 8 inches in diameter.

1/3 cup milk, warmed to body temperature
10 g active dry yeast (about 1.5 normal sachets)
generous 1/2 cup plain flour

1 large egg
1 egg yolk
generous 1/4 cup sugar
1 or 2 tablespoons milk
2 cups plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
grated zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
50 g butter, at room temperature, cut into 1 cm cubes

90 g raisins
1.5 tablespoons Malaga or Marsala
1 tablespoon grappa
1 tablespoon rum
1 tablespoon amaretto
120 g hazlenuts, toasted, skinned and chopped
50 g walnuts, toasted, skinned and chopped
30 g pine nuts
20 g almonds, blanched, skinned and chopped
4 large dried figs, chopped quite fine
40 g candied orange peel, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
zest of 1 orange
1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
80 g brioche breadcrumbs
2 + tablespoons honey, to bind


1 beaten egg white
sugar for dusting

For the sponge, pour the warm milk into a large bowl and stir in the yeast. Let stand for about 10 minutes, then stir in the flour with a wooden spoon, until smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm room for 30-60 minutes.

Mix the egg, egg yolk, sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk into the sponge. Then add the flour, salt, lemon zest and vanilla and stir until smooth. Add another tablespoon of milk if necessary to form a rough dough, then turn out onto a board and knead for about 6-8 minutes until velvety and supple.

Place the dough in a lightly buttered bowl. Place the cubes of butter on top of the dough. (The butter could have been kneaded in at this stage, but this can inhibit rising. This way, it will be soft and in place to incorporate into the dough at the next stage.) Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 2 to 3 hours.

To make the filling, first soak the raisins in the alcohol mixture while chopping the nuts, figs and peel. Then combine all ingredients together and mix well.

Gently incorporate the butter into the dough, then turn it out onto a well-floured surface. Roll it out into a rectangle about 18 by 12 inches. Spread the filling over this rectangle, leaving a 1 or 1.5 inch border around the edges. Brush the border with the beaten egg white. Grasping one of the long sides, roll up the dough into a long jam-roll shape (this is easier to do with two people but can be done by one). Fold the ends of the dough under this log shape and pinch the ends closed. Twist the log into a tight spiral - a snail shape. Gently lift the spiral into a buttered 8-inch cake pan with deep sides (alternatively, one of the websites linked to above says it's ok to just bake it on a baking sheet - the dough will just spread more out than up). Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let it rise until well puffed but not yet doubled in size, about 2 to 2.5 hours.

Heat the oven to 190C. Brush the top of the risen dough with the remaining egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Poke 8 holes deep into the spiral with a skewer or cake tester to let out air and alcohol while cooking. Bake the dough for 20 minutes, then turn down the oven to 160C and bake a further 25 minutes, until the top of the dough is golden brown. Let the bread sit for 5 minutes, then unmould and let cool completely on a wire rack.

24 December 2003

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