The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Focaccia serba ai tranci - layered Serbian sweet focaccia

d_a_kelly's picture

Focaccia serba ai tranci - layered Serbian sweet focaccia

Earlier this week I noticed a post from JerryP about problems with a recipe from "Cresci": I'm very familiar with the book, but not with the recipe he mentioned. A sweet "Serbian" focaccia - though what is Serbian about it I'm not sure. Hopefully some fellow user of TFL can enlighten me!

For those not familiar with the book, the recipes in Cresci always call for vast amounts of flour, butter and yolk. This was actually one of the smaller ones (only called for 1200g of flour). Naturally I didn't use that amount! JerryP said that the dough always turned into a batter (something which has happened to me with other recipes from Cresci).

The instructions were vague in the extreme "mix all the ingredients together to make a medium firm dough, then place in the freezer for an hour. When it is firm, roll out to 4mm, cut into 3 sheets, layer with the filling and leave to rest for 30 minutes before cooking for 30 minutes at 180C."

The recipe (for the dough) was as follows:

milk (at 30C)  300g

fresh yeast 80

sugar 420

yolk 360

butter 700

00 flour 1200

vanilla pod 1


My first thought was that there was a problem with the English translation of the book. No bulk fermentation? No instructions on how to make the dough? No biga or preferment? No indictation of flour strength? No salt?? It all seemed very strange, so I asked someone in England to dig out my copy of Cresci and email me the original Italian version of the text. Most unfortunate: there's no problem with the translation, the instructions are quite simply incomplete, maybe even just wrong! Not a good thing for a book which costs £80.

I first tried making the dough with a medium strong flour, but while not a batter, gluten formation was poor and the dough was extremely greasy and unpleasant. It seemed to be weeping butter. It went in the bin :(

For my second attempt I used a w330 professional grade 00 flour which I found in a local supermarket here in Perugia. They only sell it in 500g bags and yet it's more expensive than the 1.5kg bags, but it produces a wonderfully resilient dough and has amazing absorption abilities. 

milk 69

fresh yeast 19

sugar 96

yolk 82 (about 5 eggs)

butter 159

00 flour 275


This time I mixed together the milk, yeast and sugar, and then added the flour. I worked it for quite some time, but gluten development seemed quite poor. Eventually it started to detach from the sides of the bowl, at quite point I started to add the butter, very very slowly. The finished dough was pleasingly extensible and elastic, but also quite soft and slightly greasy to the touch. I left it to bulk ferment at about 25C. It took at least 4 hours to double in size - proof I think that the 30 minutes mentioned in the book as the only proof is grossly inadequate!! I ran out of time so I put it in the freezer overnight. I think the dough would have been better if I had left it to triple in volume, which I will next time.

The next morning I rolled out the dough to 4mm and cut it into 3 sheets. The dough became very soft, very quickly, but it's very hot here at the moment. 

I scaled down the filling to an amount which seemed appropriate. I got lucky, it produced just the right amount! The original recipe calls for ground walnut, which I didn't have, so I substitued ground almond and used crushed walnut pieces for flavour and texture.

ground almond (walnut) 100

smooth apricot jam 57

egg white 43

sugar 57


Mix the almond and the jam, and then make a stiff meringue with the egg and sugar. Fold the meringue into the jam mixture in 3 goes. Put half the mixture on the first piece of dough and level. Put another piece of dough on top, cover this with mixture, and top this off with the last bit of dough. I then brushed this with egg wash. 

The book called for a 30 proof at this point, but I left it for closer to an hour. Then into the oven at 190C for 22 minutes. I was worried at first because there seemed very little oven spring, and have little growth in general, but at about the halfway point, it suddenly grew beautifully in the oven. 

Once out I had to tidy up the edges, the entire thing had spread and almost exploded! A frame would be very helpful. Then a quite brush on top with warm apricot jam.

I had to change the glaze from that in the book because I don't have cacao paste. So I made this:

dark chocolate 70% 100g

icing sugar 80

butter 40

water c.10g

Mix all together to make an emulsion and then apply to top with a spatula.


A lovely snack, but what a pity the instructions are so incomplete! And I think it could use a least a little salt in the dough - even panettone and colomba have salt in them! I've already managed to give most of them away but I've kept two back for breakfast tomorrow. Yum yum.




isand66's picture

Wow...this looks amazingly good and I just gained a pound or for you...a few kilos reading your post!

Thanks for sharing David.

d_a_kelly's picture

A pleasure! Luckily I managed to give most of them away to a bunch of hungry Italians!!

Song Of The Baker's picture
Song Of The Baker

Hi David.  Being Serbian, I am a bit embarassed that I have never tried this sweet bread, or as we say, kolaci.  Thank you for opening my eyes to this recipe.  Perhaps there is a version in one of my grandmother's old recipe books.  The only ingredient I could even possibly think to be linked to Serbian specificaly, is the apricot jam.  Serbs love that ingredient in their sweets.

Looks great by the way.



d_a_kelly's picture

I can only assume that the author got the recipe from a Serbian baker... they love apricot in cakes here in Italy as well. There's a pastry chef in Naples who makes a panettone with candied apricot pieces, which to me sounds really delicious. My next challenge perhaps...

dabrownman's picture

i bookmarked this. Don't Know when i will get around to it but i will.  Nice job.

d_a_kelly's picture

Thank you. Good luck with it if you do find the time. I thought it was a little too sweet to be honest, so perhaps you might consider using less sugar (unless you have a real sweet tooth!).


evonlim's picture

 those heavenly slices of focaccia, are sweet little devils. never seen this version of focaccia. glad you shared this. 


d_a_kelly's picture

This was new to me as well - I've always just focused on the panettoni and colombe from Cresci - but I'll definitely try some of the other varieties now.


greedybread's picture

omg, i want to make it now:) but its 1am here in kiwiland and work calls.....but after work tomorrow...sweet serbian focaccia is on the Greedybread agenda!!

d_a_kelly's picture

I look forward to seeing it, greedybread!

annie the chef's picture
annie the chef

I can imagine heaven at the first bite of this wonderful Serbian sweet.

Thank you for sharing, David.


d_a_kelly's picture

A pleasure... sharing our experiences is what the site is for after all!