Italian quick bread: Brazadela
This is a sort of quick bread that is traditionally made in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It is dense without being dry or crunchy, barely sweet and flavored with lemon zest. It is a rustic dessert that is part of the peasant cooking of the region and usually eaten at the end of festive meals, dunked in the local wine, Lambrusco. It is however very good dunked in milk or hot chocolate as well.
To celebrate special occasions such as weddings, there is still the custom in that region to bake several "brazadela" rings of decreasing sizes, packaging them together and giving them as presents to family and friends. It is shaped like a ring, and its name "brazadela" in the local dialect refers to its shape. The word brazadela in turn is the dialect correspondent of the Italian word "Ciambella" of the same meaning. Incidentally the word "ciambella" is the origin of the old English word "jumble" which used to indicate a ring-shaped cookie.
It should be made with Italian 00 flour, but I have made it successfully with American AP flour, unbleached, as well.
500 g Italian 00 flour
200 g granulated sugar + extra to decorate
100 g butter, unsalted, softened
3 eggs + 1 yolk
zest of 1 organic lemon
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup of milk, or as needed
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Sift the flour with baking soda and cream of tartar. Add the butter, sugar, salt, the beaten eggs and grated lemon zest. Knead, adding milk little by little (you might need a little more or less than indicated) until you have a smooth dough that is a little less stiff then pasta dough, supple and workable withut being sticky. An electric mixer works fine (with the dough hook) but is not indispensable.
Let the dough rest for 1 hour in a covered bowl, in a cool place. The rest period is important for the final texture of the bread and should not be skipped.
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or foil (lighlty grease the foil). Shape the dough on the cookie sheet in a ring, about 2 inches wide and with a diameter of about 10 inches.
Mix the yolk with about 2 tsp milk and brush the ring surface. Sprinkle generously with coarse granulated sugar and bake for about 35-40 minutes, until golden and cooked through. Tiny cracks will appear all over the surface. Let the baked ring cool on a rack.
It keeps for a long time in an airtight container or can also be frozen in freezer bags.
A note on the sugar: the sugar traditionally used in Italy to decorate this and other baked goods looks like small nuggets that are soft and melt in your mouth. I have never been able to find it in the US, if it is avalaible here I do not know. However, coarse granulated sugar works as well. Another possible substitute is made by crushing sugar cubes in a small plastic bag until they look like small nuggets and then sprinkling them on top of the ring before baking.