Pantramvai may look like ordinary raisin bread, but there's one major, noticeable difference: It's loaded with raisins. In fact, the loaf's about half flour, half raisins.
I first read about this Milanese bread in Carol Field's wonderful baking book, The Italian Baker. Fields calls pantramvai ("pane tramvai"), or Tramway bread, as it's known, “outrageously delicious.”
It's also outrageously easy to make and ideal for a beginner baker or anyone who doesn't have fancy kitchen equipment—a pair of hands is all you need.
Born in a bakery in Monza, on the outskirts of Milan, at the turn of the century, pane tramvai is called so because the bakery was at a tram stop for a long and slow (it went about 9 miles per hour) steam tram that took people to and from work in the centre of Milan. To keep hunger at bay, this fruit-filled bread was breakfast for many a commuter. In fact, it was often bought together with the tram ticket.
After World War II, and with the advent of technology, that old, slow tram disappeared—and with it, its namesake bread almost did, too. But it was saved for the fact it was so loved. Today, a large number of bakeries in both Monza and Milano make pantramvai. It's story and heritage are so proudly protected a committee was established to oversee the production of this specialty. If you want to sell pantramvai in your bakery, you need authorization from the Technical Committee of Master Pastry Chefs of Brianza (the area of Monza) first. They also maintain a list of bakeries where you can find the real deal.
Enriched with an enormous quantity of raisins, there's a mandatory proportion of at least 40% raisins to bread dough. The sweetness of the fruit is balanced with the slight bitterness of the dark brown crust—which means, it's essential to brake the bread until it's well-done.
Pantramvai keeps very well. If you can manage to wait as long as a week (highly unlikely), you'll find out it's still just as soft and delicious as when it came fresh out of the oven.
- 1 1/2 cups (250 grams) raisins
- 2 teaspoons (6 grams) active dried yeast
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon softened butter
- 2 cups (250 grams) flour (I used stone-ground, unbleached all purpose flour), plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Tell us: Have you had pantramvai before?