With its characteristic snail shell-shape, the gubana is a traditional holiday treat from the very north-eastern corner of Italy in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and is especially famous in the area of the town of Udine. Considering that this sliver of Italy lies along the border of Slovenia, it's not surprising that this cake has more similiarities with cousins in Croatia and Slovenia than any cakes or sweet breads in other Italian regions.
Take Slovenian Potica or Croatian Povitica for example – yeasted dough is stretched paper thin (much thinner than the gubana's dough), then covered with a sweet paste made predominately from walnuts before being rolled into a log or a ring and baked.
This filling is a long list of ingredients that includes four types of nuts, raisins, cookies (or in some recipes, breadcrumbs), sweet wine, sugar and cocoa. In some cases, rum or grappa, honey and candied cedro also make an appearance. You'll only need a thin slice of this rich, satisfying treat to get you in the festive mood.
This recipe is adapted from Italian pastry chef, Luca Montersino's recipe for Gubana. —Emiko
For the dough:
(600 grams) bakers/strong/bread flour
(300 grams) cold milk
(180 grams) sugar
(15 grams) fresh yeast
egg, plus 1 extra egg yolk
5 1/2 ounces
(160 grams) butter, melted
Finely grated zest of one lemon and one orange
vanilla bean, split and scraped of seeds
For the filling:
(220 grams) raisins
(100 grams) sugar
(80 grams) peeled almonds
(80 grams) walnuts
(40 grams) hazelnuts
(30 grams) pinenuts
(60 milliliters) moscato, marsala or other sweet wine
1 1/2 ounces
(40 grams) butter
120 grams plain cookies (such as graham crackers), crushed
In a mixer, combine the flour, milk, sugar and yeast. Add the egg plus yolk and the butter, a little at a time until well incorporated. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and continue mixing until you have an elastic (but not dry) dough.
Set aside until the filling (below) is ready.
For the filling:
Lightly toast then roughly chop the almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pine nuts. Combine all the ingredients together in a food processor until you have a thick paste.
Roll the dough to a rectangular form until it is no higher than 1/2-1cm (about 1/4-1/2 inch) thick. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving an inch border around. Roll the dough up along the longest edge (see photo) into a log. Then roll the log around itself like a snail shell shape and place in a lined round tin. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
Brush with egg over the top if desired then bake at 350 F for 40-60 minutes or until dark golden on top and inside is fluffy and cooked.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.