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Author Notes: There are various little tweaks and changes to the recipe for these sweet, small yeasted bun depending on where you look. Many Italian recipes specify baking for a very short period—6 or 7 minutes at most—in a very hot oven so that the buns retain their softness. But modern recipes call for baking in a moderate oven for 15 to 18 minutes, which I have found to be a bit more reliable (and they are still pillowy soft). Some include milk, some use just yolks, and most use a sponge (also known as a yeast starter). Although many of today's maritozzi are usually studded with just raisins, traditional recipes, such as the one from Roman cooking queen Ada Boni, also include pine nuts and candied orange peel. If you don't like candied fruit, use lemon or orange zest (or both) instead, fas Carol Field does in her maritozzi recipe in The Italian Baker. (She also has a great use for the water used for soaking the raisins: Add it to the yeast starter.)
You could also skip the glossy syrup top and simply dust with confectioners' sugar before serving. Either way, if you're going to do it properly, the best way to enjoy these is to split them open from the top, leaving the bun attached at the bottom like a hot dog bun and then filling them generously with freshly whipped cream. And your Roman breakfast is ready.
This recipe is inspired partly by Ada Boni's maritozzi recipe in Il Talismano della Felicita and partly by Carol Field's recipe in The Italian Baker. Neither specify the use of whipped cream in the buns, but it is the way you popularly find them in Roman cafés and it is undoubtedly the best way to enjoy them.
Note: You can double this recipe, but double all the ingredients except the yeast, i.e. you only need 25 grams of fresh yeast to make 16 of these buns. If you are using more than one tray to cook these, I recommend baking only one tray at a time and placing it in the middle of the oven. Also, for images on how to shape these buns, this blog post from Bread Cakes and Ale is perfect: https://breadcakesandale... —Emiko
Makes: 8 buns
For the buns:
ounces (25 grams) fresh yeast (or 7 grams or 1 teaspoon dry yeast)
cup (about 60 ml) water
cups (7 ounces or 200 grams) flour, plus more for dusting
tablespoons (50 grams) sugar
cup (50 grams) butter, softened
Pinch of salt
tablespoons (about 70 grams) raisins, soaked in warm water for 10 minutes, then drained and pat dry
tablespoon pine nuts (optional)
tablespoon candied orange peel, finely chopped (optional)
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
Fresh cream, whipped to stiff peaks (you will need about 2 to 3 tablespoons per bun), optional
- In a wide bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside 10 minutes. Add 50 grams of the flour and combine to create a smooth paste. This is the yeast starter or sponge. Cover with a tea towel and let rest 15 to 20 minutes in a warm spot where it should create plenty of bubbles.
- Place the remaining 150 grams of flour into a large, wide bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast starter, egg, butter, sugar, and pinch of salt. Combine the ingredients by whisking with a fork from the center outwards, incorporating the flour bit by bit. You want a manageable but soft dough that's not too sticky or too dry (I read many accounts that said they needed to add more water to Ada Boni's recipe; I needed to add more flour). Turn onto a well-floured surface and knead until you have a very smooth, soft elastic ball of dough, about 8 minutes. You can also use a mixer for this procedure.
- Place the ball in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let rise/rest in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Carefully turn the ball onto a floured surface, flatten the ball into a rectangle and add the raisins, candied peel, pine nuts, and lemon and orange zests. Roll the dough from the short end. Flatten again and roll from another side. The raisins should be somewhat evenly distributed.
- Now divide the dough into 8 even balls (weigh them if you want to be precise and have them come out all the exact same size, roughly 2.5 to 2.8 ounces or 75 to 80 grams each). Rolling them into small oval shapes, place them one by one onto a baking sheet layered with baking paper, leaving plenty of room between each bun. Let them rise for 30 minutes in a warm spot away from drafts, covered with a tea towel.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C) and cook for 10 to 15 minutes or until puffed and just golden on top and bottom. They should remain soft and fluffy inside.
- While they are baking, you can make a quick syrup by boiling 2 tablespoons of sugar in 2 tablespoons of water just until dissolved. Brush this syrup onto the hot buns and let the syrup dry and the buns cool completely before splitting open and filling with freshly whipped cream.
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