Pandolce, Sweet Braided Bread with Raisins. Soft and with the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread, Pandolce has all the fragrance and sweetness of a dessert. Also, great for breakfast, considering that raisins are very nourishing and make you start the day in the best way.
Song of the day: “home” – morgxn ft. WALK THE MOON
I am slowly getting closer to my return to Canada and to my husband. But first, there is still some more baking to do with and for my Italian family.
Easter is approaching fast and I am starting to think of recipes that are usually traditional for Easter in Italy. My mom’s handwritten recipe books are proving to be a treasure of recipes, some of which, my mom has never tried and she does not even remember where she got them from.
Pandolce: Pan(e)=Bread Dolce= Sweet
Pandolce, Sweet Braided Bread with Raisins, is something you would easily find on an Easter Sunday breakfast table in many Italian families. Simple, beautifully rustic, mildly sweet, it is the perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee and other sweet and savory delights.
After my parents tried a slice, the flavor and texture of this Pandolce triggered a memory of days long gone at the village where they are both from. Days where the smell of freshly baked bread and sweets permeated the alleys where kids played loudly, and women in aprons, strong hands, and big smiles chitchatted while working in their kitchens.
Although simple to make, Pandolce is not one of those fast baking projects, because, as a yeast bread, you have to give the dough time to rise. Twice. And knead it. Vigorously.
Whenever I can, I prefer to use fresh yeast, otherwise called baker’s yeast, or compressed yeast, but you can also use dry yeast. Fresh yeast has no artificial additives; it should be kept in the fridge and it lasts up to 4 weeks.
- For active dry yeast, you generally need to use half the quantity of fresh yeast. Active dry yeast must be hydrated in warm water/milk before being incorporated into a dough.
- For instant dry yeast, you need to use 1/4 of the quantity of fresh yeast. Instant yeast can be incorporated into the dough without first rehydrating it; however, it is sensitive to cold temperatures.
To me, kneading is therapeutic. If kneading by hand like me, lightly flour a work surface and knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until you have a smooth and elastic dough (this is the secret to obtaining a nice, soft, and well-risen yeast dough). The dough will be quite sticky, but try to avoid adding extra flour into it. It will become less sticky as it is kneaded. A bench (pastry) scraper can be helpful. If you use the dough hook of a stand mixer, it will take less time and the hook will do all the work for you.
Don’t be scared by baking with yeast!
Following the instructions on my mom’s book, I have made a braid with the dough, but you can also make different shapes or more complex weaves. I cut the dough ball into three parts, which I consequently rolled into 3 ropes, about 40 cm long, then I braided them into this bread.
Hope you are among the raisins lovers, like me. Here, raisins give a pronounced sweet note that makes it perfect for pairing with butter and jams.
Bring it to the table for an energetic breakfast, to start the day off right, or even as a snack, when the sweet craving hits. However, Pandolce, Sweet Braided Bread with Raisins is also excellent on a cheese platter, accompanied by seasoned cheeses and honey.
It lasts for a few days, and when it starts to lose its softness, it is outstanding toasted, or to make incredibly delicious French toast.
This Pandolce, Sweet Braided Bread with Raisins, is a traditional treat people in Italy would eat during the Easter holidays. Not only Easter Sunday, but also Pasquetta, Easter Monday, when Italians would pack it for a picnic outdoors.
Make it for your family, or if you’re hosting an Easter brunch. It looks impressive on the table and it tastes absolutely exquisite! The aroma for us Italian says Easter, and the rumble in our stomachs means we can’t wait to cut a piece and slather it with butter or jam! Once you have experienced this Pandolce, Sweet Braided Bread with Raisins, there will never be an Easter without it!
Song of the day: “home” – morgxn ft. WALK THE MOON
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Pandolce, Sweet Braided Bread with Raisins. Soft and with the wonderful aroma of freshly baked bread, Pandolce has all the fragrance and sweetness of a dessert. Also great for breakfast, considering that raisins are very nourishing and make you start the day in the best way.
- 500 g flour
- 25 g fresh baker’s yeast (12.5 g active dry yeast)
- 100 g sugar (I used granulated)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- the grated zest of 1 organic lemon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg, organic free range
- 80 g melted butter
- 250 ml lukewarm milk
- 125 g raisins
For the topping
- 1 egg, lightly beaten, to brush on top
- Sift the flour in a big bowl. Crumble the yeast in, mix, and open a hole in the center.
- In the center, add the sugar, vanilla, lemon zest, salt, 1 egg, the lukewarm melted butter. Work with a fork, slowly incorporating some of the flour on the sides.
- Slowly start pouring the milk, always working with the fork to incorporate all the flour.
- Once a ‘raggedy’ dough starts to form, pour it onto a lightly floured work surface and knead the dough for 10 minutes.
- Put the dough back in the floured bowl, cover with a wet towel and let rise for 1 hour away from air draughts (I cover it with a towel and put it in the oven, turned off with the light on).
- Put the raisins in a small bowl, add water just enough to cover them, let sit for 5-10 minutes, then drain and pat dry.
- After the 60 minutes rising time, punch down the dough, add the raisins and work to incorporate.
- Form a ball with the dough, then divide into 3 parts, more or less the same size (I used a scale).
- With your hands, roll each dough ball into a rope, about 40 cm long. Put the 3 ropes in front of you and starting from the top, start to braid the ropes, sealing the ends together.
- Transfer the braid to a rectangular baking pan lined with parchment paper and set back to rise, covered, away from air draughts, for about 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400° F (200° C).
- After that time, brush the lightly beaten egg on top of the bread.
- Place on the lower rack of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, covering the top of the bread with foil paper if you see it is getting too dark (I covered it at about half the cooking time).
It lasts for 3-4 days but it slowly gets tougher. Toast it, or make French toast. Amazing!