For some families, Easter is all about chocolate bunnies and eggs. While that definitely is part of the joy of Easter, my family loves all the various Easter baked treats. Whether it is the ubiquitous colomba from Lombardia; the pink hued and confetti and meringue-topped ciaramicola from Umbria; the agnello di sfoglia, a millefeuille cake shaped like a sheep and layered with chocolate and vanilla custards, from Puglia; Esse, S-shaped biscuits from Veneto; presnitz, the spiral pastry roll filled with dried fruit to resemble Christ’s crown of thorns, from Friuli-Venezia Giulia or the adorable bread dolls holding eggs, pupi cu l’ova, from Sicilia, we love them all.
There are also the incredibly indulgent savoury Easter breads such as the torta di Pasqua, a tall cheesy bread, from Umbria and the salami, ham and cheese filled casatiello topped with eggs from Campania. Our favourite Easter breakfast though is pan di ramerino, sweet rosemary and raisin rolls. One could consider them a slightly exotic version of hot cross buns. The smell of these baking will make your mouth water. There are never any left by the time they have cooled completely.
Pan di ramerino (rosemary and raisin rolls) – Toscana
Biga (made from 200 grams flour, 130 grams tepid water and 5 grams fresh yeast)
800 grams strong flour
7 grams fresh yeast
250 grams sugar
180 grams extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing
10 grams rosemary leaves, rinsed, dried and finely chopped
200 grams raisins
1 egg, beaten
1 vanilla bean, seeds removed and pod reserved
Soak the raisins in water to cover.
Heat the olive oil with the rosemary until it begins to sizzle. Remove from the heat and allow to cool completely.
Mix the biga, flour, yeast, the cooled rosemary oil, 400 grams of tepid water and 100 grams of sugar together in a mixer on low until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides. Add in the raisins and mix until combined. Cover and let sit for 20 minutes.
Put the dough on a greased work surface and pull the dough out on one side and fold it over to the middle. Repeat with the opposite side. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat with both sides. Turn the dough over and put back in the bowl with the folded sides facing down. Cover with cling film and let sit for an hour until it has doubled in size.
Repeat putting the dough on a greased work surface and pull the dough out on one side and fold it over to the middle. Repeat with the opposite side. Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat with both sides. Turn the dough over and put back in the bowl with the folded sides facing down. Cover with cling film and let sit for an hour until it has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Brush a baking sheet with olive oil. Divide the dough into 50 gram pieces. Repeat the pulling and turning exercise as before but with the small pieces of dough. Turn the balls over onto the folded part and roll around in your clawed hand to form a clean ball. Place the balls, folded side still down, onto the greased baking sheet. Repeat with all the balls. Cover with cling film and let the rolls rest for 30 minutes.
Mix the egg with 10 grams of water. Remove the cling film and brush the egg over top of the rolls. Use a serrated knife dipped into a cup of water to cut the rolls into a crosshatch pattern on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until risen and golden. Their internal temperature should be 93C/200F.
While the rolls are baking, in a saucepan bring to a boil the remaining 150 grams of sugar with 150 grams of water and the vanilla seeds and pod. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove from the heat. When the rolls are finished baking, brush on the vanilla syrup while they are still hot. I dare you to wait until they are cool to eat them.