by gina depalma
Bucellato was invented in the pastry shop of Jacopo Taddeucci in 1881 in the city of Lucca. You can visit the shop today, where the tradition is to shape the bread into a slender ring. In some parts of the Lunigiana, Buccellato is shaped into a more rustic oval shape, dimpled down the center, which I prefer. Raisins haven’t always been a traditional ingredient, but I love them here; dark raisins or currants work too. The most flavorful result will come from a long, slow rise overnight in the refrigerator, so don’t try and rush this step.
In the Lunigiana, Buccellato is as ubiquitous as Milan’s Pannettone, and there is bound to be a loaf at any family gathering and at every holiday table. Make it a part of your family traditions too: enjoy it with a glass of vin santo or any sweet wine, and try it toasted with butter for breakfast the next day.
Place the raisins in a small bowl and toss them in the Maraschino liqueur; set them aside to plump. In a hot sauté pan, toss the anise seeds briefly to toast them until they are aromatic; remove them to a piece of parchment paper to cool.
Heat the water and milk together in a small saucepan until it is lukewarm to the touch. Whisk the mixture into the yeast in another small bowl and set it aside to proof.
Place 3 ¾ cups of the flour, the sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed to combine them. In another small bowl lightly combine the melted butter, egg and orange flower water.
Make a well in the mixer bowl and pour in the yeast mixture and the butter mixture. Mix on low speed to combine the ingredients, then increase to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes to make a shaggy dough. Switch to the dough hook and add the remaining ½ cup of flour, the anise seeds and the raisins and their liquid; knead for 4 minutes on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in a buttered bowl, cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap, and place the refrigerator to rise overnight, at least 12 hours.
The following day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature, about 2 hours.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and shape it into an oval, tapering the ends slightly. With a sharp knife, slash the dough deeply down the center of the dough lengthwise. Cover the dough lightly with plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 1 hour in a draft free spot.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly beat the egg for the glaze with 2 teaspoons of water. Brush the egg wash over the surface of the dough.
Bake the bread for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Continue baking for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, or until it golden brown and a thin knife poked in the middle comes out clean
Allow the bread to cool completely on a rack. To serve, simply cut in slices.
Makes 3 lb loaf