There is a local saying in Lucca about its famous Buccellato sweet bread: who ever comes to Lucca and doesn’t eat Buccellato might as well never have come. (“Chi viene a Lucca e non mangia il buccellato è come non ci fosse mai stato”).
The last time we stayed in Lucca, we were fortunate to try this bread, thanks to our host Guido, who brought us a warm fresh loaf one Sunday morning. I’ve dreamed about making it ever since, especially now that Easter is around the corner. It seems like a good substitute for Hot Cross Buns and is great toasted. The Lucchese eat this loaf at any time of the year: it is not a festive Easter bread, but it does seem to suit the season. It is said to go well dunked into a licorice based spirit such as Anisette or Sambucca, as there is a hint of anise in the bread.
I have used a ripe sourdough starter in this recipe, which I’m sure they used in days of old. It is fairly plain, as many Italian cakes and festive breads seem to be. If you wish to make it using yeast, see the notes below.
Makes 2 small loaves, or 1 large
- 150 gr golden raisins or sultanas
- 450 gr baker’s flour
- 50 gr wholemeal flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 150 gr ripe liquid sourdough starter
- 200 gr milk
- 1 large free range egg
- 80 gr granulated sugar
- 50 gr unsalted butter at room temperature, in pieces
- 1.5 teaspoons aniseeds
- egg wash, made from an egg yolk and a little water.
Place the raisins in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to plump up until needed. In the meantime mix the two flours and salt in a large bowl. a separate bowl, crack the egg, add the warm milk and sugar and mix well. Finally add the sourdough and mix through.
Add the liquid ingredients to the flours and mix until a dough begins to form. ( I used a stand mixer for this process). Put on a work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, or knead on low with a dough hook for 3-5 minutes. The dough will be a little hard. Begin adding the butter in small pieces until it is well incorporated and the dough is smooth. Add the aniseed and leave to rest covered in a warm place under a bowl to rise. I found that the dough needed around 4 hours to rise. This will depend on the temperature of your room. It may take longer.
Drain the raisins and dry with kitchen paper. Lightly dust with flour and add to the dough, kneading through by hand, until the fruit is well-distributed. If making two small loaves, divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape into two logs with pointy ends, place onto a lightly dusted work surface and leave to prove again until about doubled in size. Or, shape into one large batard shape. Leave in a warm spot to rise again.
Preheat the oven to 200°C FF. When the dough has risen, slash the loaves/loaf in the centre with a straight cut about 1cm deep and brush with egg wash. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. If making a large loaf, count on around 45 minutes. Remove and leave to cool before eating,
You can make this bread without a sourdough starter by using 20 gr of dry active yeast, adding it to the flour at the beginning of this recipe. The bread dough will rise more quickly with yeast.