Sourdough Buccellato. Fruit Bread from Lucca

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”).

Piazza dell’Anfiteatro, Lucca

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.

Buccellato. Dunk in an Anise flavoured liquor or toast and spread with butter.

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,

Straight from the oven. Buccellato Lucchese

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.

My name is Lucca.

Un post interessante del Buccellato qui.

The Little Yellow Vespa of Lucca.

I wonder who owns this little yellow Vespa? How many wonderful buildings does it pass each day? Scooting around the medieval lanes close to Centro,  then onto larger streets, passing decadent villas and the tree topped towers of the Giunigi. The ghost of Elise Bonaparte waves an imperial hand and the sounds of Puccini echo as musicians and singers practice tonight’s performance.  A quick run out to the ancient walls of the city for some fresh air or maybe to meet il ragazzo under a chestnut tree, then a meander back, down to the long weekly market just below the walls. Perhaps it’s time for a coffee in the Piazza di Anfiteatro before heading home for lunch.

1-Rae&Stu2 403Daily Post. Yellow. 

The Golden Shoes of Lucca.

On one of our trips to Lucca, our dear friend Rod became rather taken with these golden shoes, as well as many other scarpe lucchese . He bought four pairs.

Rod's Golden shoes.
Rod’s Golden shoes.

We stayed in the San Concordio district in a little apartment within walking distance of the station.  Our kitchen window framed the cistern of the Nottolini aqueduct and the foothills of the Garfagnana mountains.  In the late afternoon, it became our golden temple. This, and the Nottolini aqueduct are not so well known to travellers.

Cisterno do San Concordio
Cisterno do San Concordio

Thanks Ailsa, and a Golden Christmas greeting to you at Where’s My Backpack.

Italian Product Trial – Farro, Rice and Barley pilaf, with Broad Beans

Every so often, a new product leaps from the shelf and says, “PICK ME, PICK ME.” This was the case recently when I was strolling along the vast aisles of the Mediterranean Wholesalers in Brunswick. This magic emporium of Italian gastronomy ( with a bit of Spanish thrown in ) is disturbingly tempting and I seem to come back with things that were NOT on the list.Image

This was the case with this box of grain by Gallo. 3 Ceriali- Riso, Farro e Orzo. The instructions are in Italian but are simple enough. Non Mettere a Bagno – don’t soak, and Tempo di cottura– cooking time- 12 minutes. Obviously, the grains are par-boiled. This small detail on the box led to moments of internal struggle. The purist traditional wholefoody lady was bowled over by the 12 minute promise; the pragmatist furtively smuggled the box into her basket.Image

As I opened the box, my mind wandered to the hearty soups of Lucca, the farro of the Garfagnana mountains, the trattorie of Urbino. But it’s summer here, and these cereals, simply boiled, could make a wondrous salad base. Or stuffing for peppers and eggplants. Or a filling for silver beet leaves, a big involtino of goodness. Or taken on camping trips. Or, or…. a Pilaf.

I followed the instructions, simply boiling the grains for 12 minutes. I believe the grains need longer- around 18 minutes. Image

Note- my recipes are flexible and are based on the ‘handful of this, a bit of that’ approach to cooking.

Recipe for a simple pilaf style side dish

  • 1 cup of 3 cereal (Gallo brand)
  • 4 onions, sliced finely
  • a big glug of EV olive oil
  • two garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • fresh herbs of choice, example oregano
  • a big handful of broad beans
  • salt, pepper


  • Cook the grains in a large pot of boiling water for around 18-20 minuutes or to taste. (no salt)Image
  • Meanwhile, caramelise the onions in a pan with some good olive oil for 10 minues, adding the chopped garlic towards the end.
  • Then shell and cook the broadbeans in boiling water for two minutes, drop into cold water, drain and peel off outer shells.
  • Add the cooked grains to the onions, add herbs to taste, then add the cooked broad beans.Image
  • Season.
  • Serve as a side dish.


Note: as a part of Australian law that require bloggers to disclose any kickbacks they receive, I must add that I am not receiving any gratuity from the meditterranean wholesalers, or any one else for that matter. I just happen to like the place. If only our radio shock jocks were as transparent.