I love making bread but don’t seem to do it very often. At least not as often as I’d like. Each time I do, I remember all the wonderful things I love about it: the smell of the yeast; the magic of rising dough; the satisfaction of kneading; and, of course, the delicious finished product.
Pan Nociato is an Umbrian specialty that I made as one of the food pairings for a recent wine tasting. There are several slightly different versions but I chose to use a recipe from the Babbo New York pastry chef, Gina DePalma. The recipe looks long, which may make it seem hard, but it’s really pretty quick and easy. It’s also well-written so there’s no guessing about what the author intended.
The color of the bread comes from wine not whole-wheat, as you might expect. It’s not a sweet bread, but bits of fruit and nuts dot the slices of bread pleasantly surprising your taste buds now and then. I served this bread along with a selection of salumi and other typical Umbrian antipasti. We snacked on it while sipping an Orvieto wine, the primary white wine of the region, and waiting for all the wine club members to arrive.
The leftovers held well for a couple of days. I was surprised though that I didn’t really care for this bread toasted. Maybe my taste buds were off the day I tried it since it seems like it would be good toasted. I may need to try again sometime.
I’ve reproduced the recipe below but you can also see it here in its original location. I recommend that you follow the link, since there are a couple of nice paragraphs about Umbria and this bread.
- 1 package of active dry yeast
- 1 ¼ cups warm water
- 3 ½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- ½ cup golden raisins
- ¾ cup red wine
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3-4 ounces of aged pecorino cheese, finely grated
- 1 cup walnut pieces, toasted, cooled and chopped
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 egg for wash
In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in ¾ cup of warm water; add a pinch of sugar to the bowl and let it bubble up for a few minutes. Whisk in ½ cup of the flour. Cover the sponge with plastic wrap and let it proof for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the raisins and red wine in a small saucepan over medium heat just until the wine begins to simmer. Turn off the heat and let the raisins plump in the wine as it cools.
When the sponge has proofed, scrape it into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the remaining ½ cup of water, the raisins and wine, the egg and the extra-virgin olive oil and mix briefly on low speed to combine and break up the egg. Add the flour, salt and sugar to the bowl and mix on medium speed to form a soft dough. Add the cheese, nuts and rosemary to the bowl and beat again for about a minute, then switch to the dough hook. Knead the bread on medium speed for about 3 to 4 minutes until the dough has formed a ball and is somewhat glossy and elastic.
Remove the dough from the mixer bowl and place it on a floured board. Dust it lightly with flour and continue to knead by hand for 2 to 3 minutes until the dough is springy, elastic and smooth.
Place the dough in a bowl oiled with extra-virgin olive oil, cover with plastic and allow it to rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 1 hour, until it is tripled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Gently deflate the dough and divide it into three equal pieces. Form each piece into a tight ball, and place on a baking sheet that has been sprinkled with a bit of cornmeal. Cover the dough balls with plastic and allow them to rise for 20-30 minutes, or until almost doubled in bulk. Gently score the tops with an “X.” Beat the egg lightly with a tablespoon of water and brush the breads with the egg wash.
Bake the breads for about 10 minutes, then lower the heat of the oven to 325 degrees and continue to bake until they are an even, deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped lightly, about 20 to 30 more minutes.
The breads are best enjoyed after they have cooled completely, and will keep, wrapped for 3 or more days.