An Italian Perspective on the Daring Bakers' September Challenge
As a schoolchild (in Perugia), every day I would carry with me something to eat during the mid-morning break. I never had lunch at school. However, a shorter school day required a longer school week, which means I went to school on Saturday as well. Back to the snack: la merenda. It was usually un panino with something, i.e., two slices of bread with prosciutto crudo, prosciutto cotto or formaggio, which my mother would prepare for my brother and myself. Obviously, such healthy, nutritious and flavorful fare was not what I would have liked. Occasionally we were allowed to buy a pastry or a piece of pizza, and I had my favorite options for those special days.
The top choice for pastry was maritozzo con la panna and the runner-up was veneziana, which means (female) Venetian, though I have not been able to find out what connection it has, if any, with my favorite city in the world. The veneziana I ate as a child looks sort of like a cinnamon bun, a similarity I had never noticed until I made cinnamon buns for my induction into the honorable Daring Bakers' society. This month's challenge is hosted by Marce of Pip in the city. Marce has posted the recipe for the buns, from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, which includes cinnamon and sticky buns.
My first attempt was a series of near disasters, starting from a leavening that was not as marked as expected, to a vicarious placing into the oven that was on the wrong grid (not my husband's fault), while I was running on my bike to get the confectioners' sugar I had forgotten, to a clogging of my sifter by the newly-purchased sugar. I was basically resigned to consign the whole tray to the famous garbage bin department, when, to my surprise and relief, a tasting by the manager of my quality assurance department (a.k.a. my husband) revealed an outcome that, though not exceptional, was also not deserving of being consigned to irretrievable oblivion.
As a child, I had a well-designed system for eating a veneziana to delay the peak of tasting pleasure, located at the center. I would unroll the coil so that the last piece had the thickest glassa (fondant glaze). For my rendition, I opted for a threaded glaze. The given recipe for the cinnamon buns has lemon zest, and I used lemon extract in the glaze. I am pretty sure veneziana has no lemon nuance. However, I will not let this detail spoil my little walk down memory lane.
I made another batch a week later (both times I kneaded the dough by hand, which I totally enjoyed) and this time the leavening went well and the baking went better. I think I got it down now, and my husband agrees. Freshly-made cinnamon buns are delicious. I discovered that careful storage and warming up in the oven prior to breakfast extend the shelf-life of a batch for several days.
I posted this soon after arriving in my home country after a two year absence. I am adding veneziana to the long list of foods that I need to try or, as in this case, to try again.