With Christmas round the corner, in Italy it's all about yeasted cakes. Right now, traditional cakes like panettoni, sweet focacce and pandori occupy entire bakery shelves and spread a layer of dough-scented midst in the streets. Their fluffy and doughy perfume has a sort of hypnotising effect on me and as soon as it enters though my nostrils, it starts obsessing me for the whole day. To be honest with you, I have never dared (and probably never will) making one of these traditional cakes at home: I don't have the necessary spaces and equipment. Besides, although making our own sourdough is easy, I don't do it because of the re-fills and because I lack a proper space for it. Still, all this 'floating sweetness' is making me feel inspired and for this reason, I decided to challenge myself anyhow and try make a bunch of yeasted pastries.
For the challenge I chose to a slightly easier version of Kranz pastries, among my all-times favourites. Having a small oven, instead than making a big wreath, I opted for smaller, single portions pastries. I had already made them a couple of times before, although in general I buy them (and in Venice, the best ones are to be found at Pasticceria Dal Mas and Crosera). They come in different versions, some have chocolate, others raisins and in certain places you can even find them with pistachio cream and crushed pistachios (so good....). Super luscious, they are simply mouth watering and pleasingly rich in taste.
I used to see them as impossible and super difficult to make, until I saw a cookery program and watching the procedure I realised that the recipe was totally doable and even fun! My version is with dark chocolate and peach jam. It's not difficult, the only thing is that it takes time because the dough needs to rest overnight and then another hour to rise, but it's so cold that I don't mid spending the afternoons at home, so engaging in a longer-than-usual recipe is a great activity in this season!
By the way, I had always heard that the origin of these pastries was Austrian,so I looked for additional info online, but couldn't find anything. Then, the other day, I bumped into an online article by Gianni Tose of the blog Corpo, Anima e Frattaglie (read here) that suggested that the pastry we call Kranz is a reinterpretation of an Austrian braided bread that became popular in Lombardy and Veneto during the Austro-Hungarian occupation. He then continues explaining that the word kranz in German means garland/wreath/crown, thus it's too generic to refer to a specific cake. Thus, it is quite likely that the word kranz was part of the name of the Austrian sweet braided bread, possibly the Hefezopf-Hefekranz. This traditional bread comes in two shapes: like a braid (zopf) and like a wreath (kranz), therefore the Italians chose the name kranz abandoning its original meaning and adding puff pastry in the preparation.
I don't know about that, but it is very plausible! After all cooking is all about being inspired, adding our own and trying new things. I hope you will enjoy my version, it's quite basic but feel free to add chocolate chips or crushed nuts of some sort. Let me know and happy breakfasting!
RECIPE: CHOCOLATE AND PEACH JAM KRANZ
Prep. Time: 30' + overnight rest + 1 hour rise
Cook Time: 30/40'
Portions: 4 mini cakes
- For the dough:
500 gr 00 flour
100 gr sugar
2 teaspoons brewer yeast
3 organic eggs
grated lemon zests
120 ml water
150 gr butter
-For the filling
3/4 spoons of peach jam
130 gr melted chocolate
- For the syrup (optional)
130 gr sugar
80 gr water
1. The previous day, in a bowl combine flour, sugar, yeast and lemon zests and work in a mixer for about a minute, then add the eggs and the water and continue at low speed for 5 minutes.
2. Add the butter cut into small squares and keep working for about 10 minutes, until you obtain a nice and smooth dough. When ready, cover the bowl with cling film and let it rest in the fridge overnight.
3. The following day, melt the chocolate in a water bat. When ready, put into a bowl, add the jam and amalgamate. (Be careful not to let the chocolate cool and turn hard again!!!!)
4. Remove dough from fridge and divide in four small balls. Sprinkle some flour on a piece of parchment paper and roll the four doughs trying to give them a rectangular shape.
5. Now spread the melted chocolate and jam filling on every piece, without covering the borders. Roll lengthwise, cut in half and twist the two parts together forming a circle.
6. Cover the pastries in plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour at room temperature and out of direct sunlight.
7. Pre-heat oven at 200° and when the doughs have risen, brush them with some egg and bake for 30/35 minutes at 180°.
8. For an extra glow, prepare some syrup heating in a small pot sugar and water. When the sugar has melted, brush the warm pastries with the syrup, let cool and serve.