Every day something new happens, so now Italy is 'locked down' and people are required to stay home and reduce sociality in order to interrupt the spread of the virus as soon as possible. I am following the recommendations of the Government, in fact the pictures of Venice are all of my neighbourhood. I took them in my brief itineraries from home to the supermarket and during short walks. Vito is home too and I will tell you I am delighted. He had worked so hard in the past months that at least he gets to rest, although he is extremely upset because the Italian Premiere League has been interrupted (Italian men... what can I do?!) and he can't see the games...
I've been reading short stories and essays. Seized the occasion to re-read some chapters of Naomi Klein's No Logo, like the one dedicated to Nike, Shell and Mc Donald, and a couple from the book In Space We Read Time: On the History of Civilisation and Geopolitics by Karl Schlogel. Although, so far, the book I enjoyed the most is a novel, precisely Milan Kundera's Slowness. It's truly brilliant, published in 1995, it is his first book written in French. It's quite short, so you can read it in one or two hours and it is a clever reasoning on how modernity effects the way we perceive the world. There are different stories, from different times, which by the end of the book come together and interact.
In case you haven't read it yet, I won't spoil it, but I do want to say it made me think about how the speed and reduced distances we live in are only imaginary, making us more distant and detached from what we do. His first comparison is between riding a motorbike and running, where in the first case the body delegates to a machine the action and falls into a sort of ecstatic speed, while in the second case the runner is constantly aware of his own body and how it relates to time and space. Also, with regard to sensuality, I appreciated the comparison between a man and a woman on a carriage and a man and a woman inside a car... It's funny but it's true. Luckily when I was a teenager mobile phones had only started to become popular, so I still have memories of boys asking me out and approaching me face to face, of my heartbeat becoming faster and of the embarrassed eye exchanges. Not sure I would feel the same receiving romantic comments on an Instagram picture or a message via WhatsApp, don't you agree? Or maybe it's just me, only 32 but oldish inside...
You know, after all, I am Venetian born and bred and Venice is a naturally slow city. With no cars, we walk everywhere and meet people, we all know each other and there is a wonderful sense of community. We still carry our heavy shopping bags on our shoulder (or anyway, the most modern tool is a trolley...) and means of transport must not exceed a certain speed. I could compare the way most of our taxi drivers go way too fast, simply pushing the engine, creating wave motion and damaging the lagoon, to the way gondoliers use their body to row, becoming one whole thing with their boat and the environment, in fact -independently from their level of education- they have a sort of traditional knowledge that links them to Venetian gondoliers of the past and merges past, present and -hopefully- future.
In addition to reading, listening to the radio and watching movies, I am also cooking and baking as if there was no tomorrow. Today, in fact, I'm sharing a recipe that requires patience: brioche bread! First you make the sponge and wait, then you make the dough and wait, then you roll the dough and prepare the buns and wait again. Finally, you can bake and enjoy!
I must credit the recipe to a blogger called Germana. Her blog is in in Italian and it is filled with really perfect recipes! The name is Le ricette di Mamma Gy and the link to the specific brioche bread recipe is here. She made a loaf, whereas I made smaller buns and used a muffin tin. Whatever version you will opt for, the result is great! If kept in a tin or a paper bag, the buns last more or less 3 days, after which they start becoming a little dry (although I don't think they will last that long ...)
I made it several times and for the filling you can use whatever you wish, like jam, peanut butter, salted caramel or -like me- chocolate spread. You can buy the spread or make it yourself by melting the chocolate in a water bath (adding a few drops of milk), in that case remember to let it cool!!! Then sprinkle over some crushed nuts or chocolate chips. I like the dark chocolate spread sold in Venice at NaturaSi and Serenissima Bio, the brand is called Ecor and it tastes delicious. At the Coop supermarket, instead, I usually go for the Solidal Chocolate and Hazelnut spread. Remember to remove the spread from the fridge in advance, otherwise it will result thick and difficult to handle, as it would tend to stick to the dough (something you want to avoid).
The rolling procedure may seem difficult, but it's actually quite easy, as if you were making cinnamon rolls. Hope you will like it and please let me know how it goes ;-)
BRIOCHE BREAD BUNS WITH CHOCOLATE AND WALNUTS
For about 18 bread buns
kneading machine with dough hook (optional but recommended)
500 gr Manitoba flour (or 0 flour)
10 gr fresh brewers yeast
1 free range egg
100 ml water
170 ml milk
1 Tea spoon honey
50 gr brown sugar
2 Table spoons seed oil
300 gr chocolate spread (or jam)
1) First of all, make the sponge, so your brioche bread buns will be extra soft. In a bowl, combine 80 gr flour with your fresh brewers yeast, 1 teaspoon honey and 100 ml water. Amalgamate well, cover the bowl, and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2) When the time has passed, in a big mixing bowl add 420 gr flour and form a hole in the middle. Add sponge, sugar, milk and start kneading with the dough hook, first at low speed and then medium speed. After a couple of minutes, add 2 table spoons of seed oil and the egg, previosuly whisked with a pinch of salt. Mix for about 8/10 minutes, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and is nice and elastic. You will see it remains attached to the hook. Form a ball, put in a bowl with some flour (to avoid it attaching), cover, and leave in the fridge for 2 hours.
3) After two hours, remove from fridge. Flour a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a rectangular shape.
4) Spread the chocolate cream, add the crushed walnuts and, helping yourself with the parchment paper, roll lengthwise around filling to form a log. Seal top and bottom and with the scraper cut into 18 smaller pieces.
5) Pre-heat oven at 180°. Butter and flour your muffin tin, add the buns (with the interior looking upwards, like a cinnamon roll) and bake at 180° for about 20/25 minutes.
6) Remove from oven, let cool and serve with a steaming hot cup of coffee.