Maritozzi (Italian sweet buns) will eternally remind me of spring. Those early spring mornings, when you pull the curtains and let in the first soft rays of sunlight. Listening closely, you hear the birds gently singing. Perhaps, instead, there's a pitter-patter of raindrops on the window. The sky is grey, yet calm and peaceful. Studded with raisins and candied citrus peel, maritozzi are just sweet enough to brighten the day, and are the perfect accompaniment to a short, bitter espresso.
Maritozzi originate from the region of Lazio and have made their way into many other regions of Italy as well. In Rome, they can be found served with a very generous portion of whipped cream (known locally as maritozzi con la panna). These ones, however, are the Easter or Lenten kind. This means that they are made with olive oil instead of butter (although, soft butter would work as well in this recipe). More importantly, they are unique to this time of the year -- one of those fleeting traditions that you will certainly miss, if you close your eyes for too long.
Just like a French brioche, this dough requires a lot of love, attention, and hard work. No rain, no flowers.
Maritozzi (Italian Easter bread)
- 200 g flour
- 2 g instant yeast
- 50 g sugar
- 1/2 vanilla pod
- 1 orange, zested
- pinch sea salt
- 1 egg
- 80 mL milk (or water)
- 60 g olive oil (or butter, softened)
- 25 g candied citrus
- 35 g raisins
Soak the dried fruit in lukewarm water.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, sugar, vanilla seeds, zest, and salt. Mix and form a well in the centre.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Add this to the dry ingredients. Knead until the dough is very soft, smooth, and elastic. This will take a long time (about 10 minutes). If you have a mixer, you can use it with the dough hook to make this process faster.
Add the oil slowly, while kneading. Continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic again.
Drain the dried fruit and leave to dry for a moment, or pat lightly to dry. Add to the dough and knead again just until combined.
Cover the dough to touch with plastic wrap, and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours.
When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a work surface. Divide into ten equal portions. Roll each into a ball or oval shape. Place on a lined baking sheet. Cover and let rise for 1 to 2 hours or until well proofed.
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Bake the maritozzi for 25 minutes, or until golden. If you'd like, you can brush them with a syrup when they come out of the oven (either maple syrup, runny honey, or equal parts lemon juice and sugar).
They are perfect as-is, but also delicious when cut in half and spread with jam or melted chocolate.