Ah, Lucca… one of the famed walled cities of Italy.

We spent an afternoon in the old city – not nearly enough time – but it gave us a glimpse of it… The food, the drink, the sites… all of it memorable.

One thing we didn’t have, was Buccellato di Lucca – a raisin and aniseed sweet bread. Not to be confused with Sicilian Buccellato – a Christmas bread usually made with figs and nuts. The Italians can be very territorial with their recipes.

Victor came across the recipe, and – since we just happened to have all of the ingredients – he decided to make a loaf! Traditionally, this is considered a breakfast or dessert bread but we decided it was going to be a dinner bread – and a soup was the perfect accompaniment! Fortunately, the weather gods cooperated and gave us an overcast day in the low-70s.

We have some extremely fresh aniseed from San Francisco Herb Company and 10 minutes after going into the oven, the whole house smelled of anise and baking bread. Total gastronomic heaven! I was drooling before I saw it come out of the oven!

Buccellato di Lucca

adapted from Juls Kitchen

  • 550 g of all purpose flour
  • 150 g of sugar
  • 3 1/2 g active dry yeast
  • 220 ml of warm water
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 50 g of butter, at room temperature
  • 50 g of raisins
  • 20 g of aniseed
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil

The Glaze

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar

Soak raisins in warm water.

Pour the flour and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Dissolve the yeast in a cup with half the water, then pour it in the bowl and knead on low speed with the dough hook, adding gradually the remaining water.

When the dough has completely absorbed the water, add the egg yolk and the butter cut into small pieces. Knead on low speed until the dough becomes smooth, but still slightly sticky.

Add the aniseed, the squeezed raisins and salt and knead just enough to get them incorporated in the dough.

Form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl.

Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it proof for about three hours in a warm place.

After it has risen, place on board and roll into a long rope.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, form the dough into a circle and pinch the ends to form a donut.

Cut the dough all the way around, so that it will rise better, and let rest for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Melt the sugar into the hot water to make a syrup, then pour it over the egg white and beat with a fork until frothy.

Brush the syrup and bake for about 45 minutes, until golden brown.

Let it cool completely before slicing.

It should be noted that it takes a couple of really long rises, so, plan accordingly.

And then there was soup…

This is based on something I saw a while back – a 3-imgredient soup that looked rather boring – but had potential.

Cannellini and Cauliflower Soup

  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 head cauliflower – cut into florets
  • 2 cans cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 oz thick-sliced prosciutto
  • 1 zucchini, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
  • 1 qt chicken broth
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 habanero chili – or chili pepper of choice
  • thyme – fresh if you have it
  • salt & pepper, to taste

Lightly brown leek and prosciutto in pot with olive oil. Add crushed garlic and give a quick stir. Add minced habanero.

Add cauliflower and broth. Add thyme. Cook until cauliflower is completely cooked through and falling apart-tender.

Puree cauliflower with immersion blender or regular blender. Return to pot.

Add beans and cubed zucchini and cook until zucchini is tender.

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper, as desired.

It’s quite a simple recipe and can be pulled together in no time. The chicken broth can be switched out and prosciutto omitted to make it vegan, and the hot pepper can be omitted, completely – although we both really like our spice and the added flavor of the broth and prosciutto.

It was great for dinner and even better for lunch, today!

My stomach is smiling…