Pittenguise or Calabrian Christmas Cakes

  • Serves: Makes two 6-inch cakes
  • Baking Temp (degrees F): 275
  • Views: 24723
  • Comments: 18

This delicious Italian pastry made from yeast dough and filled with a delicious melange of walnuts, raisins, cinnamon and honey, has many names, ranging from pittenguise, Torta Natale della Calabria, and pitta 'mpigliata. It contains no butter, and very little refined sugar, so, as far as desserts go, it's fairly healthful. It is also lactose free! Try our Gluten-Free Pittenguise or Calabrian Christmas Cakes.

Kelly Says: "My grandfather's sister used to give this wonderful pastry to everyone for Christmas; they are traditionally given as Christmas gifts, presented in decorative tins, but they are delicious any time of the year. When she died, unfortunately, the recipe went with her. Since it was my mother's favorite dessert, I set out to research and rediscover the recipe. I tested and tweaked, and came up with something that my mom said is even better than the original."


Follow these directions carefully for the most wonderful Christmas pastry. It's not too sweet and looks simply stunning to serve.

2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 1/2- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, sifted; measure and then, sift

2 1/4 cups raisins
1 3/4 walnuts
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup honey

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the eggs, salt, wine, oil, sugar and yeast. Whisk to combine and set aside for 10 minutes, to proof.

2. With the paddle attachment in place, add two cups of flour, and mix, on low, until smooth.

3. Change to the dough hook attachment. With the mixer on low, add the flour, a little at a time, until the mass forms a cohesive dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
With the mixer on low to medium-low, continue kneading for about 3 minutes.

4. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface until dough is completely smooth and not sticky,
adding only enough of the remaining flour, so it does not stick to your hands.
KELLY  SAYS: Most likely you will not use the entire 3 cups flour called for in the recipe.

1. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, and turn dough over so the top is covered with the oil.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set the bowl aside, in a warm place, to rise till doubled.
This will take about two hours, due to the small amount of yeast in the recipe.

2. While the dough rises, make the filling.
Chop the nuts with a large chef's knife. Do not use a food processor, because you want them to be fairly fine, but not pulverized.

Place the chopped nuts in a large bowl and then add the raisins, cinnamon and the 1/2 cup of honey. Stir to combine.
Place plastic wrap on the bowl, while you wait for the dough to finish proofing.

3. When the dough has doubled, turn it out on a lightly floured surface, and press down lightly, to deflate.

Divide the dough and shape the base:
1. Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper and place 1/2 of the dough under the bowl, while you work with the other half.

2. Working with 1/2 of the dough, cut it in 1/2 again with the bench scraper.
Roll it out, on a lightly floured surface, to a 9 inch circle.
Using a 9-inch plate as a guide, cut out the circle with a pizza cutter or a fluted pastry wheel.

3. Transfer the circle to a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet, by lightly wrapping it around your rolling pin.
Try to keep the dough to one side of the sheet, so you will be able to fit the other pastry on the same baking sheet.
If you are using a small baking sheet, you will have to use two sheets.
The dough will stretch a little, so the circle will be a bit distorted after you transfer it. Just stretch it with your hands, as best you can, back into a uniform circle.

Shape and fill the rolled inside pieces:
1. Roll out the other piece of dough, on a lightly floured surface, to an 18- x 8-inch rectangle.
The dough will be thin.

2. Take 1/2 of the filling mixture and spread it evenly over the surface of the dough, leaving about an inch, on the far side, free of filling.

3. Roll up the dough, starting on the long side, into a tight cylinder.

4. Pinch the seam to seal, turn the roll seam side down, and then slice it into 8 equal pieces.

Place the rolled pieces in the middle of the dough disk and fold up the sides:
1. Brush the circle with some of the oil and sprinkle with about a 1/2 tablespoon of sugar.
Spread the sugar evenly over the surface of the dough, with your hand.

2. Place one of the eight slices in the center of the circle, then place the other 7 evenly around it.
If one of your slices is a little larger than the others, use this one for the center.

3. Brush the outer edge of the dough with water, and bring the sides up and lightly press them into the slices to adhere.
Tie the cake loosely with kitchen string, to insure that the sides will stay put.

4. Tightly cover and set aside in a cool place.

5. Repeat STEP IV: SHAPE THE DOUGH, with the other half of the dough.

1. Brush the tops and sides of each cake with a little vegetable oil and drizzle 2 tablespoons of honey over each cake.

2. Then, cover the pan with plastic wrap and set the cakes aside in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
They will rise only slightly.
NOTE: Make sure the pan is sealed tightly because you do not want the dough to dry out.

Preheat the oven, bake and cool the cakes:
1. Take the cakes from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.

2. Immediately, position an oven shelf in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

3. Unwrap the cakes and bake for about 45 minutes, or until they are golden brown.
If any of the honey oozes out onto the baking sheet, spoon it back over the cakes, while they are baking.

2. When the cakes are golden brown, remove the cakes from the pan and set them on a cooling rack, with waxed paper underneath, to capture any drips.
Cool completely.

3. When cakes are cool, wrap them tightly in plastic wrap, and then in foil, sealing tightly. Place each cake in an airtight plastic container, or tin.

Age the cakes for about a week, proceeding as follows:
1. Let the containers/tins sit for three days, then turn them over to redistribute the honey that has collected on the bottoms of the cakes.

2. After three more days, flip the container right side up again.

The honey will be almost completely absorbed by the pastry in about a week.

Serve at room temperature.

The cakes keep nicely in a container, in the refrigerator, for a couple of weeks. They can be frozen for well over a month.
Let thaw in its container in the refrigerator.


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