A Ciambella Romagnola, is a typical cake from Emilia-Romagna. It tastes like a giant sugar cookie and it’s a really easy Italian recipe.
We love it for breakfast, but it is also wonderful as a snack or as dessert, with a glass of Passito di Romagna DOCG.
We bought our house 8 years ago and somehow we were fortunate enough to move next door to some of the sweetest Italian/Americans on the planet. Eric’s mom is from Bologna. Marta is one classy chick. She grew up in a castle in Bologna.
Her parents had a famous restaurant and she worked there when she was a kid and learned how to make some of the most amazing Bolognese dishes that exist. Our neighbors have become our extended family and we have spent many holidays and birthdays together. Marta always makes a special cake for these festivities. A ciambella.
Marisa (her daughter-in-law)and I always fight over who she made it for because Marta puts this exquisite prune filling in the middle. Somehow it happens to be mine and Marisa’s favorite dessert. Yes, prunes. Odd? A little. Maybe it’s because we’re both Sicilian and born a week apart?
What is a ciambella?
A ciambella is traditionally made in the shape of a ring. But in some parts of Emilia Romagna, it is made in the shape of a loaf. Marta makes her dough on the counter; she doesn’t measure the ingredients. It’s all by memory and touch. She works the dough together until it is smooth enough and ready to bake.
Tonight my Sicilian cousin Al came over for dinner and I decided to make a Ciambella. I didn’t have prunes to stew. I did have fresh organic green apples. It would make Nonna Marta proud.
some other Italian dessert recipes to enjoy:
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 cup all-purpose unbleached flour
- 1 cup cake flour
- pinch of salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon shredded lemon zest
- 6 Tablespoons unsalted butter chilled and cut into pieces
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 Tablespoons milk
- Filling optional
- 4 apples peeled and diced into small pieces
- milk to brush on
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- In a large skillet, saute the apples over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes with about 1/4 cup of water. When the apples are nice and soft, mash them a little and add the ground cinnamon and some sugar (sweeten to your taste, I added about 1 tablespoon).
- Preheat the oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or you could grease it with the tablespoon of butter. Put all the dry ingredients for the dough, including the lemon zest, in a bowl. Blend them thoroughly with your hands or with a fork. Rub the butter into the dry ingredients, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir the egg, vanilla, and mild together.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients, and add the liquids. Gradually work int eh dry ingredients, tossing them with a fork (don't stir). You want to moisten and not beat the dough. You could work the dough with your hands. The dough should be moist, lumpy, and sticky. You may need to add more tablespoons of milk and flour until you get the right consistency.
- Generously flour a work surface and turn the dough onto it. Lightly flour your hands. Pat the dough out to form a rectangle about 8 inches wide and 13 inches long.
- If using the apple filling, spoon the apple filling down the center, in a ribbon about 2 inches wide. Fold the two flaps of pastry lengthwise over the filling, overlapping slightly. Pinch the seam together down the length of the cake. Pinch the ends together so the filling doesn't ooze out during baking. And if it does, it's not a problem.
- Transfer the pastry to the baking sheet and sprinkle. Brush some milk on top and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Bake 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 250 F and bake another 25 minutes. You should check it at around 15-20 minutes to see how it is looking. You don't want it to be too dark. Cut the ciambella into slices of about 1/2 inch thick and enjoy!