It's incredible what difference a number makes, how I feel things are better now that 2013 (the unlucky year) is over. I am welcoming the new year with open arms, a big smile and a lot of hope.
2013 was a year of adjustments after a 2012 full of changes. I had to face difficult situations, I faced them alone because I am not good at opening up, but somehow made it to the other side. I kept going day after day, doing too many things simply because I was too scared to stop and deal with my feelings. I spent most of the year being tired and worrying about things that were out of my control.
I knew I needed to take a break and put some distance between myself and my daily life, to be able to see things more clearly. I went on holiday and travelled for five weeks. It takes a while to really disconnect (staccare la spina - pull the plug - how we say it in Italian), but after a few weeks I started feeling like a different person. Or better, I started feeling like myself again.
I wasn't "on holiday" anymore. I was "travelling" and exploring the world. I didn't have a label (Giulia the account manager or the food blogger). I was just me, discovering new places, meeting new people and learning that it is possible to have a different life from the one you are living.
I have a few resolutions for the new year and basically they are about enjoying life and being the best person I can be. I want to study and learn something new every day. I want to challenge myself mentally and physically. I want to listen to music more often and read more books. I want to discover my country's traditions and feel proud to be Italian.
And I want to spend more time with the people I love. I know it sounds cliched, but nothing is better than spending time with people who know you and love you no matter what.
Gubana is a traditional Christmas sweet bread from the region of Friuli Venezia-Giulia. My mum comes from this region, from the city of Trieste. I wanted to prepare a traditional dessert for our family's Christmas dinner in Trieste, so I made this Gubana using a recipe by Emiko Davies, which was published on Food52.
Gubana is a yeast bread roll filled with nuts, dried fruits, cocoa, sweet wine and cinnamon. It's a winter dessert and is traditionally eaten with a splash of Grappa, which works well especially after a few days when the bread becomes dry.
Everyone loved it and congratulated me for preparing such a difficult sweet, although it didn't worked out perfectly: I should have let the dough rise for longer and baked the cake for less time. The outside bread layer lacked softness, but the inside what still moist and delicious.
For the dough
- 600g strong bread flour
- 300g cold milk
- 180g sugar
- 15g fresh yeast
- 1 egg, plus 1 extra egg yolk
- 160g butter, melted
- 1 tsp salt
- zest of one lemon and one orange
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped of seeds
For the filling
- 220g raisins
- 100g sugar
- 80g peeled almonds
- 80g walnuts
- 40g hazelnuts
- 30g pine nuts
- 60ml moscato, marsala or other sweet wine
- 1 egg
- 40g butter
- 50g candied orange peel, chopped
- 120g plain biscuits (I used Digestive), crushed
- 50g amaretti biscuits, crushed
- 30g bittersweet cocoa powder
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- zest of one lemon
In a mixer, combine the flour, milk, sugar and yeast. Add the egg plus yolk and the butter, a little at a time until well incorporated. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and continue mixing until you have an elastic (but not dry) dough. Let it rise for about one hour or until doubled in size, while you prepare the filling.
Lightly toast then roughly chop the almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pine nuts. Combine all the ingredients together in a food processor until you have a thick paste.
Roll the dough to a rectangular form until it is no higher than 1/2-1cm thick. Spread the filling over the dough, leaving a 2cm border around.
Roll the dough up along the longest edge into a log. Then roll the log around itself like a snail shell shape and place in a lined round tin. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour.
Brush with egg over the top if desired then bake at 180 ºC for 40-60 minutes or until dark golden on top and inside is fluffy and cooked.
You can dust The Gubana with icing sugar and serve the slices with a splash of Grappa.