For the sponge, place the flour in a small bowl. Measure warm tap water (about 105 degrees) and whisk the yeast into the water. Stir the yeast mixture into the flour. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to ferment at room temperature until double, about 30 minutes.
For the dough, place the flour, sugar, water, and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer or a mixing bowl. Add the sponge and beat on the lowest speed with the paddle until smooth and elastic; this should take about 5 minutes by machine. If you are mixing by hand, use your hand to squeeze the dough together, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it by folding it over on itself repeatedly until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Add the raisins and anise seeds to the dough and mix in gently, by machine or by hand. Cover the bowl and allow to ferment until double, about 3 to 4 hours.
Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and fold it over on itself several times to deflate. Form the dough into a cylinder about
Bake the ciambella at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes until well risen and a deep golden color, and until a thin knife blade inserted into the thickest part emerges clean. Cool on a rack and then cover well with plastic wrap.
Form the dough into 2 long, narrow loaves, each about
© 1990 Nick Malgieri. All rights reserved.