Gubana

Fruit- and Nut-Filled Yeast-Risen Cake

A specialty of the Natisone valleys, near the Yugoslavian border, the gubana was traditionally offered by brides to their wedding guests, as well as being an Easter pastry. Gubana means “rolled up” in the local Slavic dialect and refers to the dough’s being covered with a rich fruit-and-nut filling, rolled up, and baked in a pan in the form of a spiral. When the gubana is sliced, the interior spiral of filling is revealed. There are several versions of the pastry, some made with puff pastry, others with a sweetened yeast dough, as this one is.

This version is based on the gubana Vogrig, one of the best commercial gubane, from Cividale del Friuli, a small town near Udine, well known for the excellence of its gubana. The Vogrig family was one of the first to commercialize the gubana and offer it throughout the year. They began in their native village of Grimacco and in the mid-1960s established a large plant at Cividale. Lucio Vogrig, son of the founder, Attilio, was kind enough to share information on both the lore and preparation of the gubana when I visited his immaculate factory in Cividale.

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Ingredients

    Sponge

  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast or ounce compressed yeast
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour

    Dough

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted

    Filling

  • 1 cup whole almonds, blanched or unblanched
  • 1 cup walnut pieces
  • cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • cup grappa, brandy, or dark rum.
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • cup candied orange peel, diced
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • ½ cup dry bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg and granulated sugar for finishing

Method

For the sponge, heat the milk to lukewarm and whisk in the yeast. Pour into the flour and stir until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to ferment about 30 minutes.

For the dough, place the flour, eggs, and yolk in a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the paddle and beat on low speed until well mixed. Or combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. Add the sponge and mix until smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes by machine. By hand, stir in the sponge as well as possible, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by folding the dough over on itself repeatedly until smooth, about 5 to 6 minutes. Beat or knead in the salt, sugar, then the butter, and continue beating the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Scrape the dough into a buttered bowl, cover it, and allow it to ferment until double, about 1 hour.

For the filling, chop the almonds and walnuts coarsely and place in a bowl with the pine nuts. In a small saucepan, cover the raisins with water, bring to a boil, drain, and add the grappa. Allow to soak while preparing the rest of the filling. Add the lemon zest and diced orange peel to the nuts. Melt the butter and cook the bread crumbs in it until they are golden, then add to the bowl. Stir in the egg, then the raisins and grappa. Set aside, covered, and keep at room temperature until the dough is ready.

Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a floured surface. Press the dough well with the palms of the hands to deflate it but do not fold it over, which would render it too elastic to shape. Press the dough into a rectangle about 20 × 10 inches and spread it evenly with the filling. Roll up the filling in the dough, starting from the wide end. Butter a 10-inch spring-form pan and arrange the dough loosely in the pan in a spiral. Beat the egg and paint the top of the gubana with it, then sprinkle with the sugar. Cover loosely with a towel and allow to proof until the spiral grows together, about 1 hour. Bake the gubana at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack. Release the sides of the springform pan and slide the gubana off the pan bottom onto a platter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Serve the gubana cut into slices. It is common to serve a slice of gubana sprinkled with grappa.

The gubana keeps well: double-wrap in plastic and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks. Unwrap, cover loosely with a towel, and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

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