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Classic Italian Christmas recipes: cake or sweetbread from Bologna

Today we’re going to look at this traditional Italian Christmas recipe from Bologna called the certosino.
It’s a kind of cake or sweetbread which is also called panspeziale or ’spiced bread’.
It’s made from a series of ingredients including dried fruit, almonds, dark chocolate and pine nuts and goes back to the Medieval period when it was made by apothecaries, before the recipe was taken on by the Carthusian monks.

The Certosino di Bologna is one of those hearty Italian desserts which will wash down nicely with a strong dessert wine or port.
It’s much closer to a traditional Christmas cake or fruit cake for us than other desserts we’ve seen so far and it’s perfect for a snowy winter evening.

Ingredients for this version are: 500 grams of white flour, red or white wine (or half and half), 500 grams of honey, 50 grams of walnuts, 50 grams of hazelnuts, 50 grams of almonds, 200 grams of dark chocolate, 100 grams of dried figs, one heaped teaspoon of sugar, 100 gr of sultanas, 100 gr of mixed dried fruit, 20 gr of yeast, a pinch of salt, and a dusting of cinnamon and nutmeg.

From these ingredients you should be able to make about four “loaves”.
Don’t try and make less and bigger loaves because otherwise the cooking time isn’t right and you risk having an uncooked centre.
To start, mix the honey, flour and wine together to create a thick mixture.
Add all the other ingredients, making sure that the figs are sliced, and add the yeast or rising agent last.
You can easily decorate the loaves with some of the dried fruit, for example walnut and almond halves.
Place the loaves on an oven tray covered with oven proof paper and bake at 130°C for 90 minutes.
Leave the loaves to cool completely in the oven before taking them out.
This is the perfect recipe to create a couple of cakes which you can take with you on your Christmas visits or use for a hamper.

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