Fugassa or focaccia (typical venetian easter cake)
A bit of history.....
The Venetian bakers already had sugar at their disposal in the fourteenth century and Venice was the biggest market in the whole of Europe for this commodity. Bakers and confectioners in the fifteenth century steeped fruit in the sugar imported from the East to preserve it – candied fruit had been invented. Many Eastern traditions have been immortalized in the Venetian gastronomical culture and the oldest of all is bread with sultanas and raisins. The dough itself, kneaded and leavened several times over, enriched with eggs, sugar, lard, pine-nuts, almonds and vanilla would later inspire the Veronese Pandoro cake, but was also the father of the Fugassa, the cake that a fiancé would take as a gift to the family of his betrothed with the engagement ring hidden inside. Under the rule of the Serenissima, the Fugassa became a metaphor for celebrating and an Easter cake for antonomasia.
450 gr. of flour
125 gr. of butter
125 gr. of sugar
20 gr. of yeast
40 gr. of almonds
1 small glass of grappa
Coarse grain sugar for decorating
In a bowl mix the yeast with a little flour and some spoons of lukewarm water. Cover with a cloth and leave to rest for a couple of hours in a warm place, then add to the first mixture the same amount of flour and lukewarm water. Mix well, cover with a cloth and leave to rest for a further two hours.
Repeat this operation at intervals of two hours another four times, adding in place of the water egg yolks, whole eggs, sugar and butter in proportion to the flour added, so as to obtain each time a dough that can be kneaded. After the last two hours of rest, add to the dough together with a pinch of salt and a small glass of kirsch, a mixture of finely chopped orange peel, ground cloves, a pinch of cinnamon, a pinch of vanilla and a little powder of iris root, that has all been macerated for two days in the grappa.
Work the dough until you get a thoroughly homogeneous mixture that is smooth, elastic and shiny and place in a special mould, ideally in the shape of a dove. Brush the surface with egg-white kept aside from earlier, sprinkle some coarse grain sugar and broken almonds on the top for decoration and put in the oven to bake at a temperature not too high until the cake takes on a lovely golden-brown colour.