Maritozzi

While most people can characterize periods of their life with Where they were living, or Who they were dating, or How they were dressing, I find that I can just well enough do it with Breakfast, an ever changing meal that easily represents different stages of my 27 years. There were the elementary/high school years, where breakfast consisted of things my mom prepared for us before we all ran to catch the school bus, buttered cinnamon toast or bowls of Cheerios or pancakes if we all woke up early enough; the college years, where breakfast was either whatever looked most edible in the college dining hall, or oatmeal made in our dorm microwave; my time in Italy, where breakfast was a cappuccino with a brioche (Bologna) or cornetto (Rome), Italy's answer to the French croissant; and now, just when I thought I knew all I had to know about the most important meal of the day, a new chapter has begun, my friends: that of the Maritozzo. Read on. 

Maritozzi, as you can probably guess, are a breakfast pastry, more specifically a Roman one. In my time so far in the Eternal City I'd spotted them occasionally at various bars and bakeries, but (stupidly!) dismissed them, figuring that they were too heavy for so early in the morning, and not the sort of pastry easily dipped into a cappuccino, as other breakfast treats were. Things all changed when not long ago, I finally got around to sampling a maritozzo at a neighborhood bar, for no other reason than that the bar was out of cornettiNow, I love my cornetti -- I do, really! -- but even my dream cornetto, one of those nice seedy honey filled integrale ones, seemed suddenly plain and humble and faded in to the background after my first taste of a luscious, slightly over-the-top maritozzo. And it's no wonder: here we have a sweet citrus-y bun with a sugary syrup-brushed exterior and a fluffy, pillowy interior, that is split open and filled with a generous cloud of unsweetened whipped cream. It wasn't at all too heavy, as I'd thought, and was so delicious on its own that dipping it in coffee would've been utterly unnecessary. It was jaw-droppingly delicious, pure bliss, a complete breakfast game changer for me, my new favorite pastry. It was, in short, love at first bite.

The thing about maritozzi is that they're kind of special and rare, not found in every bar as cornetti are (both a fact and a convenient excuse for me taking so long to try one). Wondering if I could make these gems myself at home -- a constant supply of maritozzi would be at my very fingertips! -- I did a little recipe research and came across this excellent recipe from cookbook author and blogger Emiko Davies. These maritozzi were just as fluffy, addictive, and delicious as I'd hoped they'd be, studded with raisins and brightened with a sprinkling of lemon and orange zest, stuffed with that telltale cloud of whipped cream. Added bonus: they're incredibly easy to make -- don't let the fact that it is a yeast bread scare you --  just a matter of a little mixing, kneading, and rising. During the rise time, you can do whatever other chores or productive things you need to get done (or you can check the dough every 20 minutes and clap your hands with delight when you see any sign of rising, as I did).

Wondering where that weird name comes, from, by the way?My Maritozzi 101 studies taught me that the name maritozzo comes from the word marito, which means "husband" in Italian. Legend has it that way back in the day, Italian men offered these treats to their fiancees on the first of March, or what we now celebrate as Valentine's Day. These guys were geniuses ahead of their time, clearly, because anyone who comes bearing a box of maritozzi instead of a bouquet of roses is good in my book, a total keeper worth marrying. Try these and I think you'll agree.

A couple of notes: Emiko says that this recipe makes 8 maritozzi, but for some reason I ended up with about 6 (even after weighing them out to make sure they were each about 75 grams). I found that the maritozzi cook very quickly, so keep an eye on them so that they inside remains soft and pillow-y. The bun sometimes but not always includes things like lemon or orange zest, raisins, pine nuts, or even candied orange -- here I chose to include just the zests and the raisins, but add or take away ingredients as you wish. When splitting the maritozzi open to fill with cream, be careful you don't cut all the way through and cut the bun in half (as I did on my first one). Finally, if you're in Rome and want a quick maritozzi fix -- no time to make your own! -- head to Bar Il Maritozzaro (Via Ettore Rolli 50), which has the best ones in town.

Want more recipes for things that could be an acceptable breakfast in Italy? Check out this Strawberry Jam Crostata, this Ricotta Pound Cake, this Torta della Nonna, or this Nutella Swirl Cake. Looking for American breakfast recipes? How about these pancakes, this French toast, these bagels, this pumpkin bread, or these sweet or savory waffles? In the mood for something Danish, you say? We have Fastelavnsboller for that.

MARITOZZI

Ingredients for the buns:
7 grams dry yeast
1/4 cup (about 60 ml) water
1 2/3 cups (7 ounces or 200 grams) flour, plus more for dusting
1 egg
3 tablespoons (50 grams) sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) butter, softened
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons (about 70 grams) raisins, soaked in warm water for
10 minutes, then drained and pat dry
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange

Ingredients for the finishing touches:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water
Unsweetened freshly whipped cream to fill each bun (you will need about 3 tablespoons per bun)

Directions:
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water and set aside for 10 minutes. Add a heaping 1/4 cup of flour (50 grams if you're measuring things out with a scale) and stir until smooth. Cover the mixture with a tea towel and let rest 15 to 20 minutes in a warm spot and enjoy the shot of my purple fleece pajama sleeve in the photos below.
Place the remaining 150 grams of flour into another large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the yeast mixture, along with the egg, butter, sugar, and pinch of salt. Combine the ingredients by whisking with a fork from the center outwards, incorporating the flour bit by bit until a dough begins to form. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it becomes smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
Place the ball in an oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size (see below photo!)
Stir together the orange zest, lemon zest, and raisins in a small bowl. Next, carefully turn the dough onto a floured surface, flatten it into a rectangle and sprinkle over the zest/raisin mixture. Roll the dough from the short end of the rectangle. After this step, Emiko says to flatten the dough and roll from another side. I kind of did my own thing here and cut the dough from the resulting rolled dough log into pieces, and then formed my maritozzi from there. This seemed to work just fine, as the directions provided were a bit confusing (after rolling the dough from the short side, it was more of a long skinny rectangle that would have been hard to flatten out again...)
Now divide the dough into 8 even pieces and roll them into round oval shapes. Emiko suggests weighing them if you want to be precise and have them come out all the exact same size, roughly 2.5 to 2.8 ounces or 75 to 80 grams each, which I did. Rolling them into small oval shapes, place them one by one onto a greased baking sheet, leaving room between each bun. Let the buns rise for 30 minutes in a warm spot, again covered with a tea towel. Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C) and bake the buns for 10 to 15 minutes or until puffed and just golden on top and bottom. They should remain soft and fluffy inside.
While they are baking, make the finishing syrup that will leave these maritozzi nice and shiny and pretty! Boil 2 tablespoons of sugar in 2 tablespoons of water just until dissolved.
Brush this syrup onto the hot buns once they're out of the oven. Let the syrup dry and the buns cool completely, then split open and fill with freshly whipped unsweetened cream. Yummm.

Recipe from Emiko Davies's (www.emikodavies.com) via www.Food52.com


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