Gubana is a traditional cake from Friuli in Northern Italy. It is related to strudel, and a host of other Slavic, Jewish and Eastern European pastries with names like kolacs, cozonac, presnitz, putitza or povetitza. What distinguishes all of them is the construction. Each is made by rolling up a filling in a dough that is then coiled in a pan so that when the finished cake is cut, you see an attractive spiral pattern of filling in each slice. There are different recipes like Gubana di Cividale or Gubana di Gorizia, under different brands, but one of the most famous (except the Gubana Vogrig from Cividale which is very popular and industrial made) is branded “Giuditta Teresa” from Natisone Valley – the epicenter of gubana’s homeland. Mrs. Giuditta learned to bake Gubana when she was very young from a lady who lived in her neaborhood. She eventually opened her bakery and very soon her brand become popular. Today, “Giuditta Teresa” has become an industry too, and their products are available even in supermarkets. I went in the Natisone Valley to find the dougther of the lady who teached the recipe to Giuditta Teresa. She is nearly 80 years old, but every day she cooks with passion for her two grandchildren. So I asked her to teach me to cook the “real” Gubana using her mother’s recipe and she was so kind to do that. Here below you can find this “original” recipe and her instructions. Makes one 25 cm/10-inch cake, about 12 generous servings.
INGREDIENTS FOR THE SPONGE
1/2 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to lukewarm.
2 1/4 teaspoons fine granulated active dry or instant yeast
3/4 cup unbleached bread flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
INGREDIENTS FOR THE DOUGH
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 large egg yolks at room temperature
1/2 cup/110 grams sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 large lemon
All the sponge, above
2 1/4 cups/300 grams unbleached bread flour (spoon into a dry-measure cup and level off)
1/2 teaspoon/3 grams fine sea salt
8 tablespoons/115 grams unsalted butter, softened
INGREDIENTS FOR THE FILLING
1 1/2 cups golden raisins
3/4 cup candied orange peel, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/4 cup of Grappa (better if Domenis® or Nonino® but can be OK with Slivovitz too)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
2 cups walnut pieces, lightly toasted and finely chopped but not ground
2 cups of pine nuts lightly tosted in a spoon of butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten
One 25 cm/9-inch round, 5 cm/3-inch deep cake or spring form pan, buttered and lined with a disk of parchment paper
DIRECTIONS FOR THE SPONGE
Whisk the milk and yeast together in a small bowl. Wait 30 seconds and whisk again. Use a small rubber spatula to stir in the flour. Cover with oiled or sprayed plastic wrap and let ferment until more than doubled in size, about 1 hour.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE DOUGH
Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest by hand in the bowl. Use a rubber spatula to stir in the sponge. Add the flour and salt and mix until smooth. Let rest for 15 minutes. Mix until the dough comes away from the side of the bowl, then beat in the butter a little at a time. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Flour a cookie sheet and place the dough on it. Flour the dough and press it out flat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE FILLING
Place the raisins in a small pan, add water to cover, then bring to a boil. Drain and transfer to a large bowl with the orange peel and add the grappa. Scatter the brown sugar on top. In a medium sauté pan, melt the butter and cook the breadcrumbs in it over low heat until they are golden, then add to the filling. Add the nuts and egg and fold the filling together until evenly sticky. Let cool.
DIRECTIONS FOR THE ASSEMBLY
Invert the dough to a floured work surface and roll it to a rectangle. Spread the filling evenly over the dough, leaving a 2.5 cm/1-inch margin. Beginning from a wide end, roll up the dough and filling. Form the dough into a loose spiral and drop into the pan, leaving room between the curves for the dough to grow while it’s rising. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and let the gubana proof until there are no longer any gaps in the dough, about 1 hour, but possibly longer. About 30 minutes into the proofing, set a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 170°C/325˚F. Bake the Gubana until well risen and deep golden, with an internal temperature of 90°C /200˚F, 65 to 75 minutes. Place the pan on a rack and cover the gubana with foil and a slightly damp towel so that it cools slowly. Unmold when cooled. Wrap and serve the day after it’s baked.