Dear friends, I hope you are all healthy and safe right now. So many people aren’t, and I’m heartsick about it. I have been struggling with what to write in this space since our lives have been upended by the corona virus pandemic. That is why I have been quiet (again) around here. Last month, when we began to self-quarantine I initially thought how fun it would be to blog more often. But then I was hit with overwhelming guilt as I read headline after headline of people getting sick, people succumbing to the virus, and people losing their jobs. Suddenly, blogging about a recipe felt ridiculous and frivolous. But as the days passed, I noticed how many of my food blogging friends continued to publish, write, and post. No one was insensitive–rather, they continued to share their content alongside their most vulnerable selves. Everyone was openly sharing what an emotional roller coaster they are on, but that it is still possible to find humor and silver linings during our current circumstances. All of a sudden, the idea of sharing a recipe here with you no longer felt frivolous if it means I can help, in some little way, to bring comfort and a small sense of normalcy into your life. That is my hope. And what better way to feel comforted than with something from the oven and one of my favorite recipes: Marcella Hazan’s pastry ring.
Today is my birthday and I happen to share my special day with the late Marcella Hazan, so sharing one of my favorite culinary professionals’ recipes seems fitting. This pastry ring is something I grew up eating. It was a near-constant fixture on my maternal grandmother’s kitchen counter. After she died, I figured I would never eat it again since she cooked mostly by memory and I had never seen a recipe in writing. But years ago, when I bought Marcella Hazan’s cookbook, Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, I found a recipe that produced a near-identical version of the pastry ring I grew up eating and it is now a frequent fixture on my kitchen counter as well.
Like most Italian treats, Marcella Hazan’s pastry ring is mildly sweet, with bright notes from the fresh lemon zest, and a crackly top dotted cheerfully with sprinkles. You will notice that the dough can be rather crumbly, and you may wonder if it will even come together (it will). Remember that the ambient temperature of a room will often dictate how a dough behaves, so you may need to add a splash or two of milk if the dough is too dry. Italian pastry ring is purposely a drier cake with a dense crumb, but don’t let that put you off–it is just the kind of cake Italians love for dunking in their morning caffè latte, where it softens perfectly without falling apart.
I know many of us are finding solace in baking and cooking while in quarantine–I know I am. I hope that you will try Marcella Hazan’s pastry ring recipe, and that baking it brings you some enjoyment and normalcy to these very strange days we are living right now. I also hope you are able to find the silver linings during this time, too. I promise, they are there! They may be hard to find, but they are there if you look–and they are different for everyone, so don’t compare your silver linings to anyone else’s. I didn’t realize how much I needed to slow down until the pandemic gave us no choice but to do so. Losing activities and plans is disappointing, but there will be other activities and plans. For now, I am taking advantage of a completely clear calendar to do things that have been sitting on the proverbial back burner for I-don’t-want-to-admit-how-long. I’m re-evaluating how I want to spend my time and commit my energy. I have discovered the joy and satisfaction of meal planning. And I am enjoying the time I have to be back in this space writing and sharing recipes with you.
Stay safe, stay well, and stay home. A presto!Print
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
- 8 Tablespoons (113 grams) unsalted butter
- 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
- 3 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- Zest of 1 small lemon
- ¼ cup lukewarm whole or 2% milk (plus more if necessary)
- 3 large eggs
- Colored non-pareil sprinkles (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set it aside.
- Melt the butter in a sauce pan over low heat then set it aside to cool to lukewarm.
- Into a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Whisk to combine.
- Add in the cooled melted butter, milk and 2 of the eggs, and use a spatula to combine the ingredients together.
- Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently knead it until it comes together. If the dough is still too dry, add a small splash of milk until it holds together.
- Shape the dough into a roll about 2-inches (5 cm) thick in diameter and then form it into a ring, pinching the ends together to close it.
- Make an egg wash with the last egg and 1 Tablespoon of water.
- Brush the top of the pastry ring with the egg wash. Use a sharp knife to make a few shallow, diagonal cuts into the surface of the ring.
- Transfer the pastry ring to the parchment-lined baking sheet and decorate with sprinkles (if using).
- Bake the pastry ring for 30-35 minutes, until it is golden. The pastry ring will double in size as it bakes.
- Cool the pastry ring on the baking sheet set on a cooling rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the pastry ring to the cooling rack to finish cooling completely.
Storage: Store the pastry ring at room temperature on a platter covered loosely with aluminum foil or on a covered cake plate.