Ring! Ring! (BBB April 2019)

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BBB: Let's Keep Baking summary: recipe for Ciambella Mandorlata (Italian Easter Bread); substitutions – of course there are substitutions; using commercial yeast; how not to plan ahead; attempts to replace the word “so”; information about Bread Baking Babes;

…for better than never is late; Never to thrive, were too long a date.

Bread Baking Babes (BBB): Ciambella Mandorlata

BBB April 2019

When Aparna told us about the BBBs’ April project, I was determined that I would translate the recipe back to its origins. Because it seems certain that Ciambella Mandorlata would have been traditionally made with wild yeast.

Decorated with a crunchy-sweet nut and spice topping, this Italian Easter bread is originally from Bologna, one of the capital cities of the Emilia Romagna reginon. This traditional ring-shaped loaf is said to represent the unity of the family. It is now common to see the bread in Italian bakeries all year round, not just during the Easter holidays.
– Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno, ‘Ciambella Mandorlata’, Ultimate Bread, p153

And then time got away from me. So much so that I couldn’t even manage to think about making the BBB bread by the 16th…

However, look at me! I did manage to get it baked in time for Easter!

:-) O O :-)

Here’s how things went this month:

BBB Ciambella Mandorlata diary:

12 March 2019, 15:15 This sounds lovely! I really like that there are almonds. And because it’s an Easter bread – as in festive – perhaps we’ll splash out and get some Amaretto to put into the dough as well, as per this recipe at Giallo Zafferana:
Il Ciambellone Mandorlato è il re della colazione: un profumo ed un sapore ineguagliabili (Ciambellone Mandorlato is the king of breakfast: an incomparable fragrance and taste)
– da Cucinarock, Giallo Zafferana Ciambellone Mandorlato

12 April 2019, 13:48 I JUST paid attention to the date! I fear that I’m going to be late with this one – lots of different concerts with way too many notes and too much time on highways instead of in our kitchen this month. I’m hoping to get the Ciambella done by Easter or just after….

16 April 2019, 23:56 I just got back into town – and I’m out again tomorrow – but hoping to make this bread very soon. (Better late than never) In the BBBabes’ FB group, I saw photos of the others’ Ciambelle – they look delicious!

17 April 2019, 10:19 It occurred to me that I should look more closely at the recipe, and I can’t believe it calls for 3 eggs! (I can believe that it has only volume measures though. How disappointing. And. How handy it is that Gourmet Sleuth is just a few clicks away on the internet.)

But what about all those eggs?!

At the price of eggs these days, I’m NOT using all those eggs
– me, blog from OUR kitchen | Water Sports (BBB March 2014)

When I do make the bread, because I plan to reduce the number of eggs, I’m also thinking about using wild yeast instead of commercial.

Oh wait. Maybe not. I would have to reduce the amount of butter too, wouldn’t I? THAT won’t do! :stomp:
[F]estive breads are usually made with the most expensive and highly prized ingredients-golden butter and eggs, aromatic spices and flavorings, and sweet dried and candied fruits. These ceremonial breads are formed into traditional shapes that have special symbolic meanings.[…]
As a mark of their special, festive status, these breads are heavily enriched and highly flavored with once-treasured ingredients, such as fresh eggs and butter, candied fruit, and exotic spices.
– Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno, ‘Festive Breads’, Ultimate Bread, p24, 147

But I’m definitely not going to use three eggs!

The basic ratio is one tablespoon of flax seeds and three tablespoons of water to replace one egg. You’ll need to grind the flax seeds into a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder (or use 2 1/2 teaspoons pre-ground), and then you simply whisk in the water until it becomes gelatinous. Cory Ramy on the [NYTimes] Bitten blog also chilled the mixture before using it. Add flax “eggs” to the recipe exactly as you would regular eggs.
– Emma Christensen, Kitchn | Egg Substitutes in Baking? Try Flax Seed!

Hmmm, that sounds like quite a lot of water. I know that an egg’s volume is roughly 1/4 cup. Therefore (I hope everyone is pleased to see that I chose not to begin this sentence with the dreaded word “so”), I’m going to make an executive decision to use just 2 Tbsp water + flax seed to replace each egg. Because I’m an expert… and I never fail when I make these rash executive decisions…. :lalala: {cough} :lalala:

18 April 2019, 10:07 Good thing T and I discussed how I should substitute two of the eggs! Because it turns out that he’s adamantly opposed to me using flax seed in this kind of bread!

Okay. No flaxseed it is! What about yoghurt?

10:09 (Phew! I’m relieved that the yoghurt alternative has been accepted….)

23:04 I’m planning on making this bread tomorrow and, looking over the recipe again, I just realized that I completely forgot to get lemons! I wonder if we have any oranges….

19 April 2019, 11:44 It turns that we don’t have any lemons or oranges. It’s pouring with rain. (Not to mention, it’s Good Friday. Are the stores even open today?)

Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the butter, eggs, extracts and dissolved yeast.
– BBB April 2019 recipe

Extracts? What extracts??? Did I manage to copy the recipe badly?? (I just looked at Aparna’s post and clearly see the extracts listed. How did I manage to miss those?!)

But. I loathe almond extract. And we don’t have any lemon extract. I think I WILL raid the liquor cabinet. We MUST have some amaretto hiding in there.

I just looked at the recipe in “Ultimate Bread” and see that there is zero extract in it. But now that I reel back the tape, I do remember that Aparna mentioned that she added extract(s) to her ciambella mandorlata.

I’ve decided to substitute the extracts and the lemon zest with Grand Marnier.

And speaking of substitutions, instead of almonds, we considered using cashews that we happen to have on hand. But that would mean having to change the name of the bread to something like Ciambella non-Mandorlata, or perhaps Ciambella Anacardiolata.

Even for me, this is being just a little too cavalier. Consequently, when we went to the store to get kale for last night’s dinner, we bought a few almonds at the same time. :-)
13:49 I confess I was a tiny bit nervous about using the commercial yeast that has been languishing in the fridge. It has been ages since we’ve used it. I was worried that it may have expired.

But there was no cause for worry! I just turned the dough. Already it has risen significantly. Yay.

16:27 The dough rose beautifully and was insanely easy to shape. I wish I could say the same for putting the topping on.

I decided to add the topping early – in an attempt to get it to adhere. There was a LOT of topping. And I didn’t even prepare as much as Aparna suggested!

Placing them on parchment paper, I made two rings – one to fit in our large cast iron pan and the other to fit in our small cast iron pan. Then I brushed them with milk (I have no idea how much – it was a good sized sploosh in a small custard bowl. Finally, I spooned the chopped almond, sugar and cinnamon mixture on top as best I could. Because the mixture didn’t really want to stay, I sprayed both rings with water. I’ll do that again just before putting them in the oven.

17:22 The rings look fabulous!! This is so exciting! The oven is preheating now. I’ll try not to burn anything….

BBB Ciambella Mandorlata

I strongly recommend tenting the bread with foil once it starts to brown if you use the cinnamon sugar topping. I checked mine at 20 minutes and it was getting pretty dark.
– Karen K, message to BBBabes, 6 April 2019

Thinking about Karen’s warning about possible burning with the cinnamon sugar topping added, I think I’ll begin the baking with a cover on top.

17:37 Instead of using our combo-cooker and a covered casserole to bake the two rings, I opted for our stainless steel mixing bowls to cover the rings – to trap the steam AND stave off burning. I also lowered the oven temperature.

But. Speaking of reading problems (again!!) I just noticed the following:

To make the topping mix the cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and egg yolk in a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to spread the mixture evenly over the top of the ring.
BBB April 2019 recipe

Oh!! So THAT’S why the topping wanted to fall off! I was supposed to mix the milk in! (Now I’m sorry that I didn’t melt a little butter and add it to the almond/sugar mixture.)

Happily the water I sprayed on after scattering the topping onto the just-shaped rings seems to have done the trick for keeping the almond mixture stuck.

BBB April 2019

18:01 Speaking of adhering, EEEEEEEK!! I had a devil of a time removing the stainless steel hats because there was so much oven spring!

After prying the bowls off the partially baked bread, peeling the pieces off the bowls and patching as best we could back onto the bread, we left the bread uncovered (it’s very blonde right now) and it’s continuing to bake for another 20 minutes. Here’s hoping there’s no burning!!

18:23 Not quite done yet. I turned the oven down to 325F and will leave them in for 5 more minutes.

18:38 Perfection!! Well, almost. The holes closed up!!

Can we still call them rings?

BBB April 2019

We WERE going to wait to open the bread to have for breakfast today. But we couldn’t help ourselves from trying a little for dessert after dinner.

Wow. Buttery. And Tender. And delicious!

BBB April 2019

Next time, I’ll be sure to have lemons on hand though. I bet the addition of lemon zest would be brilliant. I might add more cointreau as well. Or maybe we could get hold of some Limoncello.

I’ll also make sure to use a bigger stainless steel bowl so the wildly springing bread doesn’t stick to the sides as it’s baking.

Many thanks for choosing Italian Easter Bread, Aparna!

Here is the official BBB recipe for Ciambella Mandorlata.

And here are the ingredients list from the recipe for Ciambella Mandorlata in “Ultimate Bread” by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno:

Ciambella Mandorlata recipe For the dough:
2 tsp dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm milk
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
grated zest of 3 lemons
9 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup water

For the topping:
4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp sugar
3/4 cup blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 egg yolk

And here is what I did to the recipe:

Ciambella Mandorlata (Almond Ring)
Adapted from the recipe for Ciambella Mandorlata in “Ultimate Bread” by Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno

makes 1 large ring or 2-3 smaller rings


  • 100gm unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
  • 180gm boiling water
  • 61gm plain yoghurt
  • 122gm milk
  • 25gm sugar (the BBB recipe calls for using “1/3 cup [67gm]”)
  • 8gm active dry yeast
  • 1 egg
  • 5gm cointreau
  • Flour (the BBB recipe calls for using only bread flour)
       » 550gm unbleached “no additives” all-purpose
       » 50gm 100% whole wheat
       » 10gm wheatgerm
       » 7gm finely ground almonds
  • 12gm salt
  • grated zest of 1 lemon OOPS! I forgot to get lemons! (the BBB recipe calls for “grated zest of 3 lemons”)


  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds, roughly chopped (the BBB recipe calls for “blanched almonds, toasted”)
  • milk (the BBB recipe calls for “1 egg yolk”)

For the Topping:

Mix the cinnamon, sugar, almonds, and egg yolk in a bowl. Use a rubber spatula or brush to spread the mixture evenly over the top of the ring. If you don’t like using egg on top of your breads like me, leave out the egg yolk. Instead brush the cornstarch mixture on top of the ring. Then evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar nut mixture over this. Gently press in the nuts using the tip of your fingers. Be careful not to deflate the dough.
Bake at 200C (400F) in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, until it is golden and hollow sounding when tapped underneath. Check after 15 minutes. If the bread is browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil.
Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. Serve with jam and coffee.

  1. mix the dough In the morning of the day you will be making the bread: Put the cut up butter into the bottom of a large mixing bowl (enough for the final dough to triple). Pour in boiling water and whisk until the butter has melted.
  2. Whisk in yoghurt, milk, and sugar. Before whisking in the yeast, drip a tiny bit of the milk mixture onto the inside of your wrist to check that it is now at body temperature (anything above 120F will kill the yeast).
  3. Whisk in egg and cointreau, then dump the flours, wheat germ, ground almonds, and salt overtop. Use a dough whisk or wooden spoon to mix in the flours and form a rough dough. Put a plate overtop the bowl and let the mixture rest for about 20 minutes.
  4. stretching and folding the dough: Turn the bowl as you fold and re-fold the dough into itself in the center of the bowl. Cover the bowl with a plate and leave on the counter (or if the kitchen is cool like ours in winter and early spring, into the oven with only the light turned on). Repeat the folding step about 3 times in all at 30 minute intervals. You’ll notice that after each time, the dough will feel significantly smoother. After the final time of folding, cover the bowl with a plate and leave until the dough has doubled in volume.
  5. make the topping: Whisk cinnamon and sugar together in a small bowl. Stir in chopped almonds. Pour milk into another small bowl. Set aside.
  6. shaping: Scatter a dusting of all-purpose flour on the board and gently place the dough on the flour. Using the dough scraper, divide the dough (eg: If you are making 2 rings, divide it in two). For each ring, roll out two equal-sized pieces into long ropes. Twist the two dough ropes together. Shape the twisted rope in to ring and fasten the ends together. Put the ring into a parchment lined cast-iron frying pan.
    Liberally brush the ring with milk, and scatter almond/sugar mixture over top. (Next time, I plan to brush the ropes with milk and roll them in the almond/sugar mixture.) Cover with an upside-down stainless steel mixing bowl and allow to rest in a warmish spot until the ring has doubled.
  7. baking: Put a bread stone on the middle shelf of the oven and preheat to 400F.
  8. When the oven is preheated about fifteen minutes later, put the cast-iron pan(s), along with the stainless steel bowl hat(s) onto the hot stone. Immediately turn the oven down to 375F. Bake 20-30 minutes. Remove the hat(s) – fingers crossed that none of the bread sticks to the inside of the stainless steel bowl – and continue baking the bread for another 30 minutes or so it’s until nicely golden brown and sounds hollow when knuckle-rapped on the bottom.
  9. cooling: When the bread has finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool on a footed rack before slicing and eating; the bread is still cooking internally when first removed from the oven! If you wish to serve warm bread (of course you do), reheat it after it has cooled completely: To reheat any uncut bread, turn the oven to 400F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread into the hot oven for about ten minutes. This will rejuvenate the crust and warm the crumb perfectly.

Serve the bread warm with coffee for breakfast. Or have it as dessert, along with a small glass of grappa.


Leavener: Like so many recipes on the internet and in the books on our shelves, the BBB recipe calls for using active dry yeast (an invention of the very late 19th century). This seems counter-intuitive to me when baking a bread that has been made for centuries, long before commercial yeast was available. Therefore, next time, I plan to try making this with wild yeast.

Cointreau: The BBB recipe does NOT call for any liquor at all. However, Aparna added lemon and almond extract to her bread dough. Lacking the extracts, I made an executive decision to add cointreau. Because that’s what we had in the cupboard. Next time, I think I’d add a little more than 1 teaspoon. We couldn’t really detect its flavour at all.

Lemon Zest Next time, we will definitely make sure that we have lemons on hand. However, I doubt that we will use the zest of 3 lemons. Without having a lemon tree in our backyard, that seems excessive.

Eggs The BBB recipe calls for 3 eggs. We are horrified at the idea of eggy-tasting bread! Not to mention that good eggs aren’t exactly cheap. Instead, I just one egg and substituted the other two. Considering the huge amount of yeast in this bread, it’s probably not necessary to do anything when substituting eggs but make sure of the same amount of liquid is used: One egg is roughly 60 ml (0.25 cup) of liquid. Here’s more about egg substitution:
The ratio is, for every egg replaced, 1/4 cup of the substitute is used. If eggs are leavening agents, Buttermilk, Yogurt, Baking Soda […] can be used.
Madhuram’s Eggless Cooking


BBB April 2019

This morning, we warmed up more wedges of Ciambella Mandorlata to have with coffee. And yes, we slathered extra butter onto the bread. How decadent!

Bread Baking Babes BBB: Let's Keep BakingCiambella Mandorlata

Aparna is the host of April 2019’s Bread Baking Babes’ project. She wrote:

This April celebrates Easter so I chose Ciambella Mandorlata, an Easter bread, for us to bake. Ciambella Mandorlata is an Italian Easter bread that originated in Bologna in the Emilia Romagna region. […] This ring shaped bread has soft with a brioche-like texture and is decorated with a crunchy sweet spiced almond topping. Though baked for Easter, it is generally eaten throughout the year, and mostly at breakfast.
– Aparna, in message to BBBabes

We know you’ll want to make Ciambella Mandorlata too! To receive a Baking Buddy Badge to display on your site: make the doughnuts in the next couple of weeks and post about them (we love to see how your bread turns out AND hear what you think about it – what you didn’t like and/or what you liked) before the 29 April 2019. If you do not have a blog, no problem; you can also post your picture(s) to Flickr (or any other photo sharing site) and record your thoughts about the bread there. Please remember to contact the Kitchen of the Month to say that your post is up.

Please note that it’s not enough to post about your bread in the Facebook group. Because of the ephemeral nature of Facebook’s posts, your FB post may be lost in the shuffle. Please make sure to directly contact the kitchen of the month if you want to be included in the BBBuddy roundup.

For complete details about this month’s recipe, the BBB and how to become a BBBuddy, please read:

Please take a look at the other BBBabes’ April 2019 Ciambelle.


Even though the bread looks a little ravaged because of the poor patching job, it still tastes terrific.

BBB april 2019

It suddenly occurred to me to look in Carol Field’s lovely cookbook, “The Italian Baker”, to see if she included a recipe for Ciambella Mandorlata. As it happens, she does not. However, her recipe for Colomba Pasquale (Easter Dove) that “is shaped like a dove and veiled with crystallized sugar and studded with toasted unpeeled almonds” is not at all unsimilar; it seems only to really differ in the shaping and the region (Lombardy) that it is traditionally made.

In Italy every bakery has bottles of powerful essences labelled aroma di panettone, aroma di colomba, aroma di limone, and aroma di arancia dolce, which give the breads their memorable tastes, but some of hte finest bakers I met prefer using freshly grated lemon and orange zest or a splash of vanilla extract for flavoring
– Carol Field, ‘Pani Festivi | Celebration Breads’, The Italian Baker, p198

That clinches it! Next time I make Ciambella mandorlata, I will add fresh lemon zest to the dough. I also really like Field’s idea to make the dough in two steps, starting with a sponge.


4 responses to “Ring! Ring! (BBB April 2019)

  1. Karen

    So glad your yeast was still good! Your bread looks terrific. Great idea to cover it for the first minutes of baking!

    Me too, Karen. Me too! Still, I kind of wish that I’d planned ahead far enough to try making the bread with our starter, rather than using commercial yeast. (Maybe next time….) – Elizabeth

  2. Aparna

    Your Ciambella look really good. They have risen beautifully.
    Looks like you had s bit of an adventure with them. :)
    I used 2 eggs instead of 3. I don’t use flax eggs to replace more than 1 egg. I find “flax eggs” tend to produce a somewhat gummy texture sometimes so they’re my last choice of egg substitute.
    Also I use s mixture of cornstarch and water instead of egg wash when I need toppings to stick on to bread dough.

    I thought about using cornstarch but was a little nervous to try it. It’s nice to know that it works, Aparna. – Elizabeth

  3. Katie Zeller

    What do you have against eggs? I know you don’t like runny eggs on your plate. but eggs in baking? I’m curious, as a person who holds no grudges against any food…
    Glad you got it baked in time for Easter – looks delicious!

    I have nothing against eggs when they are in their proper place, Katie. I just don’t think they belong in abundance in bread dough. I want bread, not souffle! :lalala: – Elizabeth

  4. Kelly

    Hooray! Baked and beautiful, perfect and posted! Love the color and twists. The thought of cashews intrigues me though I wonder if they would tend to burn? I love cashews. I am turning my leftovers into pan french toast today, along with and extra batch of cinnamon almonds on top.

    We were worried that cashews might burn too, Kelly. Which would be a shame because cashews are SO delicious. (Mmmm, good idea to make pain perdu and add extra cinnamon almonds! We finished our ciambella off by serving it for dessert: toasted, buttered – because it’s not quite rich enough already :-) – and topped with homemade chocolate ice cream.) – Elizabeth


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