Focaccia della Befana is a baked dessert prepared in Piedmont forEpiphany. Called in dialect Fugassa d'la Befana, is made according to a very ancient recipe, prior to that of panettone and colomba. With a soft and fluffy dough, the dessert has a shape that resembles a daisy or a sun. Inside it contains raisins and candied fruit, just like panettone, even if, probably, candied fruit was not present in its original recipe.
A sweet “surprise”
Tradition dictates that they are hidden inside the Focaccia della Befana a white bean and a black bean, or a coin. Whoever finds one of these "surprises" in his portion will be lucky and will have money for the whole year, as long as he pays for the focaccia. Specifically, whoever finds the white bean will have to pay the costs incurred to prepare it; whoever finds the black bean, however, will pay for everyone's drinks. In some areas of Piedmont, the beans are replaced with a small king. La fugassa d'la Befana is a PAT product (Traditional Italian food product) from the Piedmont Region.
The necessary ingredients
To make Focaccia della Befana you will need: 250 grams of 00 flour; 250 grams of Manitoba flour; 2 eggs; 170 grams of warm milk; 80 grams of sugar; 80 grams of melted butter; 1 cube of brewer's yeast; vanilla extract; 100 grams of sultanas; 30 grams of candied fruit; 1 pinch of salt; one white bean and one black.
How to prepare it
To prepare the Focaccia della Befana you must first soak the raisins for 10 minutes and dissolve the yeast in warm milk. Pour the flours, sugar, a pinch of salt into a bowl and mix. Then add the two eggs, the melted butter, the milk with the yeast, the vanilla extract. Mix the ingredients well by kneading by hand. Then add the well squeezed raisins and candied fruit. Knead the dough again until it is smooth.
Transfer it to a bowl, cover it with cling film and let it rise for two hours. When it has risen, transfer it to a sheet of baking paper and flatten it with your hands, giving it a circular shape, about 2,5 centimeters high. Place a glass in the center of the circle and, with the help of a knife, obtain 16 segments by cutting the dough in a radial pattern.
Then twist each segment on itself, after inserting a white bean and a black bean separately into two of them. Transfer it to a baking tray and, after covering it again with cling film, let it rise for another hour. Immediately afterwards, brush the focaccia with beaten egg white and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Bake in a preheated, static oven at 180° for half an hour.
This dessert, especially typical of the Cunese area, is a brioche bread ideal for morning breakfast, but can be consumed at any time of the day. Piedmontese focaccia is just one of the many typical Epiphany desserts. In Italy, in fact, it is common practice, from north to south, to fill the Befana stocking with various sweets, mainly chocolates and biscuits, but also fruit and sweet coal.
(Photo: Giallo Zafferano, Pixabay)