|Plenty of eggs, thanks to Nonno's chickens.|
Sgute are an Easter tradition in our family and we simply could not have Easter without them. All of the neighbourhood kids, even the big ones, get one of these sweet breads.
To make sgute, you need alot of eggs. The dough is rich with egg and the finished bread nests an egg or two (or three) in each sguta. If you are having a large gathering, you can bake an impressive form similar to some of those made in Siderno (where, of course there's a festival) by twisting two long lengths of dough into a large intertwined ring with about a dozen eggs embedded in the final baked sweet treat. Or you can attempt any of the more decorative and artistic shapes seen here. (Molte grazie a Cuore di Panna per le foto).
You will need a very large bowl (2 is more convenient) for dough, a big bowl for the sugar mixture, a large glass liquid measure for the yeast and at least two large baking sheets. A flexible dough scraper is also handy. Start the dough the night before. Have all of your ingredients at room temperature (including the whole eggs that will be baked in the dough). If you forget, they can be tempered in very warm water for several minutes beforehand. You will need about 18-24 eggs for placing into the dough.
For dough, proof yeast.
3oz of traditional yeast (I've used 2 oz with success)
250mL lukewarm water
Mix well, cover and set aside for 5-10 minutes until bubbly.
Using a hand mixer (or stand mixer) cream together 225g of lard or vegetable shortening with 4 scant cups of sugar until light. Add 4 teaspoons of vanilla (or anise extract if you prefer).
Beat 10 eggs with 375mL water or milk and blend into fat and sugar mixture a little at a time.
Have your flour measured (the original recipe states q.b. of course..). I start with about 8 cups and ended up adding between 3-4c more. Add all of your egg blend and yeast mixture to the initial 8c of flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add enough so that you get a dough that is still slightly tacky but not flowing.
Once the mixture comes together, I just use a dough scraper to fold the dough to get the above mentioned texture. The dough should be manageable with lightly floured hands.
Place the dough into a clean, lightly greased bowl and cover with cling. Set somewhere at a slightly cool room temperature, not too warm or it may be overflowing in the morning. Dough in my house (that is supposedly about 18C) likes 16 hours to rise but it is a slow moving dough so timing can be flexible. In these conditions it rises to fill the bowl by morning.
|The dough after 16 hours proofing time.|
When ready to bake, tip dough out onto lightly floured surface and cut in half. Cover the section you are not using with cling. Form the section you are using into a rough rectangle making sure the edges are as even as possible (not tapered). Slice lengths of dough about 3cm wide and 20-30cm long depending on how many eggs you wish to have per scuta. I like to use about 15-20cm per one egg and 25-30cm for 2 eggs.
|The prep area. Keep the dough covered|
For one egg, make a U-shape and place the egg in the bend, loop with the dough around the egg and fold/twist the leftover dough and make a cut at the bottom. It looks like the egg is wearing a scarf, it's a little tricky to describe - if a picture is worth a thousand words, this video is worth that and then some (Grazie Aurora Importing). Place the shaped dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.
|Sgute like to be cozy - Proof under a teatowel or two.|
|Hundreds and thousands are essential.|
Once the dough has proofed again on the backing tray for about an hour, brush with (what else?) an egg wash (whole egg) and, if you like, apply a liberal sprinkling of hundreds and thousands. My helpful 41/2 year old claims they are essential. Bake in a 180C oven for about 30-40 minutes. Dough will be lightly browned and the bottoms will sound hollow when tapped. The larger forms can be a little fragile when they first come out of the oven so they can set on the sheet for a minute or two and then moved gently to a cooling rack.
The eggs should also be perfectly cooked (like hard boiled) and are a great protein breakfast before getting into the sweet bread with coffee or an espresso. While the bread can be sliced and toasted, the sgute (and the eggs) are best the day they are made.
Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter.