There a many posts and recipes on my blog about Easter in Sicily.
This time, I am writing about Presniz, a rolled pastry sweet that is eaten at Christmas and Easter. Presniz comes from Trieste where I spent my childhood. My parents were Sicilian but lived in Trieste and this is where I lived before I came to Australia.
Trieste is in the north-eastern region of Italy called Friuli-Venezia Giulia: you may recognize some of the cities and towns in this region – Udine, Pordenone, Cividale, Gorizia, Trieste.
Trieste was once the main port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia has Germanic, Slavic and Latin cultures so it is no surprise to find that the food from this region can be very different to other Italian regions.
At Easter, when we lived in Trieste, we bought Presniz from a Pasticceria (pastry shop) and it was only when we came to Australia and where the traditional food we were used to was not available, that my mother began to make Presniz with my aunt (from Trieste) at Easter. More common in my household and made all year round was another favourite – a Stucolo de Pomi, (an apple strudel). Also common in Friuli-Venezia Giulia is Gubana (often called Putiza in Trieste. Gubana and Putiza may have started off as being different but over time have melded to become the same thing).
All three popular dolci (pastry/sweets/ desserts) from Friuli-Venezia Giulia are made with pastry and rolled around a filling – the strudel has mainly apples, the Preznis and the Gubana/Putiza have a predominant filling of nuts.
Pinza is also a very common Easter treat in Trieste – this is a sweet brioche like bread made with many eggs and butter and similar to the consistency and colour of a panettone, but devoid of any dry fruit or nuts. Pinza is usually eaten with ham especially on Easter morning – strange but true.
There are many variations in the fillings of both the Presniz and the Gubana but basically in Trieste, the Presniz is more likely to have short pastry and mixed nuts in the filling (variations of walnuts, hazelnuts, pine nuts and almonds), whereas the pastry of the Gubana has yeast and the filling was once predominately made of of walnuts. Over time even flaky pastry is used for Presniz by some pasticceri (pastry chefs) in Trieste. Recipes evolve and the filling for the two have become similar; chocolate and candied citrus are also often added.
The Gubana originated and is popular in the Natisone valley in Friuli, on the border with Slovenia and in the towns of Gorizia, Cividale and Udine. The origins of Gubana has attracted many researches, both in terms of its origin as the name in Austro-German literature or literature of the Czech Republic. As you can guess, there are still no conclusions.
You will find a recipe for Gubana, in a post from 7/4/2009:
Presniz and Gubana (Easter Cakes in Trieste)
I have looked at many sources for information and recipes for Presniz and they differ significantly, especially for making the pastry. I have two bibles of Triestine cooking – La Cucina Tipica Triestina by Accademia Italiana della Cucina delegazione di Trieste (1983) and La Cucina Triestina Maria Slelvo (1987) and the recipes could not be less alike.
I have provided two recipes for making pastry – these are by far the simplest.
PASTRY FOR PRESNIZ
- From Culinaria Italy: Pasta, Pesto, Passion, the ingredients.
Ingredients are: 250 flour, 250 butter, 5-6 tbs milk, juice of one lemon, 1 egg and salt.
The instructions are: Rub the butter into half of the flour and leave the mix to stand overnight. Mix the remaining flour with the rest of the ingredients. Leave to stand for1 hour and then mix the two together. Roll out thinly on a cloth.
- From: La Cucina Tipica Triestinaby Accademia Italiana della Cucina delegazione di Trieste
Ingredients are: 250 flour, 250 butter, 4 tbs milk, juice of one lemon, 2 eggs and salt.
The instructions are as above.
If anything I think that my mother and aunt always added a bit of grappa to the pastry.
As for the filling: Many of the recipes do not provide amounts for the nuts, but this combination should be sufficient for the amount of pastry. It is interesting to see that in La Cucina Triestina, Maria Slelvo (1987) does not suggest hazelnuts – one of her recipes suggests using either walnuts or almonds, another has walnuts and pine nuts and a third recipe just walnuts.
Most of the recipes suggest blanching all of the nuts – blanching almonds is fine, but I am unsure that I want to spend time blanching walnuts of hazelnuts.
This combination below is to my taste, but with all Italian recipes, vary it to suit your tastes.
- Nuts: mixed 300g = use a greater amount of walnuts than hazelnuts or almonds, i.e. ½ walnuts, ¼ hazelnuts, ¼ almonds.
- 60g pine nuts
- 100g raisins and/or sultanas
- grated peel from lemon and orange
- 100g of fresh breadcrumbs lightly toasted (in a fry pan) in about 60g butter
- 60g dark chocolate, broken into little pieces
- 50g sugar
- 3 tablespoons rum or grappa
To brush on the pastry:
- 1-2 eggs to paint on top of the pastry
- 2 tbs jam
- 2 tbs butter
Soak the raisins/ sultanas in the rum or grappa and leave them to plump for about an hour or more.
Grind the nuts (not to a powder). In L’Artusi, La scienza di Cucina e L’Arte di Mangiare Bene, Pellegrino Artusi suggests cutting each nut into three and crushing the pine nuts into pieces as large as a rice grain (Go for it!). He also suggests adding cinnamon and some powdered cloves to the mix.
Roll out the pastry into a long strip (about 15 cm wide) and 0.5 cm thick. I use baking paper to roll the pastry on. Leave the pastry to rest while you mix the filling.
Mix all of the ingredients together (not the ingredients to brush on the pastry). The filling will be moist. Taste the mixture and see if you would like it sweeter – add more sugar.
Brush the pastry with beaten egg (not all of it, leave some for the top once it is rolled, this will add gloss) and then with a little warmed jam. Add bits of solid butter on top.
Spread the filling over this, but leave an edge of pastry all round- about 2 cm. Roll it on to itself and make a long shape – about 10 cm in circumference. Seal the ends. Coil it into a loose snail shape/ spiral and place it on some baking paper. Arrange it on buttered and floured baking tray. See pictures – a Gubana is snail shape, coiled closer together and usually baked in a tin, a Presniz is not quite joined together.
Brush the rest of the egg over the pastry, sprinkle it with a little sugar.
Bake in 180°C for about 60 minutes.
Let cool before serving. It stores well (wrapped in metal foil) for about a week.
***Use key words “Easter in Sicily” / enter key words in search button on the blog and you will find many Sicilian recipes.
****Strucolo De Pomi, Apple Strudel:
Strucolo De Pomi (apple Strudel From Trieste, Common at Christmas and Suitable for Our Autumn)