The maritozzo is the centrepiece of my Roman breakfast. With its curious name – an affectionate derivative of marito, which means husband – it’s a tease in the form of a sticky bun. It first became popular in the Middle Ages as a token of love, when the girl who made the most scrumptious maritozzo would gain the most delectable honour of all: the attention of the most beautiful young man in the neighbourhood. Now, who wouldn’t want to give that a go? Falling for such a deliciously tempting treat is as easy as falling in love for the first time.
Preparation time: 30 minutes plus rising
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Makes 8 maritozzi
1 teaspoon fast-action dried yeast
200ml (7fl oz) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon malt extract or caster sugar
375g (13oz) Canadian very strong white bread flour, plus extra if necessary
70g (21/2oz) caster sugar
pinch of salt
70ml (21/2fl oz) corn oil
zest of 1 lemon
2 eggs, separated
20g (3/4oz) raisins, soaked in
warm water for 10 minutes and drained
20g (3/4oz) pine nuts
zest of 1 orange
120g (4 oz) white sugar
80ml water (21/2fl oz)
350ml (12fl oz) whipping cream
30g (1oz) icing sugar
50g (13/4oz) pistachios, crushed to a fine powder
Dissolve the yeast in 50ml (2fl oz) of the measured water, add the malt extract and mix well.
In a bowl, mix together the flour and sugar. Make a well in the centre, add the yeast and malt mixture and stir everything together.
In a separate bowl, add the salt, corn oil and lemon zest to the remaining water and stir together, then pour the liquid over the flour mixture, add the egg yolks and knead together to form a firm dough. Add the raisins, pine nuts and orange zest to the dough and continue to knead until all the ingredients are well combined.
Dust the dough and bowl with a little flour, cover with clingfilm and leave to rise in a warm place for at least 2 hours, or until it has risen by about one-third.
Transfer the risen dough onto a floured work surface and knead it for a couple of minutes, adding a little more flour if necessary, to obtain a firm and elastic dough. Divide the dough into eight pieces, then shape each piece into a round bun. Arrange the maritozzi on an oven tray lined with baking paper, cover with clingfilm and leave to rest for another 30 minutes.
Once the buns have rested, shape them into ovals and brush them with the egg white. Cover them again with clingfilm and leave them to rise for 1 hour.
While the maritozzi are rising, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4 and prepare the sugar syrup. Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over a medium heat for 3–5 minutes without stirring until the liquid becomes transparent. Set aside to cool.
Bake the maritozzi for 20 minutes, or until golden brown, then remove them from the oven and brush with the sugar syrup. Leave them to cool on the tray for at least 20 minutes.
For the filling, whisk the cream together with the icing sugar until stiff peaks form. Make a cut lengthways along each maritozzo and fill each with the whipped cream and a sprinkle of crushed pistachios. Heaven in a bun.
Extracted from As the Romans Do. Available here