WHAT IS IT?
Pane e Saba or Bread and Saba is a traditional dessert of Sardinia. Cooked mostly during the ‘All Saints Day’ (La Festa di Ognissanti) and ‘All Souls day’ (ll Giorno dei Morti) on the first week of November. The dish is sweet and aromatic which serves as a delicacy during festivities like Christmas and Easter. The end of the harvest season in the island marks the production of Saba (cooked wine), the condiment used here and in many recipes around Italy.
The dish is rich in sweetness and has a strong flavor of dry fruits added to it. It is thus pre-dominant in the regions where hazelnuts and walnuts are grown. Since it is such a beloved recipe there are countless variations found in the region. The dish is altered by the flour content or the percentage of nuts used. The main ingredient Saba/Sapa is a sweet reduction of must (young wine). Owing its origin to Ancient Greek cuisine, it is made by boiling freshly squeezed grapes (or grape juice) in huge copper pots. It is cooked at alternate temperatures until it is reduced to one-third of its original volume. The end product has a highly concentrated sugar content which also prevents it from being alcoholic. The present-day Italy has only a handful of winemakers still making this age-old recipe. It is also known as Vino Cotto or Vincotto. Pan e Saba is similar to a cake. Though the dish is easy to make, the Sapa requires tremendous skill, dedication and patience to perfect. That is why the intense flavor and balance between acidity and sweetness is admired by all.
The ingredients required for this recipe are:
- Flour (Durum Wheat) – 500 g
- Saba – 300 ml
- Almonds – 150g
- Pine nuts (Chopped) – 100g
- Walnuts (Chopped) – 150g
- Raisins – 150g
- Eggs – 2/3
- Yeast (Fresh) – 25-30g
- Orange zest (Grated and dried in oven) – From 2 Oranges
- Traggera (Sprinkling colored sugar) – to taste
- Fil e Ferru or Brandy
First dip the raisins in a bowl of water and Fil e Ferru (or brandy) for 10-15 minutes. After the raisins have been soaked, squeeze them dry. Put the almonds in the oven and toast them at a low temperature. Mix the raisins, toasted almonds (sliced) and the nuts (chopped) in a bowl.
Add the yeast in lukewarm water and dissolve it. Take a large bowl and put the flour, eggs and yeast in it. Then add Sapa cautiously and slowly as the dough should be elastic but not too soft. So, after the dough is smooth, add the cinnamon and orange zest. Place the dough on a tray or container with a wet cloth as base and cover it with a warm cloth. Leave the dough for 2-3 days in warm place. This step is crucial to let the dough rise in volume and gives the bread a strong taste.
Then brush the dough with Saba and cook in the oven at 180° for 35-40 minutes. After baking, take out the bread and let it cool. If you pierce the center of the bread with a toothpick and it comes out clean, the Pan e Saba is cooked perfectly in a ring shape.
Garnish it with some nuts and traggera and let it cool. Slice it and serve it.