Another traditional Christmas dish from Bologna with an ‘official’ recipe is Certosino or Pan Speziale (“spicy bread”). I had never made it before, but I really liked it and will certainly make it again.
Originally it was named after the pharmacists (called “speziali”) that made this in medieval times, but later it was made by the monks of Certosa and named after that. The official recipe has been deposited only in 2003 and is now a “Specialità tradizionale garantita”. Italian recipes are often imprecise and this is no exception, although the quantities are specified. It reads “Amalgamare spezie, lievito, miele, zucchero, con acqua bollente e farina, aggiungere uvetta (messa precedentemente in acqua), mandorle, cedro, arancia, pinoli e cioccolato, mettere l’impasto in una teglia da forno e infornare (180°) per 30/40 minuti.”, which means “Mix spices, leavening [agent], honey, sugar with boiling water and flour, add raisins (soaked in water), almonds, [candied] citron, [candied] orange, pine nuts, and chocolate, and put the dough in a pan in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 180C.”
I’ve checked other online recipes in Italian to find out that the leavening agent should be baking soda (called “bicarbonato” in Italian). I found it a bit strange to add this in the beginning of the recipe, but I did it anyway.
Note added February 10, 2013: I have since made Certosino again, but using baking powder rather than baking soda and adding it together with the flour rather than in the beginning. The picture of the finished certosino in this recipe are now from that second time I made it and I have also corrected the instructions below accordingly. This is supposed to be a dense cake, but it should not look collapsed as happened when I used baking soda and added it at the same time as the spices.
200 grams (1 1/4 cup) flour (200 gr di farina)
100 grams (7 Tbsp) sugar (100 gr di zucchero)
100 grams (1/3 cup) honey (100 gr di miele)
50 grams (1/4 cup) sultanas or raisins (50 gr di uvetta)
50 grams (1/3 cup) blanched almonds (50 gr di mandorle)
50 grams (1/3 cup) pine nuts (50 gr di pinoli)
50 grams (1/4 cup) candied citron and orange peel (50 gr di cedro e arancia canditi)
50 grams (1.8 oz) dark chocolate, chopped (50 gr di cioccolato amaro)
2 tsp baking powder (lievito)
1 tsp ground cloves (chiodi di garofano)
1 tsp ground coriander seeds (coriandoli)
1 tsp ground cinnamon (cannella)
1 tsp anise seeds (semi di anice)
40 grams (3 Tbsp) butter (un poco di burro) + more for buttering the pan
3 Tbsp marsala (the official recipe says water, but I prefer to soak the raisins in marsala)
Combine honey, sugar, spices, butter and the soaking fluid from the raisins in a saucepan.
Combine the remaining almonds and candied peel with the chocolate, pine nuts, and raisins. Stir to mix until homogenous.
It won’t be a surprise that also this cake goes well with Passito di Pantelleria or other “passiti” (dessert wines from dried grapes) from the south of Italy. A fortified moscato from Spain or Portugal (moscatel) would also do nicely.