These lovely little buns with a delightfully sticky top, fragrant with fresh rosemary and studded with sweet, zibibbo raisins, have always been a little indulgence of mine. Often written also as pandiramerino (which looks like you’re saying it so fast that you don’t even need to take a breath), pan di Ramerino, means literally “rosemary bread” (rosemary is actually rosmarino in Italian but the Tuscans hold on charmingly to their own dialect word, ramerino, with this old-school pastry).
You can find in them in Florentine bakeries all year around, round and shiny with a split, criss-crossed top, but traditionally these buns were made by frugal countryside peasants for Giovedi’ Santo, the Thursday before Easter. These original buns were probably only made with rosemary, rarely with the luxuries of raisins or the sweet, sticky top, hence the name of the bun only mentioning the herbs.
While the cornetti con marmellata or sfoglie con crema and other pastries that Italians love eating for breakfast at the neighbourhood bar are too sugary for me to start my morning (it was probably the one habit I never picked up living in Italy for so long, I’m still a muesli girl at heart), pan di ramerino has a hint of savouriness to it. It’s that aromatic hit of fresh rosemary that does it. The bread itself is rather neutral, the only hint of sweetness coming from the naturally sweet, plump raisins and a brushing of light sugar syrup on the top of the buns when they come straight out of the oven.
I can’t count how many times I’ve spied these buns through my favourite bakery shop windows, only to find myself minutes later walking down the street with my treasure in a little white paper bag. I could never wait very long before opening up the bag and tearing off chunks of raisin-studded bun with sticky fingers.
Pan di ramerino
Rosemary and raisin buns
This recipe is adapted considerably from Florentine Salvatore Grieco’s recipe in the Slow Food cookbook, Ricette di Osterie di Firenze e Chianti (Recipes from the Osterie of Florence and the Chianti). What I do like about this recipe is that he infuses the rosemary leaves in the olive oil before adding both to the dough. You can skip the infusion bit if you like, and just put the chopped rosemary and the olive oil, unheated, together in the dough.
For 8 buns
- 500 gr flour
- 400 ml milk, lukewarm
- 7 gr dried yeast (or 23 gr fresh yeast)
- 80 gr raisins or sultanas
- 60 gr raw sugar
- 15 gr or a few bushy sprigs of fresh rosemary
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small egg, beaten, for brushing the tops of the buns
- Sugar syrup made from 6 tbs white sugar dissolved in half that of water
Make a dough by mixing the yeast with a bit of the warm milk. Add bit by bit to the flour, while mixing. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until it springs back when poked. Let the dough rise in a covered bowl in a warm spot for at least one hour until doubled in size.
Remove the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary and chop finely. Infuse the olive oil with the rosemary leaves by gently heating for a few minutes. Allow to cool before folding the rosemary leaves and infused oil into the dough along with the raisins and raw sugar.
Roll into fist-sized buns and place on a baking sheet with 5cm or so space between each bun. Score the tops of the bun with a very sharp knife with a noughts-and-crosses grid and allow to rise in a warm place, covered in a tea towel for a further half hour.
Brush the tops with beaten egg and bake at 200 C for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. In the meantime, prepare the syrup by dissolving the white sugar in water in a small saucepan. When the buns are done and out of the oven, brush the tops with the syrup while warm. Like most breads, these are best eaten the day they are made.