Mario Batali: Ciambella, a simple, delectable cake fit for a holiday table

 Chestnut-Apple Ciambella.

Chestnut-Apple Ciambella. (Quentin Bacon/TMS)

A ciambella is a simple ring-shaped bread made of egg, shortening and sugar -- basically, an Italian Bundt cake. Ciambelle are often served as an afternoon snack at a bar or caffe. They can be dressed with glazes, syrups or berry compote.

This decadent winter version is inspired by Emilia-Romagna. The fresh chestnuts and chestnut flour bring a smoky flavor and smell that reeks of the Apennines outside of Bologna.

For a decidedly Italian flavor, I soak the currants in grappa, a traditional peasant liqueur. Made from the scraps of what's used to make wine -- the skins, seeds, and stems -- grappa is fermented and distilled. Now thought by many to be an elegant after-dinner drink, grappa comes from humble beginnings.

This moist and delicious cake has an almost pudding-meets-a-cloud-in-heaven texture, thanks to the chestnut flour and the shredded raw apple. The cloves add a holiday flavor that makes this a logical addition to Christmas dinner.

I'll be with my family in Michigan. Rest assured, our table will be replete with ciambella.

Chestnut-Apple Ciambella

Courtesy of "Molto Batali" (ecco, 2011)

Serves 8 to 10.

1/2 cup dried currants

1/2 cup grappa

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/2 cup chestnut flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

6 eggs, separated, at room temperature

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