There's no Christmas in Apulia without sweet pucce. Here is the recipe!

Puccette dell’Immacolata

Preparation time 20 minutes, 30 minutes cooking

Ingredients

For 24 puccette:

Dough:

1 kg flour

700 g water

1 fistful yeast (sourdough or brewer’s)

Salt

For the filling:

Oil packed tuna

Salted anchovies

Salt-packed capers

Pickled peppers

Aged Caciocavallo cheese

Oil-packed fried whitebait

Method

The night before making the puccette, mix half the flour with the yeast and 300 g of warm water. Allow to proof covered with a cotton cloth and a wool cover overnight.

The next morning, combine the rest of the flour and water and knead for 105-20 minutes. Add the salt and continue slapping the dough vigorously for a few minutes. You will have to obtain a firm and elastic ball, avoiding adding more flour after the salt.

Let the dough rest for a few moments then resume kneading it. Cover and rise again in a warm place until doubled in volume (approximately two hours). Shape the puccette by tearing off pieces as large as the palm of your hand. Sprinkle with sifted flour and leave to rise again until the puccette double.

Bring the oven to 200°C and bake the puccette until they are swollen and golden. Remove from the oven and roll in flour. Serve the puccette with all the fillings so that diners can compose their own sandwich.

Puccia is a typical bread typical of Brindisi tradition baked exclusively the night before the Immaculate Conception, that is on 7 December. It is a very soft and spongy dough rolled in white flour recalling the purity of the Virgin Mary. That day in her honour the fast is interrupted, at noon, by a frugal meal. Puccia is eaten with tuna packed in oil, salted anchovies, fried fish in vinegar and roasted eel with bay leaves, capers, all very poor and rather salty dishes.

Usually we do not sit down but all the ingredients are placed on the table still in their “preserving liquids” in terracotta containers or jars, and diners put the filling in their own puccia. There is also a version of puccia with black olives, this also popular during the rest of the year. Be forewarned: it is almost impossible to make authentic puccette at home because in addition to long and natural leavening, they need a wood-burning oven.