The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

A Trip to Genzano and Forno a Legna da Sergio

longhorn's picture
longhorn

A Trip to Genzano and Forno a Legna da Sergio

Having made Pane Genzano and having found it to be a very interesting bread, I really wanted to experience the real thing on my recent trip to Italy with my wife. We had our hotel arrange a driver for us and rode went about twenty miles south from Rome to the town of Genzano. Since Pane Genzano pops up occasionally on this forum, it seemed appropriate to share my experiences.

We planned our destination to be Forno a Legna da Sergio, one of the bakeries featured in Dan Leader's book "Local Breads" in the section on Pane Genzano. For those not familiar with Pane Genzano, it is a huge, eight-pound sourdough loaf made from very wet (about 74% hydration) dough, coated with bran to solve sticking and baked very dark that has been made the same way in a wood burning ovens for many years. It is the only bread in Italy to have IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta) status. There are about a dozen bakeries in Genzano that make Pane Genzano and each has a devoted following. More on that later.

Here I am in my red Forno Bravo T-shirt and Sergio (the silver haired gentleman across the counter) in his shop.

Here is the bread rack with the Pane Genzano in the upper right.

A close up of the loaf and the label.

And a close up of our light dinner to show the crumb!

After visiting the bakery took our driver to lunch at Trattoria dei Cacciatore (http://www.trattoria-cacciatori.com/). The food was outstanding - some of the best we had in Italy - and the house wine was excellent. A great deal! The bread served was clearly not Sergio's but in absence of good communcation ability I asked "Es Pane Genzano, No?" and the owner said "Si, es Pane Genzano!" So then I said, "Pane de Sergio?" and he said, "NO, NO, NO! Es impossible! No, Sergio! Must be Antichi!" This was, of course, accompanied by a generous acccompniment of arm waving and gesturing. And was what I had sort of expected! After lunch we wandered down the street to the Antichi bakery but alas, it was closed for lunch!

All in all we had a great adventure and a great day. Be warned, drivers are expensive. Ours cost about $200 and his English was pretty marginal. The end result was easily the most expensive bread I have ever bought.  And I was able to verify that my Pane Genzano - based on Leader's recipe - is a good representation of the original!  If you haven't tried Pane Genzano from Leader's book I highly recommend it! (It makes only about a 3 1/2 pound loaf instead of 8!)

One last aside! Genzano loaves are famous for their keeping abilities. We bought the loaf on a Monday morning and were to begin a week long cooking school on Saturday. We kept the loaf whole for three days. (Like many large loaves, the flavor is thought to improve for at least two days so this was planned.) Then we cut of just a bit for our light dinner and saved the rest for our cooking school companions as I was confident no one (even the instructor) would have had Pane Genzano before. Well, the bread made great bruschetta on Saturday and Sunday. And panzanella on Monday. And when the bag of bread got left behind on Wednesday, we used it for crostini. And finished it off as bread crumbs in stuffing ravioli. The giant loaf was extremely useful! And delicious!

caraway's picture
caraway

for sharing a little of your trip with us.   Wish I could have been a mouse in your pocket!   Very interesting, I devoured every word and the pics were great. 

Thanks again,  Sue

longhorn's picture
longhorn

That was my motivation for sharing! My wife REALLY enjoyed getting out of the city and being in the "country" and experiencing a town where there were no tourists. Our whole trip was pretty wonderful but visiting Genzano was certainly one of the highlights - and special for so few have been there (unlike Greve - also wonderful - but well known).

Thanks!

Jay

alankristofer's picture
alankristofer

The bread on the plate with the cheese and salumi is the very end of the loaf - the tip where two loaves touched.
Definitely one of the showcase breads from the Leader book, and a great companion to Pane d'Altamura as breads which claim a coveted.

--Alan :)

yozzause's picture
yozzause

Great write up and thankyou for sharing, I just love visiting bakeries in foreign countries or even here at home, how did the cooking school go?

regards Yozza 

longhorn's picture
longhorn

This will no doubt seem strange, but the featured chef at the school is from Sooke, BC in Canada. A second generation Italo-Canadian, my wife and I had done classes with him at his B&B (Cove Harbor B&B in Sooke, on Vancouver Island, near Vancouver.) His name is Angelo Prosperi-Porta and I consider him the most complete chef I have had the privilege to work with. He started as a pastry chef and was on the Canadian culinary team where he says he "learned to cook". His style is very hands on and that appealed to us. He is also very "Slow Food" oriented and the owner of Vigna Ilaria - a highly respected Slow Food restaurant near the estate where we had the school introduced us to his local suppliers. More later. 

Angelo had planned the week well. At the start of each class Angelo would describe what we would be doing and would then ask, "Who wants to do XYZ?" and we would choose the tasks we found most interesting. While no one did everything, as couples, we covered most of the activities (for salads and veggies had some common elements). And...we often gathered as critical steps occurred in major activiites - but after the first day there were NO written recipes. You had to pay attention and take notes and we learned to cook by feel more than recipe.

We gathered the first afternoon (Saturday) and broke down guinea hens, made stock, and used the legs to make a pate for tomorrow's lunch. Dinner was quartucci with (fried bread dough) with various toppings, cucumber soup, farro, stuffed zuchini blossoms, guinea hen breasts stuffed with lardo and sage, and panna cotta. With a bit of wine.

Next morning we broke down a whole lamb (head and all - we received it gutted and skinned). And started lamb stock that went for 24 hours. Lunch was frittata di zuchini, pasticcia de guinea hen with a vinaigrette, tomatoes with olive oil, salad, focaccia, and crostini with toppings. More wine!

Dinner was roast lamb, roasted potatoes with mint, eight-ball zuchini hollowed out and stuffed with braised swiss chard, bread crumbs, herbs, etc., beet salad, and melati (a fried sweet batter similar to a beignet) served with honey. And for the last time I will mention WINE!

Next day (Monday) we went to Greve to visit Antica Macelleria Falorni to buy steaks for Bifsteak Florentine (which we made on Wednesday!) The meat shop is a Tuscan standout and is not to be missed if you are anywhere near Greve. (Probably a thousand prosciuttos and salumis and cheeses galore). Also don't miss Enoteca Greve which has 150 wines available for tasting from 60 eurocents to 16 euro dollars per (appx.) one ounce taste. Lunch was at Restorante Lamole which was very very good! As was the Lamole Chianti. It was a long day so we did not cook. The estate staff cooked dinner: crudites with various dipping sauces, tomatos stuffed with couscous, olives, and sundried tomatos, pasta with a spicy tomato sauce and langostine, a seafood kebab of squid and scallops with veggies, and a tart with strawberries.  The image below is from the salmueria.

Tuesday we took off to Viareggio to visit Andrea's fish supplier. Bought a wide variety of fish, toured briefly and headed back to the estate. Lunch was crostini with pomodoro, rissoto with young pecorino and swiss chard with aged pecorino grated to finish, pici (Tuscan pasta) with cheese and black pepper, fennel and arugula salad with aged pecorino. Dinner was cold and hot dishes. Cold: Asparagus with truffled pecorino, Lemon Cured Cefalo (fish), Sugarello (fish) Crudo, Tuna Bin Lingua Truettar. Hot: Zuppa Trabaccalara (fisherman's stew), Stuffed Squid, and whole roasted Cefalo. Dessert was tiramisu. During all of this we fired up a still and made grappa which we had after the meal!

Wednesday we made limoncello for the next week's group. (We had been drinking limoncello made by the group the week before. For lunch we had Crostini di Ricotta, Crostini di Pomodor with Basil and Truffle, Squash with garlic, onions, parsley, and Pecorino, Asparagus with lemon zest and olive oil, and Bifsteak Florentine. During the afternoon we went to town and did a Brunello tasting. That night the estate's pizzaiolo came over and we did pizza in the wood fired oven below our house (built in 1485).

Thursday we visited Lucca and ate lunch on our own and Angelo prepared us dinner at Vigna Ilaria to show off some of the produce and fish of the region.

Friday was another long day with a ride to the farm of Paolo Parisi - a famous farmer in Tuscany whose organic chicken eggs sell for close to $2 apiece, and his hams and beef are off the charts. We visited his free range chicken areas, hog areas, and beef and Paulo and his wife cooked us lunch. Some of his house salami, guanciale (hog jowl lardo) stuffed with bread crumbs and herbs, pigs liver, spaghetti carbonara (to die for), and homemade chorizo (beef and pork) with grilled veggies. Then back to the estate. We were so stuffed we simply made a salad, ravioli, and a ricotta cheescake for dinner.

Up on Saturday morning and rode to Pisa to fly home. It was a great week. The facilities are a group of houses in a large estate near Lucca. Paula, the owner, hosts a variety of classes ranging form photography, to painting, to cooking to family reunions. Her facilities are a bit remote but the setting is superb. You can find information on her at www.AnbondonzaToscana.com.

We thought the school was superb. Ten students (five couples). Though one couple knew each other they only learned they were going on vacation to the same place about a week before the school. Well worth while. The rest of the trip was in Rome (don't miss Roscioli's near Camp Fiore), Florence. amd two nights in Lucca (with a day trip to Pisa). 

Key lessons related to keeping food simple. Great ingredients handled respectfully give great results. And Italian tomatos are definitely an alien species (far beyond any tomato I have ever had!).

Grazie!

Jay

 

varda's picture
varda

and what a great trip.   Thanks for sharing.  -Varda

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

What a fabulous experience! 

David

longhorn's picture
longhorn

My next food trip will be to follow in your footsteps at SFBI in August for Artisan I. Your write-ups really inspired me and I am looking forward to the personal, hands-on experience!

Grazie!

Jay

dmsnyder's picture
dmsnyder

I know you will love Artisan I. Looking forward to seeing your baguettes.

David

ananda's picture
ananda

Many thanks for writing up about Pane di Genzano, Jay.   Definitely one of the showcase breads from the Leader book, and a great companion to Pane d'Altamura as breads which claim a coveted "D O P"

The driver may have been expensive, but the bread looks a bargain, surely?   2.5 Euros for a 3kg loaf...not bad at all!   Especially of that quality.

Best wishes

Andy

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Good observation, Andy! We agree the driver was worthwhile. My wife had so much fun she has decided we should always hire a driver for a half-day to day when we go out of the country to take us into the "real world" that tourists rarely see. This is the second "special bread" that has inspired a trip to a bakery. (Tartine was the other!) 

And I agree, the loaf was  BARGAIN! Outstanding bread at a very reasonable price. I should have mentioned with the pictures, the photos of the loaf make it look small. The bread on the plate with the cheese and salumi is the very END of the loaf - the tip where two loaves touched. When you look at its real size and consider how small it looks in the loaf picture, you start getting a realization of how big that loaf really was! 

As I noted above, the bread I make from Leader's recipe is very close to the bread I got from Sergio - from taste and texture, though I think my loaves are a bit wetter and as a result have a more open crumb, but...on the whole really close. As a result I think those making the Genzano can have reasonable faith that the loaves they make are pretty accurate (assuming they follow Leader's directions). (I should note the bread at Trattoria Cacciatore was not as close to Sergio's as what I make from Leader. Clearly Genzano but not baked nearly so hard and I think the hard bake is dynamite with the bran!)

Thanks!

Jay

diverpro94's picture
diverpro94

Hey, Jay! Do you need an adoptive son to go on trips with you? If so, give me a call and I'll have my bags packed in a matter of seconds. lol

Glad you had fun in Italy. Europeans really understand good food and how to produce it naturally. Most people I know here in America would settle for fast food and such, but they are just drowning themselves in unhealthy food and they miss out on so much. Plus, I think when you have to make EVERYTHING naturally by scratch (including growing it), it makes you become more mindful about your food and what you put in your body.

I don't know what it is about Italian food, but it is so warming and nourishing to the soul.

-Colby

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Very funny, Colby!

The emphasis on fresh and often on local was pretty impressive. The lines drawn by the locals were at times humorous - such as when we asked about artichokes in Genzano. The response was, "No artichokes. Artichokes are good from March to mid-May. No good after then!" Etc. Etc.

Thanks!

Jay

JoeVa's picture
JoeVa

About Pane di Genzano from Sergio, are you sure it was leavened with sourdough?

Giovanni

longhorn's picture
longhorn

According to Leader the Pane Genzano is made with biga naturale. I did not observe the process so I can't guarantee that it was made that way. The loaf was not particularly sour, but in my experience French sourdough is not either...and I use a very mild sourdough starter most of the time...so.... It tasted just like I expected. There seemed to be the complexity of sourdough but it was quite mild so???? I assume it is sourdough and adhering to the traditions - which is also indicated I think by the IGP sticker.

Perhaps you can go and resolve the question. I think it is worth a visit!

Thanks!

Jay 

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Thanks for a wonderful breadcentric travelogue. The time at the school, especially including the visits they took you on, sounds fantastic. I'm somewhat familiar with this territory; it's a great part of the world. And I can second Roscioli in Rome for the salumi, cheese and wine.

longhorn's picture
longhorn

The trips were excellent. One highlight I think I left out was buying fish in Viareggio that had been swimming only four hours earlier - and talking the fisherman into selling us half of his "take home box" to use in our fisherman's stew that evening. Simply wonderful! All of our travel from the estate was in 16 passenger vans (the bus type with an aisle). We only had 13 people so it was quite comfortable. And for all the stories about Italian drivers, our van driver was VERY, VERY careful and safe. (Our drivers in Rome were a bit wilder!)

And yes, Roscioli's was a real highlight. There don't seem to be many places with 60 month old prosciutto (technically Pata Negra serrano), similar parme and a slew of cheeses even my cheese importing and distributing neighbor had never heard of. A GREAT place for an afternoon "snack" and a glass of wine. The pasta carbonara is also spectacular and uses the $2 organic chicken eggs from Paolo Parisi (the farmer we visited). I will definitely return next time I am in Rome - whenever that is. 

One other lese known factoid is that Roscioli's does custom wine tastings paired with salumi and cheese from their shop. You need to call in advance and make a reservation. It is my understanding the tastings are all done in the cellar below the shop. And the tastings are custom! You will need to describe what you want to do/set a price which seems to start around 50 euros a person and goes up to at least 250 euros a person for aged wines and the high end cheeses and salumi. (It can probably be MUCH MORE if you want it to!)

kikicarterwebb's picture
kikicarterwebb

Thank you for the wonderful photos and stories  - what a treat!  This morning we enjoyed the Genzano Country Bread, made from Daniel Leader's instructions.   The bread was wonderful, especially toasted.

We decided to see exactly where Genzano is located. On p.191, Leader says, "I heard stories about the little seaside town about thirty-five minutes by car from Rome..."   We looked all up and down the coast, west of Rome, and couldn't find it.  Then we tried Google maps. Google shows Genzano di Roma here http://g.co/maps/6fm8q  on Lake Nemi.  

It's not seaside at all, according to the map. We thought maybe you could shed some light on our confusion.  Thank you!

longhorn's picture
longhorn

Hi Kiki!

To call Genzano di Roma "seaside" is to me also a bit of a stretch but Europeans seem to be generous with that term in my experience - and it is only about twelve miles from the sea, so.... - I would not particularly argue with Leader's use of that description. (From wine descriptions I think the term seaside may be used to indicate locations within the influence of coastal fog and breezes! On page 192 Leader refers to a waiter referring to the sea air as being a critical factor in the bread!)

The bread in Leader's book is definitely from Genzano di Roma as indicated by the IGP label I photographed. And Sergio Bochhini's bread definitely served as the basis for Leader's "Genzano Country Bread". The Genzano Potato Pizza is also based on Sergio's pizza and that recipe refers to his location on via Italo Belardi. The whole wheat Genzano recipe is from Daniel Lattanzi who I believe is the owner of Antico Forno di Fortini Riccardo e Lattanzi. And I believe I had his bread at lunch but due to communication issues I cannot be certain. 

What is certain is that I would spend more time in Genzano if I were to do it again and visit more bakeries. There is a second wood fired bakery up the hill and across the street from Sergio and the Lattanzi bakery is only a few blocks away. 

Based on my experience, the bread I make is VERY similar to Sergio's and for all the mystique implied in Leader's book, I have to think the bran toasting on the outside provides a significant contribution to the flavor. In any event it is a wonderful bread!

Thanks!

Jay

Grandpa Larry's picture
Grandpa Larry

There is a recipe for this bread in Carol Field's THE ITALIAN BAKER.

Her description of it sounds like what you sampled there.

longhorn's picture
longhorn

The recipe for Genzano in Field's THE ITALIAN BAKER is a yeasted approximation of authentic Genzano. As a result it will have a different flavor profile relative to a properly done sourdough. Her loaf is also rather small and that will also tend to yield inferior flavor - both from a fermentation perspective and baking (for it bakes too short compared to the bigger loaf,contributes to her "underbaked" bran crust which is too light and underroasted crumb - Genzano is almost charred - very dark with a nutty flavor of roasted flour all the way through! Field's description of the bread in Genzano is good and her admonitions for wetness is also good. Field's recipe is about 76% hydration which is in the right range. The dough should have more substance than a batter which is how she tends to describe it - it should not "pour" and her description of pouring the dough onto the bran in the pan makes me uncomfortable. Handling the superwet dough is definitely an adventure but as indicated it should have substance. It should hold shape and not ooze. And it should jiggle like a pillow of foam or jello. Leader's recipe can yeild a loaf that is extremely close in quality to that of the loaves in Genzano. Field's recipe is only an approximation.