The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Bread in Italy

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L_M's picture
L_M

Bread in Italy

Hi all,

I'm back from my trip to Italy and just wanted to share a bit of bread info that seemed strange to me. 

First of all, bread was not my main purpose for being there, so my observations are sort of just a result of where we were and happened to eat. We travelled mostly in the areas between Milan, Parma and Florence, and most of that was on small roads and in small towns. For some reason I couldn't find any bakeries - just stores that sold bread and cakes.

  No matter where we ate the bread and rolls all seemed to be made from the same dough - lean, mostly white, and almost tasteless. The crumb texture was very soft, even and fine, but the crust was always very pale, so pale that they looked only par-baked and unmistakably hard. Not delicately crisp or chewy, just hard. When we finally managed to break or cut off a piece, the whole table was full of crumbs! Maybe this is only popular for that specific area, but there were no big holes, no moist and chewy crumb, no crackly or deeply coloured crusts at all.

One thing that that we really did enjoy was the way we were served focaccia in a coffee shop in Florence. Even though it seemed to be a repeat of the same dough again, the top was brushed with olive oil. Before serving it was split down the center, filled with different cheeses and vegetables, reheated just slightly and cut into small wedges to be served as snacks. One of them was very pretty - they embedded a zuccini flower on top but I think that was done as the dough was rising because it looked almost as if it was a picture painted on the focaccia.

I was hoping to see more variety but maybe next time in a different area.

L_M 

staff of life's picture
staff of life

Some thoughts--

Did the breads taste pretty low in salt?  A lack of salt can cause oxidation during the mixing, thus bleaching the crumb, and probably causing a lack of good crust color.  An intensive mix can also cause bleaching, and also a more fine, airy crumb, since the gluten is worked to maximum development in the mixer (as opposed to using folding also) and a bunch of air worked in.  Sounds like Italy is in need of a bread revival....

SOL

L_M's picture
L_M

SOL you guessed it - low in salt indeed! I don't know where all of these "Italian type" breads that we all think of are, because I cetainly didn't see them in Italy. On a previous trip in the northern area around the lakes, we found that the rolls and bread had even harder crusts, jaw breakers in fact, and the crumb had gigantic holes...they were almost empty inside, and I must say that they were very proud of their bread - go figure.

L_M

Susan's picture
Susan

Almost all the bread went back to the kitchen just like it came out...uneaten. No salt makes for boring bread.

Susan from San Diego

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Culture Shock!

One easy thing to remember in a hot mediterranean culture: Many of the meats and cheeses are preserved using lots of salt. The daily bread in these regions are ment to be paired with salty meats and olives, thus the low salt. It would be worth the time and effort to ask for salted breads if that is your wish or pair the low salt breads with salty foods, of which there are plenty. Or if low salt bread is really a problem, buy the olive or caper bread.  A polite way to ask in a restaurant might be... "I've heard about the famous olive bread from your region, would it be possible to taste some?"  

I see a clue in all this ...would it be possible to easily identify the unsalted from saltier breads by comparing their crust color? hmmm....

Mini O