Bread: the Italian must-have in the meal
Bread is one of the most complete foods of the Mediterranean diet: full, provides energy and goes well with any other ingredients. You can eat it for breakfast with jam or spreadable cream; it can be enjoyed for lunch and dinner together with the side dishes; you can savor it as a snack to break the hunger.
Based on the flour used, you can find many types of bread: from kamut to wholemeal bread, unleavened bread. Bread knows how to be appreciated even by people with the most unusual tastes, such as in the case of charcoal bread or soya or rice: bread satisfies every taste!
With bread you can prepare numerous appetizers such as bruschetta, from the most particular condiments to the simplest ones; it can be a valid accompaniment for a side dish or a soup; it can be combined with a particular salad.
Bread is a very versatile food that can accompany any dish. Let’s find out more about the history of bread.
Bread: a bit of history
From the times of prehistoric times it seems that a form of breadmaking had been invented, developed only in later times in Ancient Egypt, Greece and Italy.
If the birth of bread is a completely Egyptian creation, the Greeks perfected the recipe, enriching the flour mixture with aromatic herbs or condiments to enhance its flavor (milk bread is an all-Greek recipe). It was thanks to the Romans that making bread became a real profession: the first bread shop was opened in Rome in 15 d. C. and it was in the same period that the first legislations that regulated its activity were also created.
Bread was considered a very important food, so much that even a street, called Via Panisperna, that still existing today, was dedicated to it. As reported by Juvenal, then, the emperors kept the Roman people at bay at panem et circensem, that means bread and entertainment. The first bread shop was opened in Rome in 15 d. C. Great honor was also given to the master bakers: the tomb of the baker Eurisace is still in an important area and archeological masterpiece of the city of Rome, near Porta Maggiore.
During the Middle Ages it returned to a purely domestic production. Every gentleman had his own mill and his own oven. In the period of the age of the Communes the artisans reopened ovens and shops. Much improved in the field during the Renaissance thanks to the introduction of brewer’s yeast which allowed for a soft and light bread. It was thanks to this yeast that the bakers gave free rein to their imagination by creating not only new forms of bread but also different types: oil, butter, olives, aromatic herbs, chocolate, raisins, anise one.
In the modern age brewer’s yeast was gradually replaced by sodium bicarbonate. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mechanical processing tools were introduced, such as crushers and forming machines, first mechanical ones and then electric ones, electric radiation ovens and the introduction of new yeasts, thanks to Pasteur’s discovery of alcoholic fermentation. As a result, bread processing became increasingly industrial.
Bread was often the main character of popular uprisings, the so-called bread riots mentioned in one of the most famous novels of Italian literature, “I promessi sposi“ by Alessandro Manzoni. And how can we forget the phrase attributed to the French sovereign Marie Antoinette: “if they no longer have bread, let them eat croissants!”.
Even today, bread for many Italians is part of the complete meal of every day: a first course of pasta, a second of meat or fish accompanied by a side dish of vegetables and bread. People who make homemade bread are rare because they need patience, a right choice of ingredients and lots of manual skills. It is in fact a very difficult food to make as it must be a perfect mix of leavening, consistency, flavor and cooking. The choice of raw materials is essential to obtain a good result.
As for the choice of flour it is all a matter of taste, but for yeast, it is preferable to use brewer’s yeast or sourdough; for those who are at the first experience it is advisable to use the instant one.
Here you are our recipe of homemade bread.
Bread: the recipe
150 g manitoba flour
350 g 00 flour
350 g water at room temperature
8g fine salt
7 g fresh beer yeast
1 teaspoon of malt
To prepare the bread dough, first of all start to dissolve the fresh yeast in the water at room temperature. Then pour both the 00 flour and the manitoba into a large bowl and add 1 teaspoon of malt.
At this point start mixing with one hand and pour the water a little at a time, adding about half of it and when it is completely absorbed and adding the salt as well. Knead again and add the rest of the water a little at a time, always continuing to knead.
Once you have added the last part of the water, continue to knead in the bowl for about ten minutes, until the dough is well strung. If you prefer you can carry out these steps using a kneading machine equipped with a hook, starting from a moderate speed and slightly increasing it to the last. At this point let the dough rest for about ten minutes, it will not be necessary to cover it.
When the dough is well relaxed, transfer it to a lightly floured surface with the help of a tarot and the classic folds. Spread the dough with your hands, then fold two of the 4 outer edges towards the center.
Fold the other two strips of dough towards the center and turn the bread upside down. Then pass to the pirlatura, rotating it with your hands on the floor so as to give it a round shape.
Then transfer it to a lightly floured bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 2 hours or until it has doubled. If the temperature is rather high, just leave it in the kitchen, away from drafts; in winter it is advisable to let the dough rise in the oven only with the light on.
Now, transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and repeat the same operations as before. Give some folds, then flip it over and make a round shape. Move it over a previously floured baking tray, cover with a damp cloth and let rise for another hour.
When it is well leavened, heat the oven to 250 ° and make decorative incisions using a cutter (25-26). At this point, reduce the oven temperature to 230 ° and insert a bowl full of water on the bottom, it will help to ensure the right humidity.
Bake the bread in the central shelf and cook for 20 minutes, then lower the temperature to 180 °, remove the bowl of water and continue cooking for another 35 minutes, simulating the open valve, or slightly opening the oven door and fitting one pot holder so as to block it and leave it ajar; in this way the bread will be drier. Once baked, let it cool before slicing it!
To be sure that the bread is cooked, take it out of the oven and with the closed fist “knock” on the base: if the sound is dry and deep, it means it is cooked.