Every time I go to Italy to visit my family (and enjoy the sun) I come back with some precious “find”. This time it was a tiny book on traditional Italian breads found on our usual foodie stop at Eataly.
I Pani Dimenticati, by Rita Monastero, takes us through every Italian region and, for each region, some local baked goods are rediscovered and presented to us. Through words, pictures and recipes. What I like most is that the author always gives her personal account of each bread or biscuit (many recipes are on sweet things or crackers). I also like that there are pictures, so that we can have an idea of how these baked goodies look like, typically. The recipes however are a little too synthetic and approximative, making me wonder if the breads have been actually redone by the author (as poor in details as they sound). However, Rita Monastero has done an effort in collecting breads and baked goods that many of us never heard about –because they are known in very small geographical areas only– and I found fantastic to enrich in such a pleasant way my knowledge of what is traditional for each region.
Slow Food previously put out a similar book, but it was even more poor in terms of recipes’ details. So I believe this collection is one step forward in the preservation of traditional regional breads from Italy. Thank you Rita, and I am looking forward to try (and complete) more recipes!
For this first go at the book, I chose a bread with pears, Pane alle Pere, as pears season will start in a couple of weeks –and since I simply happen to absolutely love pears. The bread is interestingly based on rye, which confers to the loaves their dense but spongey consistency. The recipe calls for raisins, hazelnuts, cinnamon and butter, too: one can’t truly go wrong, taste-wise, with this bread. And there is no added sugar that gives to the whole thing an almost “ancient” feel. For, in old times, we did not use sugar and food was mostly sweetened with fruit. Like in this truly lovely bread from Northern Trentino Alto Adige, where pears and hazelnuts are plenty.
PANE ALLE PERE
300 g rye flour –I used 250 g finely ground sifted rye and 50 g coarsely ground rye
200 g wheat flour –I used organic all-purpose flour
70 g pasta madre –-which I substituted with the same amount of mature 100% hydration sourdough starter
water, as much one needs –I used 350 g of luke warm water
To be added later
2 small pears, cut in small pieces –I used 2 medium-small pears, peeled and cubed
50 g butter, softened
30 g raisins –which I soaked in hot water first and then squeezed before using
30 g finely chopped hazelnuts –I bought peeled and toasted ones
cinnamon, as much one likes –which I interpreted as 3 small pinches
anise seeds –I omitted them this time, as not all in my family like them
8 g salt –1 and 1/3 teaspoon
1. I combined the flours with the mature starter and with the amount of water that seemed right to me.
2. Then I left it alone for 1 and 1/2 hours. The recipe said to let the dough rise and then incorporate the rest of the ingredients. I fear that was a method used when yeast is chosen instead of sourdough. So I just did a long autolysis with starter.
3. I added the rest of the ingredients, leaving the pears last, not to break them.
4. Since the recipe called for shaping right after adding the flavors, I then proceded to form the dough into 3 filoni (approximated batards), using a well floured surface –the dough was very sticky. The recipes suggests to shape the dough into filoncini, short baguettes, but I did not have banettons for baguettes.
5. Left the dough to proof in small batards banettons at room temperature, which was quite high yesterday (almost 24 degrees Celsius in my kitchen). After almost 5 hours, very little had happened. The dough was rising extremely slowly. It took more than 7 hours for these loaves to properly rise. So count an interval between 6 to 8 hours, depending on your room temperature.
6. I baked the first loaf at 200 degrees Celsius as suggested by the book, but wasn’t quite happy with the result. The last two loaves were instead baked at 240 degrees Celsius for the first 15 minutes and after that they baked for another 10-15 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius. You don’t want this type of bread to be too brown, nor too crusty.
I did not wait long to cut into the loaves. I in fact ate my first bites when the pears were still warm. Delicious… evocative of strudel but with a more salty accent and the lovely grainy consistency of the pears’ flesh instead of the smoother one from the apples. A real treat. Loved it both alone and with some raw honey. I know my husband enjoyed his slice with strong cheese. Al contadino non far sapere quanto e’ buono il cacio con le pere (don’t let the farmer know how good is cheese with pears). But in this case the farmer did his job, too…
Hope you enjoyed this recipe as I did and please let me know how it turns out if you try it. Happy baking!