Tuscan Bread | Tuscany
TUSCAN BREAD | TUSCANY REGION
Tuscan bread is one of the most important traditional bakery products in the region. Some towns in the province of Florence belong to the Città del Pane (‘bread towns’) circuit because they are producers of local traditional breads, for example Montaione and Montespertoli.
Natural rising, baking at moderate temperatures and the size of the loaf are features that distinguish Tuscan bread, but the main characteristic is its total lack of salt. The reason for this was the bitter 12th century dispute between Pisa and Florence when the coastal Republic of Pisa placed a blockade on the trade of salt to inland areas. In response to this, Florence resolved to bake bread without using salt and in the Divine Comedy two hundred years later Dante, addressing himself in the famous phrase of Paradise, wrote, ‘Tu proverai come sa di sale lo pane altrui’ (‘You will find how salty is the bread of others’).
According to another tradition, bread was simply too dear so Florentines did without.
Historically, the social organization of the peasantry in Tuscany where family groups were very numerous and lived in farms in isolated areas meant that bread was baked at home once a week and had to be enough to feed a lot of people. It had to be kept well wrapped in cloth and kept in the ‘madia’, the typical Tuscan bread cupboard, until the next batch was baked.
Many typical Tuscan recipes use dried Tuscan bread (ribollita, pappa al pomodoro, acquacotta, panzanella, fettunta, etc.). These dishes are the result of a desire not to waste anything, even old bread, as well as the fact that bread is blessed in church ceremonies at Easter and thus it is almost considered a sin to throw it away.
It is to be noted that the blandness of the bread goes very well with the lively flavour of Tuscan cuisine and highlights the taste of the dishes. Soft dough with lots of bubbles caused by rising makes it easy to appreciate the various sauces that go with Tuscan cooking thanks to the widespread use of local olive oil. Typical Tuscan bread should be baked in a wood-fired oven and still today, it keeps for a long time if well cooked.
Application has been made to obtain Protected Origin Denomination status for Tuscan bread in order to obtain a Europe-wide guarantee that its characteristics be adhered to. DOP Tuscan bread loaves can be in a variety of shapes (rectangular, oval, round, called bozza, long called filetto or filone), it should be 5-10cm high and weigh from between 500 grams to 2 kilos. Its crust is reddish-brown, and rather brittle and crunchy. The dough, which is white and has a slight taste of roasted hazelnut, is soft not stodgy and its water content is still good after a few days of baking. The flavour of the bread is strictly bland because of the complete lack of salt. Kneading and raising must be done according to tradition using water and top-grade soft-grain wheat flour.