Festa Monini: colors, sounds and tastes of Umbria

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Umbria's bread

Tastes from Umbria
25 Novembre 2012

Umbria's bread




From Pane di Strettura to pan nociato (nut bread), Bread, is Umbria's simplest flavour at the table.

Very simple. Very Old. Flour and water mixed together and cooked. The staple food in almost all countries. But so many varieties, so many shapes, so many flavours, so many stories.... In Italy of one hundred municipalities it is said that there are over 250 varieties, with over a thousand variations. Wheat flour, semolina, rye or any type of wheat hard dough loaves, or light soft rice loaves; with seeds, with olives or with fruit; leavened or not, "unsalted" or salted; seasoned with oil or enhanced with cheese and tomato that then becomes a pizza. And in Umbria? Like every other region that respects tradition it is also lively here. Here are some of the most loved mixtures that are without a doubt, worthwhile knowing and trying.

 

Strettura bread

It is exactly like bread was once made. Water, flour, good leavening and a wood fired oven. So what makes it so special? Why is it so famous and good? Firstly because of its ingredients. Strettura is a small town near Spoleto, it is in an area where numerous mountain springs provide pure water and where old varieties of cereals continue to be cultivated. Then the process, it is completely natural and the yeast that is used is always taken from the baking of the day before, exactly in accordance with the best traditions. In this "dough" you add warm lightly salted water and flour, it is mixed and left to rise overnight. The following morning, after further kneading it is given the shape of a loaf and left to rest for a few hours, after which it is cooked in a wood fired oven. Nothing difficult, but the quality of the ingredients, respecting times necessary and the care of someone who has always known the art of bread making, make the difference. It is said that the cross that is marked on the top of the loaf is done as a sign of devotion and although it is clear that it actually has a practical function, to control leavening, we like to think that it is precisely the love of those who made it that makes this bread so good.

The schiacciate

Once, in the country, when the oven was turned on, bread was not the only thing that was made; and that nice "mother dough" that was used for the bread could also be topped or enriched with different ingredients. In Umbria, they used to make, and still do, excellent crusty schiacciate with cheese or onions. They are called schiacciate, because a little of the bread dough is flavoured with excellent Umbrian Extra Virgin olive oil, and then flattened in a baking dish and covered with slices of onion and chopped sage leaves. Others, according to taste, fill that bread dough with different cheese, such as pecorino romano or parmigiano reggiano. Hot or cold, it was the classic snack, but today it is often eaten as a treat during an aperitif.

 

Torta al testo

However, the schiacciate is not the only treat available from an Umbrian bakery. The torta al testo is similar to the famous piadina from Romagna, but unlike the latter it is cooked on the "testo", that is a stone disc about 30 cm in diameter, which is put on the fire to heat up and then used to cook the mixture. It is eaten filled with excellent products from the Umbrian norcineria (pork butcher's), but it can be served accompanied by spreadable cheeses and rocket or with cooked vegetables and roasted pork sausages. A really typical preparation is "cresciole di ciccioli" (or crackling cake) made with the same dough base as the "torta al testo", but enriched with eggs, cheese and ciccioli (very tasty roasted pork crackling).

Todi nut bread

Is a small round bread that in other Umbrian cities is also called "pan caciato" It is also topped with cheese and prepared, from autumn to early spring, with flour, water, salt, nuts, diced Emmenthal cheese, grated parmesan cheese, grated pecorino cheese, pepper, yeast, lard and also, for those who want it, raisins. It is typical during the festive period of all Souls day and unlike the "schiacciate" and "torte al testo" it can also be stored for long periods And last but by no means not as good "Pan Mostato", typical to the city of Foligno. It is prepared during the period of wine making also because it is flavoured with grape must, aniseed and raisins.

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