Thursday, January 28, 2010

Life's too short to eat bad bread!

When we moved to Sioux City we were lucky enough to find a local guy, trained in baking and cooking in France who baked bread each day. Larry was there most every morning for a small loaf of what they called "Italian" bread. There wasn't anything particularly Italian about it but it was fresh, well-made, great tasting bread. Sadly the guy moved to a place with a bit more culinary sophistication to ply his trade and we were left with just decent bread from the supermarket. Not the awful "sawdust" stuff they bake at most US supermarkets, this was a par-baked loaf frozen and delivered to the stores for you to finish at home. 10 minutes in a hot oven and the result was a decent loaf. That supermarket went bust and it took Larry six months of pestering the other market in town to carry this bread. Now the Hy-Vee supermarket chain in the midwest sells tons of it - so much the story goes that the producer in St. Paul had to add on to their factory! In Italy it seems every locale has their own bread. Slowfood has a bread book that probably has 100 different types. Here in Viterbo there are a lot of places called "panificio", all selling freshly baked bread each day (except Sunday) and each has their own product. In addition, some is salted and some is not - in the Tuscan style. Two of our favorites are pictured here -- the rolls (photo sideways for some reason) are called "rosetti" and the best ones have very little inside them (bread experts call this the "crumb" I believe) so they're mostly chewy, flavorful crust and perfect for stuffing with porchetta, salami, etc. The second photo is of the snack-food of the streets, "pizza bianca" as it's called here. Totally simple but amazingly good. Giant sheets of this are stacked in most shops and they snip it into piece with large shears. We like it crisp, moist with olive oil and still warm. Almost everyone gets a few pieces of this and like the fries on the drive home with the burgers, not much of it makes it home. More than once I've had to go back and get more so we can enjoy it with pranzo after having eaten the first portion well before lunchtime!

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