One thing that has changed since moving to Italy is my bread consumption. I’ve never been a fan of the English white sliced, always preferring crusty farmhouse cobs. Here in Italy there’s such a selection of breads available from ciabatta to foccacia and piadina to pagnotta, so there’s always the right bread for the right meal. As flour and yeast are so cheap here I’ve taken to making all the bread we require; it works out at roughly sixty cents to make a large loaf which when compared to the commercially made loaves available works out better economic sense, not to mention the fact that you can moderate the amount of salt included in the recipe.
At the weekend I decided to make a ciabatta for a change, my favourite is a fennel seed and garlic one, but today I’ll make a plain bread. Ciabatta, meaning, slipper is a popular bread back in the UK, it’s spongy texture making it an ideal bread for soaking up good quality olive oil and sauces, especially when making the little shoe, (fare la scarpetta). In the summer making bread is relatively easy as once the dough has been made it’s a case of leaving it on the windowsill and letting the warm sunshine help it to prove and double in size. The January temperature isn’t quite high enough for dough proving, and as we don’t have a cupboard housing the hot water tank, it a case of resorting to finding other ways of warming the dough enabling the yeast to do its magic. I look at our car sat at the top of the lane, it’s basking in the sunshine and I guess the interior is quite warm. I take a stroll up and open the door and the warmth inside seeps out, it’s perfect for proving dough, so the tray with the ciabatta sits on the top of the dashboard in the afternoon sunshine and doubles in size before being ready to pop into the oven to bake.
A passing family in a Fiat Panda give me a puzzled look as I later remove it from the car, I smile wave and under my breath I say, “It’s amazing how resourceful we Britalian contadini can be when we need to be.” They just smile and give me a half-hearted wave, I can read their minds as once again they think, si straniero pazzo, (you crazy foreigner).