The fascinating story behind two legendary Italian breads.
Coppia Ferrarese,a bread whose twisted shape was first served at the ducal banquet tables of Ferrara.
Coppia Ferrarese is a regional bread particular to the province of Ferrara in Northern Italy. With IGP (protected geographical indication ) status similar to Parmigiano Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma you know it must be special. The name comes from the shape of the bread made by the coupling of two pieces of dough twisted together to form the distinctive four-point X shape.
Type “O” soft wheat flour, pure pork lard, extra virgin olive oil, yeast, salt and malt are used to make this golden-crusted, aromatic bread. The history of bread making in Ferrara dates to 1287. Historical references in the late 1600’s talk about the bread of Ferrara, highlighting its goodness and strange shape, types of flour used for the special process and the contribution that it gave to the fame of regional gastronomy.
Pane Carasau, also known as Carta di Musica (sheet music) because of its extremely thin paper-like quality.
The inhabitants of the island of Sardegna eat a fiber rich diet of fava beans (high in folate) and a type of nutritive wafer-thin flat bread known as Pane Carasau or Carta da musica. The bread is named for its cracker-like crispness (in the Sardinian dialect “carasare” means toasting) and its large and paper thin shape similar to a sheet of music. Remains of this type of bread were found in archeological excavations of nuraghi (traditional Sardinian stone buildings) dating to before 1000 BC. Traditionally a bread of shepherds, who carried it in their saddle bags, it could be preserved in the long months (up to one year) they were away from home. Here is a link to a remarkable documentary of the making of Pane Carasau. The bread is baked in 7 stages and requires 3 women to make it. The ovens used in the baking must be at 840°-930°F to achieve the characteristic puffiness and flavor.
State side versions (although not as authentic) were once available at Trader Joe’s as Pane Guttiau – Sardinian Parchment Crackers or you can make them with the following recipe.
Combine first 3 ingredients in large bowl. Slowly mix in enough lukewarm water to form moist soft dough. Knead in bowl until dough is no longer sticky. Knead dough on lightly floured work surface until smooth, about 15 minutes. Cover with plastic and let stand at room temperature at least 20 minutes and up to 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450°F Very lightly dust 2 large baking sheets with whole what pastry flour. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces. Pat 1 piece into disk (keep remaining dough covered). Roll out disk to 13-inch round, lifting and turning often. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until edges begin to turn up and bread is still malleable, about 3 minutes. Turn bread over and bake until bread bubbles in spots and is golden in places, about 4 minutes longer. Transfer to rack.
Brush oil over bread. Sprinkle with sea salt.
Repeat with remaining dough.
Yield 8 sheets. Serves 16-32.
Sardinians call pane carasau – pane guttiau when sprinkled with salt and a drizzle of olive oil and then warmed for a few minutes.
Everyone’s got problems. Especially today. Maybe it’s because we’ve lost the artistry of living that the Italians know so well. They call it benessere “a sense of well being”. Traveling in Italy and staying with my Italian family and friends has led me to believe that Italians seem to know how to balance work and relaxation, surrounding themselves with beauty and art in their homes and businesses, eating fresh and vibrant food and focusing on family and friends. Italian design and fashion, culture and living, the way Italians prepare and eat their food all combine to create a sense of well being that doesn’t depend solely on the size of your bank account or stock portfolio.
Italians have long understood how art and beauty forge and strengthen our emotional bonds to life to create a sense of well being and lighten our discontent. Here are 10 ways Italian “benessere” is making the world a better place.
1. Green agriculture and eco-sustainability
Italy is a country with “un cuore verde”, a green heart. A country that measures its worth by preserving and protecting the land. In Italy green agriculture and eco-sustainability have been a powerful movement for decades. The pleasures of the table and ecologically-balanced farming methods are valued and encouraged. Italy’s farmhouses, family vineyards and orchards have always been a model for land to hand cooking. The traditional agricultural roots of Italian casalinga (homestyle) cooking are a legacy of Italian cuisine that we can all benefit from.
Wine is not simply considered an alcoholic beverage in Italy. It is part of the local culture, a product of the land, a family tradition and an integral part of the Mediterranean diet. Recently there has been a lot of buzz about the healthy lifestyle and longevity enjoyed by the people of Sardegna who drink Cannonau, a dark red wine said to contain the world’s highest levels of antioxidants (two to three times the level of flavonoids as other wines). The people of Sardegna who drink this wine are 10 times more likely to live to be 100. Research and the known effects of flavonoids have shown that moderate wine consumption may increase life expectancy while also lowering stress levels. Wine may not be able to solve all the world’s problems but reducing stress often allows us to put our problems in perspective and find a more balanced solution.
3. Love, Friendship and Conviviality
Love is in the air all year long in Italy and has been for centuries. While we were busy developing the austere virtues of the Reformation, the Italians were relaxing in the inspiring glow of the Renaissance. And although we might want to identify the Italian style of love differently, Italians more often equate love with the concept of enchantment, charm or delight, innamorato. Italians take pleasure in the companionship of friends and opening themselves to life on the piazza. My Italian friend Luca once told me that his day would not be complete if he did not connect with at least one of his friends.
4. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Since ancient times Italian olive oil has been an integral part of the way Italians eat. High in polyphenols and protective antioxidants beneficial to heart health, extra virgin olive oils are an important part of a heart healthy diet reducing the risk of variety of diseases and promoting good health. Italians share their love of olive oil and Italy’s precious bottles of “liquid gold” are available all over the world.
5. Art and Design
Laura Biagiotti, known for her Italian cashmere collection, has said that “Italian fashion is meant to add the extraordinary to everyday life”. From ancient Italian cultures to the Great Masters of the Renaissance, Italian art and design transcend politics, gender, economies and cultural differences to inspire and elevate all peoples of the world.
According to National Geographic writer and Emmy award-winning documentarian Dan Buettner the secret of longevity is encoded in an Italian cheese. Whether or not an Italian cheese can save the world remains to be seen but Buettner who travels the globe to examine and unlock the secrets of long life claims that a Sardinian sheep’s milk cheese is a start.
Eaten as part of a diet among people in Sardegna, designated by Buettner as a World Blue Zone (regions where long lived people can provide lessons for living longer and improving the quality of life) the cheese, known as pecorino sardo, is made from grass-fed sheep’s’ milk that results in a product which is high in omega-3 fatty acids.
7. La Bella Vita
Italy’s contribution to living a life of purpose and pleasure is eloquently summed up by Andrea Bocelli as he describes the essential elements of living life in Tuscany.
”Man was created for living here, where, with the toil of his labour in the fields, he can procure everything that he needs for a tranquil life and where he can also meditate on the profound meaning and spiritual value of his time spent on earth safe from the contradictions, vices, absurdities and tensions of the increasingly oppressive reinforced concrete world, where saying triumphs over doing, having over being, the frivolous over the useful, and the superficial over the concrete”.
Although Italians may not have invented coffee they have perfected its making and service. Italian coffee beverages bring enjoyment and satisfaction to millions of people all over the world every day and as an espresso has less caffeine than a cup of coffee, a little goes a long way in lifting our spirits.
Italians appreciate their families and develop strong bonds with older family members. Elders are celebrated and family is revered. Loving grandparents provide child care, financial help, wisdom and motivation to perpetuate cultural and family traditions. In turn, elders are more engaged and feel a sense of belonging in their families and communities. Time and age is more irrelevant and society as a whole more dependent on family values with encouragement and supportive circle of family members.
No country is more perfectly constructed to the benefit of man than l’italia. The natural landscape of Italy is awe inspiring. Italians appreciate the true beauty of their country. Preservation, protection and conservation are part of their DNA. Italians have a better perspective and appreciation for their natural resources. Old buildings are left alone. If needed they are repaired or rebuilt, but otherwise they remain part of the landscape and their timeless charm and ancient beauty enhance the landscape. The patina of age is part of the natural landscape of Italy and Italians are more culturally sensitive and socially responsible for preserving heritage sites and promoting restoration.
According to National Geographic writer and Emmy award-winning documentarian Dan Buettner the secrets of longevity are encoded in an . . . Italian Cheese!
Buettner who travels the globe to examine and unlock the secrets of long life has written a book called The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. For the Sardinian people, this could be a diet of bread, wine and cheese. The cheese, known as pecorino sardo, is made from grass-fed sheep’s’ milk that results in a product which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It was being made in Sardegna centuries before the Romans captured the island.
Sardinians also eat a diet of fiber rich fava beans (high in folate), a type of nutritive wafer thin bread known as Carta da musica and a leavened bread made with a bacteria used to rise the bread that creates a mixture of substances with positive effects (vitamins and lactic acid that may counter attack probable harmful bacteria found in the digestive tract). They wash this all down with divided amounts of Cannonau, a dark red wine said to contain the world’s highest levels of antioxidants.
Buettner is quick to acknowledge that nothing can be said for sure but his findings are based on the way the longest-lived people in the world eat and some of them happen to live in Italy.
*Pecorino Sardo’s Roman cousin was also found to be beneficial