Italy is renowned across the world for its food. A meal is not complete in Italy without some bread. Anyone who is a regular reader of this blog knows how passionately I feel about “real bread.” One of my favourites is Pane di Altamura – Altamura bread.
Pane di Altamura
Altamura, is about 45km southwest of Bari is known as the ‘city of bread.’ Its bread making traditions and reputation has existed for centuries. The locals revere the bread so much here that when McDonalds opened a restaurant, they had to close after two years. The locals only wanted their bread, not some flabby American imitation!
They have been making bread here for a very long time! In 37BC the Latin poet Horace told travellers that it is “far the best bread to be had” and that they should stock up before they leave!
These large loaves of bread were kneaded in Altamura’s households. They then branded them with the family name, then baked in community ovens. The loaves were supposed to feed whole families for one or even two weeks. So, the bread of Altamura had to be very durable, which is, even today, one of its most prized features.
Today the bread is a PDO product (Protected Designation of Origin). Only ten local bakeries produce bread according to the protected recipe.
First of all, the shape is unmistakable. It’s similar to a wide-brimmed hat. The real bread of Altamura must be made with grains cultivated and ground in the region, and use the local mother yeast. The water must be from the local aquaducts. Also, the bread must weigh at least 0.5kg, and the crust must be at least 3mm thick.
The baker must also shape it in a certain way. The DOP instructions also specify the cooking method, and the types of wood in the wood-fired oven!
This may seem like a bit of a faff. However, it only confirms what has been done for centuries. Also if it means I can continue to buy these bundles of pure gluten heaven, then I’m all for it!