the Life around the Loaf

Everyday bread can be Extraordinary. I am a baker and good-bread-seeker with a particular interest in Sourdoughs (see first post for explaination) but also a general interest in Life and Happiness and the role bread can play in it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Lecce, la Puccia

My first stop is Martignano and Lecce, in Puglia - the 'heel of the boot', to visit Il Forno di Nonno Felice, the bakery of the Maggiore family. The bakery produces many of the specialities of Salento - the tip of said boot-heel, including Taralli and Friselle, but I am particularly interested to see the making of their durum wheat loaf, known as Puccia.
In contrast to Lecce's fantastical architecture, (a flashing sign at Porta san Biagio welcomes tourists to "the most Baroque place in Italy"), la Puccia is, in the case of this bakery, a humble-looking cobble of bread. It was originally one of the few foodstuffs permitted during times of religious fasting, hence its unassuming exterior. However, its compact shape and dense interior make it suitable for keeping in this climate, where anything more elaborate would dry out.

The Pugliese dry, hot climate and the stony but fertile soil supports the growing of high-gluten, high-protein 'hard' wheats, in particular durum wheat (grano duro or gran duro) which is made into pasta and bread.
I've hired a bike to see the small city and its surrounding countryside. Though it's officially winter here, and everyone else is in Serious Winterwear, it's blissfully warm. The air smells of sandalwood and cinnamon, and later in the afternoon, jasmine. The countryside is littered with houses, all in the butter-coloured Salentine limestone, either half-crumbled or half-built. The only sign of activity is a group of men planting out an entire field of solar panels.

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Madeleine (Dilly) Boase