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.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Pane Carasau

A meeting with Giulia Annis, of Slow Food Cagliari. Giulia throws herself into ringing around all of here Slow Food friends to find someone who knows someone who ...thinks they know someone who makes bread with pasta madre. It feels like a bit of a wild goose chase, but with the added possibility that, perhaps, the goose doesn't even exist. Giulia is lovely, busy but accommodating. She's just been re-elected Convivium Leader for the local branch of the Slow Food organisation and has just returned from a month spent in India with SF bigwig Vandana Shiva. I leave our meeting a little down-hearted because we find so many dead ends, but optimistic because Giulia has so much energy and passion for what she does.

For lunch, after the mandatory tonne of gorgeous pasta, we eat Carta di Musica bread with fresh sheeps-milk ricotta and a glass of acidic red wine.

First, a note on the wine: Table wine doesn't just come in wine bottles, cartons, or plastic bottles, it comes – I couldn't believe my eyes at first – from what looks to me like a petrol pump in a petrol station. Or a wine pump in a wine station, if that'd mean anything to anyone back home.

Carta di Musica, or 'Pane Carasau', as it's called in Sardo dialect, is amazing stuff. It is to my great disappointment that I can't go now to see it being made. It is winter (though this seems hard to believe, what with the hot sun, the flowers in full bloom, and us eating fresh, tiny broad beans) and the workshops are closed. This crisp, delicate bread doesn't have to be made year-round because it lasts so well. It is made by rolling out a leavened dough into very, very thin rounds. These are stacked, interleaved with cloths, allowed to rise and then baked individually. Put into a hot oven (450-500C), the rounds puff up instantly and the baker must, quickly while the bread's still soft, cut through the edge to make two separate rounds, which then get cooked again separately. The paper-thin (hence the name) breads are then stacked again to flatten them, and allowed to cool and dry out.
Carta di Musica is good just as it is, or with a knife-tip of ricotta scraped over its semolina-gritty surface. It was traditionally the long-lasting sustenance of shepherds, and was also dampened until soft and used as the Sardo version of pasta cannelloni and lasagne. I like it most heated in the oven with a bit of olive oil and lots of salt. Tore' smacks the middle of the round sheet of golden Carta to shatter it, then we eat the salty shards with the red wine. The Italian language is very rich in onomatopoeic words, and the ones that leap to mind are croccante (crisp) and sgrannocciante (crunchy).

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Madeleine (Dilly) Boase