I like the smell of bread bakeries. They're simply called "forni" here, ovens. You walk in and the aroma is intoxicating! I usually rip off a warm chunk of bread from a just-baked loaf and eat it as I walk home from the forno. The "fornaio" is the bread baker, a person usually covered in white flour, whose day is articulated by odd sleeping patterns. He bakes all night, delivers at dawn and sleeps all day.
Apart from slabs of warm pizza bianca, in my daily stop at the forno, I always buy a loaf of delicious Pane di Altamura, a regional specialty.
Image © Il Mangione
With over 300 varieties of wheat still cultivated to this day, Puglia is the Italian region with the highest biodiversity record of whole wheat production. A large choice of breads is therefore available. All the high quality breads from Puglia are however guided by the famous champion Pane di Altamura.
Altamura is a small town in the olive-clad hills of inland, central Puglia. The bread made here is unusual. It is obtained according to the ancient process employing either a basic leavening agent, like lievito madre (soudough starter yeast compound) or biga naturale, a pre-fermented starter–that add a deeper complexity to the final product–sea salt and water.
I once went on a weight loss program whose sole carb intake was constituted by thick slices of Pane di Altamura eaten on a daily basis. The diet eventually didn’t work because I doubled the dosage constantly, wolverine-style.
The crust is brown and rough, while the crumb is yellow, fluffy and deliciously sweet and savory at the same time. This particular bread lasts five days if stored properly in its paper bag the fornaio wraps it in, which makes it perfect for lazy bread consumers. Towards the last day it becomes a little chewy, but popping it in the oven will restore and exalt its original fragrance and texture.
Pane di Altamura bread is produced uniquely in its territory of origin, with wheat harvested exclusively in the vicinity of the town of Altamura. Every delicious loaf is therefore guaranteed by a DOP protected designation of origin indication. When buying your imported Altamura bread you’ll be certain of its delicious authenticity. There is infact only one genuine Pane di Altamura.
Happy Fat Tuesday, Italian Mardi Gras!!