The Culinary Traveler: La Piadina-Italian Bakestone Bread

Sunday March 6, 2016

Niente dice più romagna di questo pane nostro... questo è un simbolo che dice devozione alla nostra terra. G. Pascoli/this bread is a symbol that says devotion to our land

An Italian version of a flour tortilla or Indian chapati, piadine is one of the oldest hearth breads made in the world today.  It hails from the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy on the Adriatic Sea, the site of old Etruscan cities, and the most fertile wheat-growing area in the country. This was a staple of the tenant farmer’s diet. It is also one of the basic unleavened flatbreads–just flour, salt, lard, and water, although this food processor version is adapted with a bit of oil, baking powder, and milk for a more tender, manageable dough for the beginning baker. Its all in the hands.

It is baked on discs of fireproof terra cotta clay bakestones known as a testi. You can use a cast iron skillet or griddle. It is served hot off the griddle, cut into 4 appetizer wedges around a mound of whole milk ricotta cheese studded with ripe plum tomato wedges and sprinkled with chopped fresh basil, or like a sandwich, folded around grilled sausage and onions or melting chunks of gorgonzola or fontina Valle d’Aosta and a paper-thin slice of proscuitto or Black Forest ham (in place of more expensive Parma ham).

So many bakers have tackled tortillas and chapati, but not la piadina. It is the same technique and the dough has a similar feel.

Serve as a bread side with with veal stews and braised beef, always freshly made, warm if possible. Bona Fortuna!

Makes 10 breads

Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup semolina pasta flour (fine grind for making homemade pasta)
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 6 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup warm whole milk
  • Olive oil, for brushing griddle
  • Equipment: 10- or 12-inch heavy cast iron frying pan or oval cast iron griddle (one that fits over 2 burners at one time)

Instructions

In the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flours, salt, and baking powder.  Add the melted butter and combine with a few pulses.  Combine the milk and water in a measuring cup, gradually adding half at first, until the dough comes together into a coarse, moist meal and clears the sides of the bowl.  Do not over mix.

portions of dough ready to roll out

Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead until a silky and resilient ball is formed, 1 to 2 minutes.  Leave the dough ball on the work surface, cover with an overturned bowl, and let rest at least 20 to 30 minutes to relax the dough.

photo courtesy of Consorzio Prodottori

Divide the dough into 10 equal portions, each the size of a round plum.  With a rolling pin, roll out each ball into a flat circle about 1/8 inch thick and 8 inches in diameter. Uneven is okay.

Place a 12-inch heavy cast iron frying pan or oval cast iron griddle over medium heat.  Heat until a drop of water dances over the surface and disappears.  Brush the surface very lightly with olive oil before baking each bread.

Place the piadina into the hot pan.  Cook about 60 seconds on the first side.  The bottom surface will have brown blisters, smell a bit burnt, and bubble up.  Turn and cook the other side for another minute until the second side is golden brown.  Slide from the pan with your fingers to remove and place in foil in a 250º oven to keep warm and soft while making the rest of the breads.

onto the hot griddle

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


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