One of the main characters of Expo 2015 was Strettura’s bread, a distinctive product of Umbria along with truffles, saffron from Cascia, spelt from Monteleone di Spoleto and the red potato of Colfiorito. In this mixture of cultures, traditions and craftsmanship called Expo, Umbria was symbolize by an overworked but genuine product: bread.
But why the one from Strettura one?
Locus amoenus and works from the past
Strettura, unlike what the name suggests, is a beautiful valley placed about 13 km from Spoleto; his width valleys allows the cultivation of ancient cereal varieties, now set aside from the large industrial production. The golden ears cover the gentle slopes, which seem to suggest the rounded shape of the finished product and, before that, the soft texture of the dough, together with the lightness of the leavening.
It looks like an oasis, Strettura. Spring waters, that flow from the Apennine rocks, make it a pleasant place to stroll; Spoleto is near, but far enough to leave this village in the tranquility owned by the ancient sites with genuine traditions. It seems to smell the scent of freshly baked bread, a symbol of what is familiar and good in the things of the world.
Times are changing
But Italian habits have changed: the consume of bread, contrary to the past, seems to have diminished. According to Coldiretti, in 2016, each person has consumed 85 grams of bread a day, compared with 1,100 grams a day during the years of the Unification of Italy.
A change also evidenced by the countless idioms that concern the goodness of bread and its essential presence on the tables – “You’re as good as bread,” “To sell like bread,” “For kings, there is no tastier food than bread”, etc. Those expressions existed because of the difficulty to find any other nourishing food beside bread, but now they seem shells, emptied from any grip to reality.
It is true that we eat less bread, but when we do it, we want to try a unique experience higher than the flatness of industrial production. Today, consumers choose products based on alternative cereals -kamut wheat and spelt, also because of the increasingly amount of food allergies – but they choose also to purchase products at zero distance and high nutritional value, which can somehow raise quality of their culinary experience.
More quality and less quantity, therefore, along with the desire to consume products that are the result of love and respect for the Earth, and of the people who perpetrate them.
The bread Strettura is emblematic product of these changes in eating habits. It acts also as a link between past and present, combining a production chain that belongs to the past with the modern consumer, more aware and attentive.
«Thou shalt prove how salty is / The bread of others» D. Alighieri, Paradise - Canto XVII
It’s true, the bread of this Umbrian village is a rare commodity: the crops are limited, peculiar of those lands brushing that side of the Apennines; they use only spring water, with unique chemical and physical properties.
The bread itself is not suitable for mass distribution, bound as it is to a slow and handicraft processing. Indeed, it’s composed of wheat flour, obtained by a milling process made by traditional methods: the oilseed and protein parts are not brutally separated from the starch, but, enriching its composition, they let the bread retain an aroma and a unique fragrance, which speak of goodness, simplicity and authenticity.
The flour is skillfully combined with the leaven of the previous processing and with little salty spring water: the bread of Strettura is indeed an unsalted bread, like other types from Umbria, Tuscany and Marche.
This loaf, marked with a cross in the center, rests all night; the next day, the mixture is cooled with the addition of other warm water and flour. It follows a strictly manual processing, which makes the dough smooth, homogeneous and with a “right” consistency, that only the bakers of Strettura could recognize.
Just a few more hours of leavening and finally the loaf can be baked. The cooking is made exclusively in a brick oven fueled by twigs from the Mediterranean forest: they give the filone acciaccato the characteristic aroma which, together with the thin crust and the solid soft part, becomes the perfect side to cured meats, cheese, vegetables and soup.