Breaking Bread

Ruth Dsouza Prabhu

For our daily bread.

Think Italian and the first thing your senses begin to look forward to at the table is a basket of warm breads. No Italian meal may be considered complete without some bread to mop up the last remnants of sauce that invariably clings to the sides of your plate.
 
There are 20 regions that make up Italy – that makes it 20 different culinary styles and as many number of breads. While these breads may be made all over the country, they each have a recipe that brings in a bit of the region every time they are placed in the oven.

There is a bread for every meal and every occasion in Italy. In fact, when hunger pangs strike, there is bound to be some form of bread involved.

Take the Fette Biscottate, a breakfast favourite for example. These Italian rusks are made of wheat flour, barley malt or a mix of grains. Each region has its own special way of making this bread. It is often baked twice over to achieve that hard and crunchy toast-like texture. Served at breakfast, Fette Biscottate may be dipped in a caffe latte. Many love to have this with a thick layer of butter or preserves. A drizzle of honey is a great way to savour it.

Another breakfast recipes is the Italian Cornetto, often mistaken for a croissant.

Though the origins may be the same, the distinct Italian touch  cannot be missed with this crescent-shaped bread. The pastry is much sweeter than that of a croissant and may come with a range of fillings. Jams, marmalades, custards, honey and the Italian favourite, Nutella are just some of the fillings. A cafe latte or cappuccino to accompany it and you have a classic Italian breakfast to get you going.

Paninos or grilled sandwiches are common lunch dishes in Italy. A range of ciabatta, rosetta or baguette are used to make these sandwiches. Ciabatta is a versatile bread and may be served on its own, passed around during a meal or sliced up for sandwiches. The name literally translates into “slipper”, a reference to its shape. Serve it as a sandwich with cold meats and vegetables, place it alongside a pasta dish or simply grind some fresh pepper on top, along with some parmesan cheese and bring it out with olive oil on the side.

Rosetta bread rolls are shaped like a rose and are hollow inside and have a crunchy crust. These can be stuffed with a range of fillings, sweet or savoury. You may also serve it up as a sandwich with slices of meat, bell peppers and sautéed onions.

Baguette, of French influence can be served in myriad ways. It is the perfect base for the classic bruschetta with tomato and basil. It can be served along with your main courses of meat or pasta. It can also be served with the cheese platter that heralds or rounds-up a meal.

Some Italian breads go amazingly well with wine. Toasted Focaccia bits pair superbly with a rosé wine. Black olive bread in any Italian avatar paired with a sangiovese too makes for an interesting combination. The Panettone with its bits of citrus, raisins and lemon zest pair beautifully with Reisling.

Italian bread often end up being a meal in themselves. And why not, considering their versatility and great flavour. So go right ahead and pick up the right bread to make the perfect Italian meal.