Give Us This Day Our Daily Pane

Persistence pays. Or so one is told.

It took many weeks, about four kilos of flour, and five tries (two of which were certifiable disasters), but we’ve apparently turned the corner on bread.

Apart from the “stegosaurus” shape (we still have to work a little on forming the dough at the final stage), this was the first loaf that both tasted good and was genuinely recognizable as bread. (As an aside, I’ll add that I find the shape quite charming and casereccio, though I realize it wouldn’t precisely fall within the canons of current ISO standards for “cereals, pulses, and derived products.”)

Yeast, frankly, remains an unfathomable mystery to me; I’d like to be making “natural yeast,” but other than creating a slurry that smells a lot like a bar, our efforts have yet to result in anything that actually causes bread dough to rise. So, at least for the time being, we’re still dependendent upon the yeast you buy in little gray blocks at the store.

Meanwhile, the cabalistic and recondite language employed on most bread-making web sites remains largely impenetrable (plus, bread recipes seem to be guarded like the Enigma code — strange, indeed, for a foodstuff that has, in the main, no more than four ingredients).

For the home economists among you (and don’t try to pretend I was the only boy who plotted a way to get into home economics and out of phys ed; the compromise was typing, and I suppose one could say, in a way, that I owe my livelihood to the exacting ministrations of Mrs. Pietroscewski): It is just barely possible to make a kilo of bread for less than what it costs to buy one in the store (decent bread, I mean: the IperCoop offers something at a Euro a kilo that I wouldn’t even use for bread crumbs); but it isn’t really possible to make pasta for less.

Clearly, it depends what kind of pasta: home-made tortellini can go for somewhere between €22-26 per kilo, so it’s obviously cheaper to make than to buy. On the other hand, the day I start spending my days making tortellini will be the day I win the lottery and can officially abandon the excruciating pain utter joy of a career as a translator.

Conversely, a kilo of decent fresh (not dried) tagliatelli o maltagliati can be had for about what it would cost to make them at home (factoring in electricity but factoring out labor). If we’re talking dried pasta, there’s no comparison: industrial producers like Barilla and DeCecco churn them out at prices so low that you couldn’t afford not to buy them, if your budget was really squeaky tight.

We may get to that point (I have nightmares about subsisting on spaghetti and salt), but for the moment we’re enjoying playing at “artisan cooking.” It’s as much fun as you can have indoors with your clothes on.


Posted on 9 March 2009, in Italy, Italian, Italians (in that order), Tales from the Road. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. >È meraviglioso, complimenti!Anche a me piace un sacco fare il pane, ma – ammettiamolo – come impastano le mani maschili…standard inarrivabile, quantomeno per me!

  2. >Every so often I consider trying my hand at bread making. But then I go to the bakery instead.

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