Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Flavor, Culture, Tradition-A Saturday with Stefano Pagliuca and his 'Pane a Canestrella'

I met Stefano Pagliuca, owner of Antica Paneteria dei Buoni Sapori  last September at Ciao Vino.  Instantly I fell in love with his outgoing personality, his desire to keep age old traditions alive, and of course... his pizza.  Stefano invited me to visit the bakery located in Melito whenever I had the chance.  Last Saturday I took him up on it.

Pulling up with Stefano in front of his bakery (located a few blocks from his shop/enoteca) I could already smell the fresh aroma of slow cooked bread from the street.  We entered and I was immediately  impressed by not only the size, but the order and cleanliness of the opertaion.  Stefano walked me through the process of producing his pane a canestrella.  This bread is particular for several reasons.  The dough is made with lievito madre (literally, 'mother yeast) That means that each day  a portion of the dough made during the day is set aside and added to the new dough for the next day.  This produces a dough that is second to none and Stefano's family has been doing this for generations.

Stefano uses a mixture of flour including whole wheat

'lieveto madre' at work...

Another 'particular' quality to note are the little squares that are present on the finished product.  These markings are produced when the dough is left to rise overnight in the 'canestrelle' , baskets. 

'little squares'

While all of this is going on, Stefano and crew need to heat up the ovens.  Three huge ovens that get up to 300° C!!!  These ovens are lit, then when the temperature is just right, the coals are removed and the ovens are cleaned.  And when I saw clean, I mean spotless


Row by row, 85 pieces of bread dough (for a 2kg piece of bread) are lined up in the oven and slowly cooked.  About an hour later, the bread is ready. 

This continues on throughout the night and early morning until about 1,400 pieces of bread are baked.  The same cycle...heat the oven...remove the coals, clean the oven ...bake the bread.

Eating a piece of warm bread from a wood burning oven is an experience.  Stefano almost made me break my diet by making me imagine a sandwich with his bread, a nice piece of provolone and prosciutto... Almost.

Stefano's bakery also makes a wide variety of panini, pizza, and other specialties....

That is for another blog.