Puglia’s yellow gold: the bread from Altamura
The bread from Altamura is a jewel in the crown of Puglia’s gastronomical delights and is the only bakery product to have been awarded the prestigious DOP mark.The bread from Altamura, a typical bakery product from the region of Puglia now enjoyed all over the world, has ancient origins: there is even a written mention of it by Horatio in Roman times. It was awarded DOP status in 2003 and is probably the only bakery product to be able to boast such a claim.
Thanks to the fact that this bread can last longer without losing its original characteristics, it was very popular with farmers and shepherds who had to stay away from home for days at a time to cultivate the land or tend to their flocks. The bread was apparently prepared at home and then baked in public ovens. This meant that baking become a convivial occasion which helped to create and maintain bonds between the local residents. The bread can be easily identified thanks to its fragrance but above all, thanks to its particular shape which is formed by two different parts: the u scquanét which is the highest part and the a cappide de prévete which is shaped like a priest’s hat and is lower, with less soft bread inside.
The bread from Altamura: production
The geographical area where this bread is produced is very limited and the wheat is grown around the towns of Altamura, Gravina in Puglia, Poggiorsini, Spinazzola and Minervino Murge. The wheat is ground and then used to make the bread; all of this is done only in Altamura.
There are various types of wheat that can be used: “appulo”, “arcangelo”, “duilio” and “simeto”. The different wheat grains can be used separately or mixed together and must make up at least 80% of the dough. Other types of wheat can be used for the remaining 20% as long as they come from the same geographical territory.
The bread from Altamura: the baking process
The key to getting it right is in the natural yeast, obtained from a yeast starter that has to be ‘fed’ at least three times, to increase the fermented mass. For every tonne of wheat, you need to use 20Kg of yeast, 2kg of salt and approximately 60 l of water with a temperature of 18°. The kneading process should last 20 minutes and should be carried out using a plunging arm mixer.
After this initial phase, the dough should be covered with a piece of cotton fabric that will guarantee homogeneous rising, and left to ‘breathe’ for 90 minutes.
The next step is to weigh the dough and start to shape the bread; this is done by hand to ensure that it doesn’t lose its natural chewy consistency. The dough is then left to ‘breathe’ for a further 30 minutes. The dough is shaped again one more time and left to ‘breathe’ for a final 15 minutes.
The loaf you have shaped is then put in an open oven, heated to 250°, for 15 minutes and then baked with the door closed, for a further 45 minutes, until cooked.
Finally, the loaf should be left in the oven, with the door open, for a further five minutes so that any residual vapour can escape to form a crunchy crust. The loaves are then placed on wooden boards ready for packaging or transportation to stores.
The bread from Altamura: the DOP label
The DOP label, which literally stands for ‘protected designation of origin’ means that everything relating to a certain product, from the actual making of it to the packaging, comes from that area and it is a very important award. With regards to the Altamura bread it guarantees certain standards:
- the loaf will not weigh less than 0.5kg
- the crust will be at least 3mm high
- the soft bread inside the loaf will be a yellowy straw colour
- the loaf will have a characteristic fragrance
- the humidity will not exceed 33%
On the bread from Altamura site you can find more useful information about this delicious traditional product from Puglia.
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