Italy

Baking with Stefano

Friday, 20 ottobre 2006
(Continued from A change in the weather.)

Friday arrived still damp and threatening more rain. The agenda for the morning was baking with Stefano, a professional baker who took a day off to show us his artistry with dough and a wood burning brick oven. The first step was for Charlie to begin the fire in the oven while Stefano prepared all the goodies to be baked in it later that morning, with the help of the class who hovered around the table in the fattoria kitchen.

I was not feeling great that morning so I decided to drift in and out with my camera rather than handle the food ingredients. Sandino needed some down time so he slept late and then disappeared into the villa library for a few quiet hours.

The main thing that I got from watching and listening to Stefano was that he truly loved his work and considered that passion to be vital. Several times he said, “To make bread is nothing. What is difficult is to bake.” He was a real food artisan.

He turned out an incredible amount of baked goods in just a few hours, including sciachata con uva, a grape tart with rosemary and walnuts, several different focaccie and pizzettine, and a peasant bread that was filled with “all the leftover parts of the pig.” This sounded awful, but it was delicious, just as he said it would be. He snipped some rolls with scissors to raise a spiked crown on top, and sprinkled sugar into the spaces. We had these for breakfast the next two days.

The weather lifted for long enough that we were able to set up tables out in the courtyard and have lunch as the different dishes came out of the brick oven. Staff members and family from Spannocchia and Lapo the sheepdog drifted around and munched happily with us. Debby said, “Doesn’t it remind you of a Fellini movie?”

Hope you’re near some good food right now. If not, do forgive me.

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To be continued…

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