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Tuscan bread gets exclusive D.O.P rating

Tuscan bread will now join Italy’s exclusive band of D.O.P products whose names are protected by EU law – a status which guarantees the authenticity of speciality foods from a specific geographic origin.

Tuscan bread gets exclusive D.O.P rating
File photo: Fred Benenson/Flickr

Tuscan bread – known as pane toscano in Italy – was given official D.O.P status by the European Union on Tuesday. 

The announcement appeared in the Official Journal of the European Union, Corriere della Sera reported.

Under EU law, products classified as D.O.P, which stands for Denominazione di Origine Protetta (Protected Designation of Origin), can only be labelled as such if they come from the designated region and are produced according to specifications.

"Tuscan bread is unique as an Italian bread but it is found throughout central Italy, as it defines the peasant cuisine that is common in the central regions of Italy like Umbria," Coral Sisk, a food and wine tour guide in Tuscany, told The Local.

In order to merit the D.O.P status, each loaf of Tuscan bread must weigh between 450 and 550g if it’s rhombus-shaped or between 0.90 and 1.20kg if it’s rectangular, with a thickness of between 5 and 10cm.

The crust must also be hazelnut in colour and have a crisp and crumbly texture. The crumbs, on the other hand, must be white-ivory in colour and have irregular-shaped holes. 

The bread will now join Italy’s exclusive group of D.O.P products including Parmigiano-Reggiano and Gorgonzola. 

Sisk said that awarding the status to the characteristically "tasteless" Tuscan bread will likely enhance its image and drive up the price, ironic given it was first produced by peasants.

"I don't believe it deserves D.O.P I would much rather see investment towards awarding D.O.P status to ancient heritage grains, like farro, that could be in danger due to the globalized trade of industrial wheat and corn," she said.

Find out how to make Tuscan bread:

Ingredients for one large loaf:

25g fresh yeast
A pinch of sugar
310 ml of water
500 g bread flour
One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

Put the yeast into a bowl with a pinch of sugar. Stir in the water* and leave it to ferment.

Put the flour in a large, wide bowl, or onto a work surface. Add the yeast a pinch of salt and the oil and mix in to incorporate well. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, untill you have a smooth, compact elastic ball. Add a little more flour or water if necessary. put the dough into a lightly floured bowl, cover with a cloth and leave it to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half, or until it has doubled in size.

Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Create and round shape loaf and place it on a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes until it rises.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Put the bread into the oven and bake for 40 minutes until lightly golden and crusty.

Tip* water must be tepid, the success of the bread largely depends on temperatures that should never be extreme.

Recipe by Tuscanycious

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FOOD & DRINK

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

Michelin-starred food has its merits but it doesn't fit with the Italian tradition of cuisine, argues Silvia Marchetti and some frustrated Italian chefs. There's nothing better than a plate of steaming lasagne, she says.

OPINION: Michelin-starred cuisine is just not suited to Italy

I’ve never been a great fan of sophisticated dishes, twisted recipes and extravagant concoctions that leave you wondering what is it you’re actually eating. T-bone steak with melted dark chocolate as topping, burrata cheese with apples, spaghetti with blueberry sauce aren’t my thing.

Hence, I never eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, and it’s not because of the exorbitant bill – paying €200 for a salad simply because it was grown in the private garden of a chef which he personally sprinkles with mountain water each morning, is a bit over the top.

I just don’t think such fancy food has anything to do with the real Italian tradition.

The ‘nouvelle cuisine’, as the name suggests, was invented in France by chef Paul Bocuse. And it’s ‘nouvelle’ – new – not anchored to past traditions.

The philosophy of serving small morsels of chic food on humongous plates as if they were works of art is the exact opposite of what Italian culinary tradition is all about.

We love to indulge in platefuls of pasta or gnocchi (and often go for a second round), and there are normally three courses (first, second, side dish, dessert and/or coffee), never a 9 or 12-course menu as served at Michelin establishments (unless, perhaps, it’s a wedding).

Too many bites of too many foods messes with flavours and numbs palates, and at the end of a long meal during which you’ve tasted so many creative twists you can hardly remember one, I always leave still feeling hungry and unsatisfied. 

So back home, I often prepare myself a dishful of spaghetti because Michelin pasta servings often consist in just one fork portion artistically curled and laid on the dish. In fact, in my view Michelin starred cuisine feeds more the eye than the stomach.

The way plates are composed, with so much attention to detail, colour, and their visual impact, seems as if they’re made to show-off how great a chef is, than as succulent meals to devour. I used to look at my dish flabbergasted, trying to make out what those de-constructed ingredients were and are now meant to be, and then perplexed,

I look at the chef, and feel as if I’m talking to an eclectic painter who has created a ‘masterpiece’ with my dinner. I’m not saying Michelin starred food is not good, there are some great chefs in Italy who have heightened a revisited Italian cuisine to the Olympus of food, but I just don’t like it nor understand it.

There’s nothing greater than seeing a plate of steaming lasagne being brought to the table and knowing beforehand that my taste buds will also recognise it as such, and enjoy it, rather than finding out it’s actually a sweet pudding instead.

More than once, after a 4-hour Michelin meal with a 20-minute presentation of each dish by the chef, the elaborate food tasted has given me a few digestion problems which lasted all night long.

Michelin-starred food has started to raise eyebrows in Italy among traditional chefs, and is now the focus of a controversy on whether it embodies the authentic Italian culinary experience. 

A Milanese born and bred, Cesare Battisti is the owner of restaurant Ratanà, considered the ‘temple’ of the real risotto alla Milanese.

He has launched a crusade to defend traditional Milanese recipes from what he deems the extravagance and “contamination” of Michelin-starred cuisine. “Michelin-starred experiments are mere culinary pornography. Those chefs see their own ego reflected in their dishes. Their cooking is a narcissistic, snob act meant to confuse, intimidate and disorientate eaters”. 

Arrigo Cipriani, food expert and owner of historical trattoria Harry’s Bar in Venice, says Michelin-starred cuisine is destroying Italy’s real food tradition, the one served inside the many trattorias and historical osterias scattered across the boot where old recipes, and cooking techniques, survive.

“Tasting menus are made so that clients are forced to eat what the chef wants, and reflect the narcissistic nature of such chefs. Italian Michelin-starred cuisine is just a bad copy cat of the French one”, says Cipriani.

I believe we should leave French-style cuisine to the French, who are great at this, and stick to how our grannies cook and have taught us to prepare simple, abundant dishes. At least, you’ll never feel hungry after dinner.

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