Pane Mediterraneo – Italian Provincial Bread with Olives and Cherry Tomatoes
Summer is a time to replenish the body and soul, trips to the beach, dinners in the evening’s cool air, vacations and fresh fruits and vegetables. Traditional recipes are based on what is available during the various seasons and summer means great colors and varieties. One of these summertime delights is Pane Mediterraneo. This bread is difficult to find even in Italy, and is part of seasonal breads in Northern Italy from Brescia to Torino. The shape is also slightly different from East to West. In Lombardia it is shaped like a Ciabatta while in Piemonte it is a big Grissino. Either way it is fun, colorful and savory.
An easy bread to prepare the color will be a fantastic addition for your summertime dinner with friends if you can keep them from eating it before dinner. It is amusing to see normally restrained people watching the bread, smelling it, moving closer and the walking away. Then someone loses the battle, reaches over and takes one. Within a few minutes the entire basket is empty and the tension gone. I learned very quickly and since my first experience of this type I prepare a double batch and place half of the bread on the counter where we enjoy our before dinner wine and the other half hidden away in the pantry.
3 ¾ cups (500 g.) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup milk (225 ml) milk
1 cup (250gr.) Biga *
1 package (7 gr.) Active dry yeast
1 tbl sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tbl olive oil
*note: if you do not have Biga you can substitute with one package (7 gr.) active dry yeast.
1 cup pitted olives
20 cherry tomatoes halved
Warm the milk and stir in the sugar. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let stand for 10 minutes until creamy.
Place the Biga in a mixing bowl. Pour the milk-yeast mixture into the bowl and stir for about 2 minutes. Add the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix together until the dough separates from the side of the bowl. Add sparingly flour if the dough is too moist.
Knead by hand for about 10 minutes and roll into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a towel and let sit for 1 hour.
Cut into 12 pieces. Roll each piece back and forth until the piece is about 10 inches long and place on a baking sheet or stone. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise for another hour.
Press the olives and the cherry tomatoes into the top of the dough. Move each olive or tomato back and forth while pressing to allow the dough to move over the about ½ of each piece. Drizzle olive oil over the top of each roll making a small pool around each tomato or olive.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. When at temperature spray the sides of the oven with water, using a spray bottle and place the bread in the oven. During the first 10 minutes of baking spray both the oven and the bread another 3 times. Bake for 23-25 minutes. The bread with take on a golden color.
Tags: Pane Mediterraneo Bread Grissini Italian Bread Italian Recipes Food and Wine Travel Italy