Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Piadina, pie, pijda, pieda, pida or pita

Or just another type of pizza? Please yourself, whatver you like to call it, this Italian flat bread is yet another versatile luncheon choice, or a light evening meal. Very similar to the Torta al Testo as posted earlier, this one is a thicker version, more manly I guess, than the delicate Bread of the Tile. So it's one for the boys.

The piadina is from the Romagna region of Italy, however, it dates back to ancient Greece - piadina's etymology is the Greek word plakous - an unleavened hearth bread passed down from the Etruscans more than 3200 years ago. Today it is very popular in bars as an antipasto, served heated, cut into wedges and sprinkled with olive oil and salt. The authentic piadina does not use any rising agents, just flour, lard and water.

I'm not a great fan of lard. I liken it to the pictures of cholesterol filled arteries the health authorities kindly show us, or those cellulite dimples that mercilessly appear when you're not looking, so I chose a recipe from Eric Treuille and Ursula Ferrigno's book, Bread..baking by hand or machine, which interestingly uses carbonated water as an ingredient. The recipe is virtually a mirror image of the Torta al Testo, with the exception of the carbonated water, so I wondered if there were any noticeable differences between the two.

I personally prefer this flat bread. Not only is it thicker (hence easier to slice into two), but when toasted, the crust has real crunch, (or for the men out there, real grunt). I also love the way it is very flexible and bends without breaking, almost like rubber, if you just want to use it as a sandwich or a panini. This one is a meal on its own. The tile bread maybe suited more for an antipasto with drinks. Either way, they're both delicious.


2 tsp dried yeast
75 ml (2.5 fluid oz) water
500 gm (1 lb) strong white flour
2 tsp salt
1 tblsp olive oil
250 ml (8 fl oz) carbonated water (I used a small bottle of soda water)


1. Sprinke the yeast into the water in a bowl. Leave for 5 minutes then stir to dissolve. Mix the flour and salt together, make a well, and pour in the yeasted water mixture, the oil and 150 ml (1/4 pint) of the carbonated water.

2. Mix in the flour. Stir in the reserved carbonated water, as needed to form a firm, moist dough.

3. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and need until smooth, shine and elastic, about 10 minutes.

4. Put the dough in a clean bowl sprayed with a little olive oil spray, cover and leave to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes. Knock back, then leave to rest a further 10 minutes.

5. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces, and roll out to form rounds 15 cm (6") across and 1 cm (1/2") thick.

6. Heat a heavy frying pan, preferably cast iron, over a medium low heat until very hot, about 10 minutes.

7. Place one of the dough rounds in the hot pan and prick all over with a fork to prevent air bubbles. Cook until golden brown on each side.

A popular way of eating a piadina is in the form of a panini, or type of sandwich, similar to a wrap.

Or you could treat it in the same way as a cafe focaccia; fill it with then toast it in a press.

Popular fillings are:

chicken, avocado, mayo and rocket; eggplant, provolone, zucchini and pesto; rocket, tuna mayo and roast veal to name a mere few.

For the traditional "lardy" version, the ingredients are:

500 g (1lb) white bread flour

30 g (1 oz) salt

80 g (2.8 oz) lard

5 g (0.2 oz)g baking powder

warm water as needed

· Sift the flour, salt and baking powder together. Chop up the lard and work into the flour with your fingers.
· When you have a bowl of crumbs and no lumpy lardy bits, gradually work in water until you have a moist dough. This will be a ratio of about 3:1 flour to water.
· When the dough has been fully kneaded and the dough is springy, bouncing back when you poke it, leave to rest.
· Cook as above.

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