Tag Archives: st martin

Pizza di San Martino for Martinmas

Pizza di San Martino

November 11 is Martinmas, the feast day of St Martin, or San Martino as he’s known in Italian. I talked about St Martin and his feast day here, and one of the related food products I mentioned was pizza di San Martino. This is a kind of enriched bread – as in Italy, “pizza” doesn’t necessarily imply a thing topped with tomato sauce and cheese. There are many variations on the theme.

Do a Google image search, and pizza di San Martino comes in several forms but they’re all basically yeasted cakes. It probably originates from the small Italian region of Molise, which reaches from the east coast into the Apennines, or possibly from the region to its north, Abruzzo. This area of central Italy, along with Umbria, has suffered recently from a series of earthquakes and aftershocks this year, so making this is one way of saying I’m thinking of friends living there, and anyone who’s lost their homes and livelihoods.

The patron saint of protection against earthquakes is actually Emygdius or Emidio, but he’s pretty obscure and I’m not aware of any baked goods associated with his feast day (5 and 18 August). I’ve adapted this pizza recipe from one found in Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf; he doesn’t mention St Emygdius.

As I wrote in my previous piece about St Martin, a traditional pizza di San Martino would contain trinkets, favours, much like the inclusion of a silver coin in traditional British Christmas pudding or ceramic baby Jesus in galette de rois. This recipe doesn’t include any. There’s nothing to stop you adding trinkets though, for luck to whoever receives them.

1. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

Make the sponge, preferment

2. Add about 150g of the strong flour, and blend to form a sponge or pre-ferment.

Bubbly sponge

3. Allow the sponge to develop until it’s nice and bubbly – an hour or two, depending on warmth.

Combine the ingredients
4. Put the rest of the flour and the salt in a large bowl, then pour in the sponge, milk, beaten egg and melted butter and add the sugar, raisins and zest. I used orange and lemon zest.

Bring together - almost more a batter than a dough.

5. Mix to combine. It’ll be a fairly sticky dough. With just the water and milk, it’s about 67% hydration, but factor in the eggs and melted better too and that’s a fairly high proportion of liquid to flour.

Sticky dough

6. Turn out onto an oiled worktop and bring to a dough. For tips on how to handle sticky doughs, read my notes here.
7. Return to the bowl, cleaned and oiled, then cover and leave to prove until doubled in size.
8. Butter a round cake cake tin, ideally 26cm,  or even larger. (If you don’t have one, you could bake the pizza freeform, shaped like a disc, on a baking sheet.)
9. Turn out the dough and form into a ball. Push the ball down into the cake tin, then cover and leave to prove again.
10. Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put in round cake tin

11. When the dough is nicely risen, put it in the oven.
12. Bake for about 40 minutes. If it’s browning too much, cover with foil or turn down the oven.

Freshly baked pizza di San Martino

13. Take out, turn out and cool on a rack.

It’s not unlike a kind of brioche, so eat for breakfast, or morning coffee, or with tea. If I’m honest, I’ve no idea how an Italian family would eat it. During my time in Italy I never really managed to inveigle myself into households to watch people eating Easter Colomba or Christmas panettone or other enriched feast day breads like this. So any central Italians reading, please do let me know.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under Baking, Feasts, Recipes

Pane di San Martino

In the autumn of 2011, I noticed bags of a yellow-ish powder on a stall in the farmers’ market in the Ex-Mattatoio in Testaccio, Rome. It was farina di castagna – chestnut flour. That is, flour made from the dried and milled nuts of Castanea sativa, the sweet chestnut tree.

At the time, I experimented with it. A friend commented that there is in fact a traditional Italian bread made with chestnut flour, called pane di San Martino, or St Martin’s bread. The feast day of St Martin is 11 November, just around the time the year’s chestnut flour becomes available.

Anyway, I mentioned this bread to a teacher who I was doing a (food-focussed) conversation class with. She dug out a recipe. Well, she clearly Googled a recipe, as a quick Google myself soon found her source, which is here (in Italian).

After having gone through all that, I then completely failed to try the recipe. A year went by, autumn returned – and so too did the chestnuts, and chestnut flour. So last week I bought a new pack, and determined to revisit the pane di San Martino recipe.

Firstly, however, I had to translate it.

It talked in vague terms: “Prendere mezzo mestolo di farina di castagne e mezzo mestolo di farina di frumento…”, that is “Take half a ladle of chestnut flour and half a ladle of wheat flour…” But which ladle? I’m not a fan of the cup measure in recipes – especially as a US and an Australian cup, say, are different sizes. But what about an Italian ladle? I had two in my kitchen, one medium-small, one medium-large. Was either suitable? I plumped for using the medium-large one, and weighing the flours in grams. (If you’re interesting in scaling up recipes, using grams and kilos makes things a lot easier, in part as the maths are more manageable when you’re working with percentages and a measures based around factors of ten. Ounces smounces.)

Anyway, I translated and converted the recipe, but it still wasn’t quite right in terms of the liquid/dry quantities, so I also revised it while making the dough. Indeed, all flours have different absorbency, so you will have to have a feel for dough when you’re adding mixing the water and flours. This time, I used an organic, stoneground farro bianco – white spelt – flour from the renowned Marino Mulino. If you use a wholewheat flour it will require a more water than a white flour.

So. Pane di San Martino. My teacher gave me some notes that said this bread is found from Emilia-Romagna in north Italy to Salento, in Puglia, the heel. I’ve never seen it in Rome though. In fact, I’ll come clean and say I’ve never seen it anywhere, in the crumby flesh. So although my version is based on an Italian recipe, my version has no claim to authenticity. Which might upset an Italian baker, but shouldn’t be a problem if you stumble upon this recipe from other climes.

The recipe uses both a leaven (sourdough culture) and fresh yeast. This is a technique used by one of my favourite bakers, Dan Lepard, though it might upset some purists. OK, purists, that’s two warnings now.

Make a sponge with:
50g chestnut flour
50g of wheat or spelt flour
12g fresh yeast
50g wheat or spelt leaven/sourdough culture (100% hydration – that is, made with 50% water, 50% flour)
180g tepid water

Cover and leave to ferment for around two hours.

Make a dough with:
The pre-ferment
350g wheat or spelt flour
250g chestnut flour
300g water. Add more if the dough feels too tight.
20g olive oil
12g salt

Combine with a spoon or spatula. You want a moist dough. Don’t be afraid to add more water. When it’s a good consistency, knead to combine.

Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Add:
180g walnuts and knead gently to combine.

Cover and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

As the original recipe didn’t involve first and second proving periods, nor does this version. (I think I may work on this recipe though, and adjust the proving. Watch this space.)

Weigh the dough and divide in two. Form two balls, then leave these to prove in baskets or bowls lined with flour clothes.

Leave to rest for around two hours in a warm place away from draughts. Timing will vary depending on the temperature of where your prove the dough.

Preheat the oven to 220C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. (I’m not using a stone at the moment, just a fierce domestic gas oven.)

When the dough feels springy and alive, almost jelly-like, you’re ready to bake.
Gently upturn the proving baskets/bowls onto the baking sheet.
Make cuts in the top – you can make slashes how you feel, as long as you use a sharp blade and don’t drag at the dough. (Slashes in a loaf used to be the owner’s signature when people used communal village bread ovens.)

Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C and bake for a further 20 minutes.

You want the loaf to have a nice colour, and sound hollow when you knock on the bottom. (This isn’t an exact science either but if it sounds hollow, that’s some indication the dough isn’t still soggy and doughy inside, instead it’s baked and dry.)

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

The resulting bread is sweet, almost cake-like, and pleasant for breakfast or afternoon tea, and makes good toast when it’s aged past its initial softness.

Addedum
The great travel writer Eric Newby had a strong connection to Italy – he hid in the Italian mountains during WWII, as described in his wonderful Love and War in the Apennines, and he and his wife – who he met during the war – returned there many times, eventually buying a house in the mountains in 1967. It was called I Castagni, “The Chestnuts”; on the theme of said foodstuff, in A Small Place in Italy he writes “This room extended the whole height of the building and had originally been constructed for the purpose of drying chestnuts. They were laid out and dried over a fire that had a chimney which extended up to the height of the roof. When they were dry they were ground up into a pale, brownish flour and used to make a rather sickly, sweetish sort of bread called castagnaccia which, until long after the last war, was a staple food in many parts of mountain Italy.”

Later on, he writes more about the importance of chestnut trees for “the principle necessities of life”, from building materials to food, specifically castagnaccia, “what had been a stabple food that most old contadini [peasants] now wanted to forget they had ever eaten, because of the memories it brought back of long years of poverty.” Interestingly, the suffix -accio / -accia often indicates a perjorative, so castagnaccia could be translated – very loosely – as “yucky chestnut bread”.

3 Comments

Filed under Baking, Breads, Recipes