Breads of Italy

The past several weeks have gone by so quickly.  I’m two months into the Italian Baking and Pastries Program.  I wish I could share all the things I learned in the first class, Breads of Italy.  But if I were to post every single bread we learned to bake in class…there would be more than 50 new posts.  Yes, that’s right!  We prepared and TASTED at least that many breads during the 3-week course taught by Chef Fabio Ugoletti.  The course was held Monday thru Friday from 6:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.  You can imagine what happens to the belly when a person eats that much bread at night, and over three consecutive weeks.  Yes, my belly formed a small gluten-containing layer (michelin tire, not michelin star).  The extra layer weighs eight pounds.

I can’t say I’m a professional chef because I’m not.  Therefore, I’m not the best judge of food.  But, because of my career background in higher education and because I’ve spent nearly 35 years of my 40 something enrolled in some sort of school (forever student) I can say with 100% confidence:  “I know a good teacher when I see one”.

Chef Fabio Ugoletti deserves the complement because he embodies all the qualities of a good teacher.  He was wise with our short class time.  We had only 2.5 hours for lecture, prepping and baking and Chef Fabio was able to fit in so much useful information during that time.  Class always began on time.  He was organized and pro-active and he ensured that we had all the ingredients we needed to bake our breads…as well as all the accompanying foods that are typically eaten with each bread.

Each class began with a lecture and explanation of the breads we would bake, their history in Italy and tips and tricks for preparation. Afterwards, Chef Fabio wrote each recipe ingredient on a large whiteboard and we proceeded to work.  He was attentive and answered all our questions.  He knew his stuff but was humble about it.  My classmates all agreed on this:  He was the most humble chef we’ve ever met.  All those qualities were great.  But the most spectacular quality about Chef Fabio was the contagious enthusiasm with which he taught each lesson.  If Chef Fabio ever had a bad day, we were unaware because he always taught with energy…and gusto!  Gusto means pleasure in Italian.

I recorded several videos during class.  The videos are loaded with happy moments.  For example, there’s one video where Chef Fabio says:  “Don’t be shy with the cheese.  Ohhhh yes!”  He says this while he grabs handfuls of mozzarella cheese and pours it over a bread that we later rolled and baked.  There’s another video where Chef Fabio says:  “A good chef has to taste the food.  That’s why I look like this.  Because I like to taste the food”.  He points and references his belly.  Chef Fabio was present for every moment of class.  I remember him passing each station to check our dough and complimenting the good dough.  Sometimes he’d grab a chunk of dough and plop it into his mouth.  First time I’ve seen someone walk around the kitchen chewing on bread dough.  I think you get the picture.  The Breads of Italy class was loads of fun.

Instead of starting with a recipe, I’ll provide an overview of breads in Italy.  And, rather than re-writing a whole piece for this blog, I will instead post the research paper I wrote for Chef Fabio’s class.  Much of the information was taken from class lectures.  Some facts also come from historical records regarding breads and other bits were taken from our class textbook, “On Baking” as well as cooking blogs.  Included in the paper is a map of Italy labeled with major breads and their origins.  Get ready to learn about breads of Italy.  The first post is just the beginning!