The main characteristic of Tuscan bread is being completely salt-free. Basically is a simple bread made with soft wheat flour, water and brewer’s yeast.
It has a crunchy crust that can be recognized by its hazelnut color. The taste is precisely without salt but with a slightly acidulous note.
Biga is a pre-mix left to ferment for several hours (from 12 to 48) and is used in bread making. The use of Biga allows to obtain a product with great digestibility, longer storage times, more fragrant and a more compact crumb.
Why Tuscan Bread is salt-free?
It’s not the error of a distracted Tuscan baker, the reasons are lost in time, even Dante Alighieri mentions it in the Divine Comedy in the Canto del Paradiso.
A first hypothesis could date back to the rivalry between Florence and Pisa in the Middle Ages, when the Pisans had control of access to the sea and blocked the import of salt into Firenze, thus the Florentines, in order not to surrender, decided to make bread without salt.
A second hypothesis could be in refusing to pay taxes in Florence.
In the Middle Ages taxes on salt were very high, so to save money the Florentines decided not to put salt in bread anymore.
Or because in Tuscany cold cured meats such as prosciutto crudo or finocchiona are definitely salty, the absence of salt in the bread allows a perfect match.
In Tuscany they call it ‘Pane Sciocco’ – Silly Bread. This is because it takes its reference from the Italian saying ‘not having salt on your head’ that refers to a person who is not very smart and therefore silly, which is why bread without salt in Tuscany is called like this.
500g loaf, Preparation time 30 mins + 14 h leavening, Cooking time 40 mins
- Soft wheat flour: 500 g
- Water at room temperature: 300 ml
- Sugar: 1 teaspoon
- Fresh brewer’s yeast Cube – Baker’s Yeast: 12.5 g or the dried ones: 4 g
In a large bowl prepare Biga by kneading homogeneously:
100 g of flour with 50 ml of lukewarm water, 5 g of brewer’s yeast and leave it to rise by covering the bowl with a clingfilm for 12 hours.
When Biga is ready, pour it into a large bowl, add the rest of lukewarm water, flour, sugar, the rest of the yeast and kneading vigorously until you get a homogeneous, elastic, soft and non-sticky loaf of dough (add more flour if necessary). Let it rise for the second time for 1 hour again by covering the bowl with dough this time with a damp cloth.
As soon as the dough has risen for the second time, pour it on a flat surface, give it the shape of a elongated loaf and put it in a low baking tray lined with baking paper.
Now it has to rest again, thus cover it with a damp cloth and leave it to rest for 1 hour again.
Now bake to 200 C for about 40 minutes.