As loyal readers know, I’m a total carbivore. I love my pasta and rice and potatoes – and I really, truly love good quality bread.
I love the smell of fresh bread, whether it’s bought at a bakery or baked myself. You can always tell when it’s fresh. I love choices in breads, love trying new breads, and usually come to the conclusion that fairly plain breads (not embellished with fruits or nuts or herbs, but just grain, whether it’s one type or multiple, whole or white) are my favorite.
I love that in different countries breads can be so different. The french croissants and baguettes, our dutch heavy whole wheat breads. Even in the US I can find breads I love, sourdough in San Francisco, bagels in New York. Now everyone around the world knows Italian focaccia and ciabatta, but the fact that there are so many different kinds of Italian breads, might go unnoticed when you don’t visit there yourself. Whenever I’m in a bakery, or even a grocery store, in Milan, I always feast myself on the choices and try to convince myself I can eat a little more because I’m on vacation.
Bread, as a side with a nice pasta dinner, or made into a delicious sandwich-like-lunch with the tastiest cold cuts and cheeses.
Pane Mantovane is one of those types of bread. It looks just a little different and has just a slightly different texture than other rolls you might buy. It looks like it’s been rolled up.
I decided to go on a quest for the recipe and try to make it myself. The first (semi) problem was that I couldn’t find a recipe. Finally I decided to google in Italian and that helped. It gave me a couple of websites with virtually identical recipes. I had Laurens help make sure I fully understood the recipe and that posed problem number two. I indeed understood the recipe, but it asked for Manitoba – and I had no idea what it was.
Wikipedia and google came to the rescue yet again. Apparently Manitoba is a specific type of flour. And trying to find it it became fairly clear that I’d be hard pressed to find it (at least at a convenient location and reasonable price) outside of Italy. Manitoba is a North American flour, named for the province in Canada where the wheat is grown. Apparently after world war two vast quantities of this very heavy, hard flour were exported into starving Europe. While the rest of Europe just used it instead of their usual flour and replaced it with their own as soon as it became available again, the Italians actually developed recipes with the flour. So after the country had recovered from WWII, the Italians kept importing it as they wanted to keep making those delicious recipes they’d made with that flour.
It became clear to me that I wouldn’t try making these rolls until after I’d visited Milan. In addition to the cheeses, meats and other Italian ingredients I like to take home with me, I’d buy flour.
And so I did. I came home with 2 kilo’s of Manitoba and the next weekend I tried making Pane Mantovane. Laurens claimed the rolls tasted ‘very Italian’ and had the right texture. I agreed!
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- 400 gr 00-flour
- 100 gr Manitoba flour
- 15 gr baker’s yeast
- 210-220 ml tepid water
- 1 tbsp lard
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp honey
- Mix the yeast (it’s a lot) with the honey, then add the tepid water.
- Place both kinds of flour in the bowl of a stand mixer with a dough hook, turn it on, add the water/yeast/honey mixture. Add the lard and finally add the salt. Let the mixer do it’s work and mix it for 10 to 15 minutes.
- After mixing the dough should feel dry and shouldn’t stick to your work surface.
- Let is stand in a non-drafty place and raise for 30 minutes. After raising, divide the dough in 8 parts.
- Get your pasta machine and roll out the pieces of dough. It doesn’t need to be extremely thin, number 2 or 3 is thin enough.
- Roll up the dough sheets, one at a time, then cover with cling film and let is raise for another 30 minutes.
- Make a cup along the length of the middle of the roll, not too deep, and bake in a preheated oven (240 degrees) until dark golden brown and fully cooked (when you tap it, it sounds hollow).
You can freeze the rolls after rolling them up by wrapping them tightly in cling film. Defrost slowly and let them finish their second raise before baking. They do taste better when made fresh, though!
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