Hard dough bread. The trendy opposite of the Sicilian way.

A Culinary Journey into bread making Sicilian Tradition

We named this article opposite trendy because…

In the realm of culinary delights, Sicily is renowned for its unique creation known as “pane a pasta dura,” or hard crust bread.

Here, in our location within the province of Siracusa, specifically the Noto area and the hills of the Hyblaean Mountains, which have a rich history of honey production, traditional bread is distinct from the soft, airy loaves you might find elsewhere. Instead, it is hard and dense, designed to withstand the scorching temperatures that can dry out bread in just two hours. Conversely, this traditional Sicilian bread is celebrated for its solid and finely textured crumb.

The preparation of this delicacy involves a specific technique, one that employs a dough with a lower water content compared to standard recipes, typically around 30-40% water relative to the amount of semolina used. Among the varieties of durum wheat commonly utilized, Russello and Timilia are the most popular choices. However, the resurgence of ancient grain varieties in Sicily has contributed to a wider range of options, particularly beneficial for individuals with gluten intolerance.

Referred to as “scaniatu” in local dialect, this bread is meticulously crafted using time-honored tools and techniques, resulting in its unique character. The dough is lovingly prepared on a wooden surface, where skilled homemakers expertly handle the semolina. The “sbriuni,” a pivoted stick attached to the “briula,” is then skillfully employed to crush and flatten the dough, using a lever-like motion.

Noteworthy for its impressive shelf life, hard crust bread owes its longevity to its low water content, which makes it less prone to mold. A notable feature of this bread is the absence of large air pockets. Tradition dictates that loaves with imperfections, such as air pockets in the crumb, are considered bad omens, foreshadowing undesirable news.

While Sicilian hard crust bread has long symbolized traditional baking, contemporary production trends are gradually adopting modern techniques and tools. Gas-powered ovens, fork mixers, and commercial yeast are gradually replacing wood-fired ovens, hand-kneading, and natural leavening. This infusion of innovation into the art of hard crust bread production somewhat diverges from its rustic essence. Yet, even amid this transformation, specific enclaves, especially within the pinnacle of the Iblei Mountains and the Val di Noto area (Scicli, Pachino, Modica, Comiso, Noto, Monterosso Almo, Ispica), remain dedicated to preserving traditional techniques and ingredients. This commitment is often driven by the visionary efforts of locals organizations or just families, determined to safeguard and celebrate their heritage.

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