Matera bread is one of the few breads in Italy to have a denomination and the only one in Basilicata.
Ancient traditions are linked to bread production and Matera is no exception.
A central element of nourishment, bread was a sacred food.
Bread-making day was a fixed event for the country housewife.
It began in the evening by collecting the yeast, kept over from the last bread-making day, and making the dough that was then left to rise in the “majustr”, a clay container.
The next morning, a larger amount of dough was made using as
much as 15 kilograms of flour for big families.
After leavening, the baker came round to pick up the bread.
The women then went to the baker’s oven where they carefully vigilated over what happened to their own bread. To recognise their own loaves,
they used to mark them with a hard wooden stamp, still to be found today.
The cooking of a focaccia, the chianca, was a way of testing if the bread was going to be good.
Matera bread’s originality, with a tradition that goes back to the Kingdom of Naples,comes mainly from the use of ancient varieties of hard wheat grown in the area, such as Cappelli, Duro Lucano, Capeiti and Appulo, whose flours give
the bread its unique flavour.
These typical varieties must make up at least 20% of the bread’s composition. The processing is then very particular, especially the preparation of the yeast where fresh fruit is also used.
Matera bread must respect certain characteristics like its cone or crested shape, its 1 or 2 kg in weight per loaf, its strawcoloured, soft insides with their characteristic honeycomb look and less than 33% humidity.
Its strange shape and the fragrant crust enclose a strawcoloured “heart”, evoking images of the wheat fields and bran used to make it.
It is the initial look of it, together with the flavour and taste that characterise Matera Bread. The production process, handed down through the years, is scrupulously followed.
The ingredients are placed in the kneading machine and kneaded for about half an hour.
Then the dough has to be left to rise in the basin covered with a cloth.
The loaves are then shaped and weighed and left to rise again, covered with a cotton cloth on a wooden table.
After this final leavening, the bread is cooked, preferably in a traditional wood-burning oven.
A final piece of advice: Matera bread is not fond of plastic.
It is better kept wrapped in a linen cloth so that it can breathe and maintain its fragrance for 7 to 9 days