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Pane di Altamura is a regional bread from southeastern Italy. With a crusty exterior and soft yellow interior, this bread is made with local ingredients from Altamura and surrounding cities. Protected by the European Union (EU) and the Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP), only bread made in these regions may be called pane di Altamura.
An ancient bread, the first recorded mention of pane di Altamura was in 37 B.C.E. Though it is named after the city of Altamura, it is also authentically made in the towns of Poggiorsini and Gravina di Puglia, as well as Minervino Murge and Spinazola. Bread made using the same method and ingredients as authentic versions but outside of the official regions is referred to as pane tipo di Altamura. Tipo in Italian means "type."
Hard wheat flour, called grano duro in Italian, is the main ingredient in this bread. Archangelo, Simeto, Apulo, or Duilio are the only options for wheat flour. A natural, local, yeast is also used, as well as water and sea salt.
To make pane di Altamura, the ingredients are mixed and then kneaded on a floured surface before being allowed to rise for at least an hour. Then, the dough is kneaded a second time and shaped into a round. Once shaped, it is allowed to rest and rise again. After this second rising, it is baked in a wood oven. During the last minutes of the cooking process, the oven is left open in order to give the bread its signature thick brown crust.
Individual loaves of bread may weigh up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg). Usually, however, loaves weigh closer to 2 pounds (0.9 kg) and are not often less than 1 pound (0.45 kg). The bread may keep for over two weeks despite the fact it uses no artificial preservatives.
Residents of Italy traditionally travel on pilgrimages to buy pane di Altamura. They will spend their day in the city, eating in local restaurants, taking in the history and sights, before returning home with their purchased bread. These trips are more than just excursions to buy bread; they are part of the citizens cultural heritage. People in this region have little interest in non-local fare. In fact, McDonald’s, which has established restaurants in most countries in Europe, including Italy, was driven out of business within two years after opening a branch in Altamura simply because the majority of its residents preferred their own, local, foods.
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