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Ferrara bread

Le Occare, an ancient Farmhouse in the countryside of Ferrara

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The traditional Ferrara bread, renowned for its quality, is the “ciupèta” or “coppia Ferrarese”. It's a very special bread, with recipe dates back to the Renaissance at the ancient court of Este, when the great officer of ceremonies of the court, with the title of “scalco”, Christofaro da Messisbugo, created its fascinating shape in order to astonish the guests at the banquets of the Dukes of Este. This special bread has four crackling rolls joined by a central soft core and its captivating shape recalls the symbols of femininity and masculinity in the mean time. To prepare this special bread it's necessary to use a naturally prepared mother yeast named the “la madre”, to work the dough by hands and to cook it in a firewood oven. The “ciupéta” is still nowadays the traditional brad of this territory and its preparation was largely diffused in the countryside too where all the farmhouse had their own firewood oven and the farmers were used to make their bread themselves. Luckily we have one of these ancient country firewood ovens in our farm that survived from ruin and we were able to restore it and to find some old persons we still were capable to prepare the bread, and now we prepare the traditional ciupéta regularly.

This is the recipe:
For the natural yeasts:
work 200 gr of flour with a little bit of water, add a sugar spoon of olive oil and of honey, work the dough until it's no more sticky. Make a ball with the dough and put it in a cup, covered with a moist cloth for 48 hours. Then add 3-4 spoons of flour and lukewarm water and work it again. Put it again in the cup with the moist cloth. Put it in a quiet corner with a temperature of 18-20 degrees C°.
You have to work again your mother yeast every week to preserve it vital and conserve it in a dark and fresh location. For 5 kg of flour:
Knead the flour with 200 gr of lard, a little bit of olive oil, about 200 cc of lukewarm salt water (1 spoon of salt) and add at the end the yeast. We make this work in the original old tool, the “grama”. When your dough is well worked you put it into a kneader, we use the original ancient one, named “gramadora”. You have to work it for about 10 minutes.
At this moment your dough is soft and no more sticky.
Make a roll with you dough and cut little pieces you will work after.
From this pieces with the palm of your hands make some little cylinders, then you have to work this pieces, with the palm of your hand, in the sense of their length, to obtain the rolls. Finally you joint two rolls form the center to obtain the final shape. Take a look at the pictures to understand the steps, it isn't very easy!! In the meanwhile you begin to warm your firewood oven, you need about 9 faggots of 1 year-old little pieces of branches, from the pruning of hedges and vineyard. The vault of your oven must become completely white because of the temperature. At this moment you have about 250 degrees C°. If you love technologies you can use a laser thermometer to check the temperature, but it isn't really necessary. Now you must remove all the embers and the ashes and clean the base of the oven with a cloth tied over a long handle. As soon as you finished you have to put it in bucket full of water to avoid combustion. At this moment following the tradition you put in the oven a little piece of dough as a tester, it's ancient name is “vecia” or “rosa”. It must be cooked and a little burned in 5 minutes. In the meanwhile your bread is rised (in a quiet and lukewarm corner). You are ready to bake your bread now, you must do it fast to avoid to lose the perfect temperature of the oven. Than you close the door and wait about 15 minutes. When you will open your oven a very pleasant old and almost forgotten scent will arrive at your nostrils, this is the moment I prefer. Take out of the oven your bread and, with a brush clean the residual ashes from the base of your bread. Enjoy it now!! Christoforo or Cristoforo da Messisbugo, who lived in Ferrara approximatively from 1440 and 1500, is the conceiver of the “ciupéta” and the author of two renowned books of renaissance cooking, “Libro novo nel qual s'insegna a far d'ogni sorte di vivanda” e “Banchetti compositioni di vivande, et apparecchio generale” and “Banchetti compositioni di vivande, et apparecchio generale”.