Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
When my 2nd great-grandmother, Marianna Bellanti, was born on June 10, 1877, her father, Girolamo, was 50, and her mother, Giuseppa, was 53. The ages of her parents are truly exceptional in this time period. Marianna was born in Palermo.
About 1896, she married Pietro Balistreri.
Marianna and Pietro, with Giuseppa and Pietro. Marianna is pregnant Lena Balistreri Salerno who lived into this century to 103 yrs old!
At age 31, Marianna Billanti (32) and her children, Giuseppa (9), Pietro (7), Lena (4), Gelorno (3), and Salvatore (newborn) sailed the Batavia to New York. They were living in Sant’ Flavia, Sicily and were headed to Buffalo, NY.
This photo was taken of Marianna in 1932 on Dante Place where they had the family store. This was the last picture taken of her before she died of ovarian cancer.
Marianna died on March 18, 1933 in Buffalo, NY when she was 5 years old.
A cousin on Facebook told this story about Marianna. “My Mother would often tell the story about when Great Grandma would bake bread and Great Grandpa (Pietro) would sit at the table and sing in Italian and teach her and her sister the words, so they were all singing this song in the Kitchen. Great Grandma Marianna would run into the kitchen screaming her head off in Italian!!! Come to find out the song was……”The Bread is burning”…..Ahh, ha ha ha hah a ha haa! “The “Bread is Burning”, Ahh, ha ha haaaa ha ha!!”
This recipe is in honor of my 2nd great-grandmother, who also liked to bake bread. This recipe comes from the cookbook, Sicily, by Melissa Muller. I can’t say I understood why I was doing what I was doing, I just followed the directions. It involves two steps. A starter dough and the making of the dough. The starter sits over night and the actual dough is made the day of (but baked after 2 hours of rising). If it’s the one thing I learned about bread making, it’s that it requires time. That is fine by me, as long as I plan ahead.
Sicily has cultivated wheat for nearly a millennia. I used three types of flour in this recipe. The first is bread flour made by Bob’s Red Mill. The second is Sicilian Pane Nero Flour from Gustiamo (see references). The third was Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose flour. Yes, my house is filled with more flour than this. In fact, a whole bin of flour has been created since I started 41peacock.com.
I admit, I still haven’t gotten this bread-thing down. What is yeast? why is it alive? What does it do? Do you need it? I can’t say that I haven’t tried to do my research. I’ve watched Michael Pollan’s “Cooked” three times. I’ve watched Sean Brock explain it on A Mind of a Chef. I’ve even gone to a live bread-making cooking class. I watching this YouTube video, which was helpful, but still: “Yeast is a single-celled organism that helps the dough to rise…” what??? An organism? But, I felt that this video made bread making seem… easy! GASP!
Once the dough was ready, it was time to form the shape. Though Muller does a good job describing the shape, there is no picture. So back to YouTube to get a clear picture of what this ‘snake’ shape really looks like.
‘Mafalda’ means snake, so the idea is to shape your dough like a snake. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This shape is a bit phallic. Like, really phallic.
Regardless of this inappropriate shape, the bread was dense (because of my chosen Pane Nero flour) and delicious. It definitely took on a sesame taste, just by sprinkling a few seeds on top.
- Sicily cookbook by Melissa Muller
- Pane Nero Flour: https://www.gustiamo.com
- Italian specialty shop: Gustiamo
|Prep Time||20 minutes|
|Cook Time||30 minutes|
|Passive Time||10 hours|
- 1 1/2 tsp fresh yeast
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 6 cups hard wheat flour
- starter dough
- 1/3 tsp wildflower or clover honey
- 1 tbsp fine salt
- 1/2 cup purified water
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- Combine starter dough ingredients in a mixer with a paddle, if you have one until bubbles form, indicating the yeast is activating. Otherwise, combine flour and yeast, then slowly stir in the water. Bubbles should form after kneading.
- Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight on the counter. Make sure the bowl is big enough to accomodate the dough size after rising.
- Combine the two flours in a large bowl.
- Then, in a mixer or by hand, mix half the flour, starter, honey, salt, and water. Slowly add the remaining flour. The dough will be sticky. If it is not, add a littel more water.
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let sit in a warm area for 1 hour.
- Punch the dough a few times and then transfer it to a floured surface.
- Roll the dough in one giant rope, or cut the dough into three pieces and roll each one (one by one) into a rope.
- Then, shape the dough like the picture above (keep switching the dough doing switchbacks on itself, and the last piece is layed on top in the center).
- Place the dough on top of parchment on top of backing sheets.
- Using a kitchen brush, brush the top of each loaf and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
- Let the dough sit another hour.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat the over to 400.
- After the hour has passed, bake the loaf/loaves for 20-30 minutes.
- The bread should be 165 in the center.
- Let the bread cool on a rack for 20 minutes before cutting.