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THE VENETIAN COUPLE

Erre4m's friends, good morning and welcome to this new post. Today we are going to start a short journey to talk about some types of bread, of which our region (Veneto) is very rich.

07 May 2021

The first bread that I would like to bring to your attention is the bread that is the quintessential piece of bread for the Venetians, that is, THE CIOPA.

In our region, the term Ciòpa is generally used to refer to the unit of measurement of a piece of bread, as we will see below.

But what does the word Ciopa mean? To answer this question I have to refer to the Venetian scholar Elio Zorzi, who talks about it in his book Venetian taverns, identifying and defining in this way the ciopa...I quote: le bine, a type of bread very common in ancient times in the capital of the Serenissima, were made up of four piccie (Treccani: piccia=a pair of objects joined together, mostly lengthwise) of wheat bread, attached together by the sides; from the splitting of the bine into two distinct pieces, the ciope was born, a word derived by metathesis from coppia, which indicates a pair of bread piccie, which evolved in turn in the forms to constitute the current ciopa, which is the most characteristic bread of Venice.

And by force the figure of Venice constantly surrounds the evolution (in any sphere) of the post-Roman Veneto. Venice, after its foundation and rapid rise, imposed itself as a crossroads of trade (very profitable) between East and West and in this context flourished contamination, ideas, creativity, refinement, luxury, competition.

Venice was full of workshops of Pistori (the bakers who kneaded and leavened the bread dough) and Forneri (the bakers who baked bread). Yes, because already in the Middle Ages the world of Venetian bakers was divided into bakers and bread makers. What is very interesting is that in the school of Pistori, over time, professionals from other parts of Italy and Europe (Lombard/Piedmontese, German, Slavic, Albanian, etc...) became part of the school and so the types and shapes of bread logically multiplied.

And this is also the case for our beloved Ciopa. The shape of the Ciopa, being the fruit of artisan creativity, is the most varied, according to local traditions that have been consolidated for centuries. And so in the Padua area ciopa means the corno padovano, while in Vicenza ciopa is a double twisted and coupled filocino, in the Treviso area ciopa also takes the form of leaves,of giraffes,of montasù. In short, when in Veneto, you find a ciopa, you find one.

The weight of the ciopa can also vary accordingly. They range from 50 grams for the ciopete or cioppette to 400 grams for the cioppe proper; but what does not change in the various forms of ciope is the type of dough. The ciopa is a dough prepared with soft wheat flour, water, salt, sourdough and brewer's yeast.

The dough is always hard, so much so that when it is cooked, the crumb is compact, the crust tends to be light-coloured, thick and crunchy, and it is very well suited to being cut into slices.

Some lovers of the Veneto bakery tradition, however, will certainly be grumbling because up until now I have omitted what is the form known to most people (especially those of certain generations who are no longer very young). Always Elio Zorzi points out that: with the term ciopa we identify above all the round-shaped loaves and very modestly I add that they usually have also a beautiful and big cross engraved on the surface...just not to forget the religious culture that accompanied the daily life of people and that is very well adapted to increase the rising of the loaf during the baking.

As I said before, the hard dough that forms the ciopa (the one of 400 grams) was crucial in ancient times to obtain a bread that could last, so my informants report, a whole week. Some also suggest to me that it was put in a cloth bag and hung up high, away from the hands of children and rodents. Some people used to slice it and bake it in a wood-burning oven so that it would accompany the soups that were almost daily on the peasants' tables.

And now the doses of ciopa...one of the many recipes I certainly don't claim exclusivity!

800g old or sour dough (that is to say, carry-over dough)

500g fior di grano flour (which tends to be weak because the flours used in the past were weak)

225g water

20beer yeast

20gale

The ingredients should be mixed together in the kneading trough and then kneaded with a gramola, given the dry consistency of the dough.

Divided into pieces of 500g and rolled up tightly, placed on wooden boards and covered once more for the final leavening which lasted about an hour.

After this time it was cut with a cross on the surface and baked in a wood-fired oven for cooking which was never excessive but kept it light.

My memory of ciopa is linked to breakfast time. Early in the morning, especially in summer. Miononno would arrive with a bag full of ciope from the wood-fired oven still hot and crackling, almost white, with a firm and crispy crust and a very fragrant crumb...the caffellatte was already ready because eating them like that, for me, was the end of the world...and what is your memory?

See you next time and HAPPY BREAKFAST TO ALL!

Blog by Enrico Gumirato pastry chef and trainer.

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