my day with Viola, a Tuscan baker


The other weekend I went to a farmers market and met this woman who had an awesome stand selling wood fired bread.  She seemed so amazing I had to talk to her and she invited me to come back with her for a weekend…so I did!  She lives just outside Pari, about a half an hour from the farm I’m at, and this is the view from the room I stayed in at her place.  Those are her olive trees in the foreground, her partner Graham, had just finished pruning them.

This is the entrance to her bakery, which is another room attached to the courtyard of her house.  You can see the containers of various types of flour under the large wooden counter.  She uses all organic grains, does everything by hand, and uses sourdough starter she made for all her breads.

We spent hours kneading breads and tucked them all away in linen to rise with wool blankets on top to keep them warm.  She has one indoor oven, that is also wood fired, you can see that to the right.  There is no temperature gauge on this, she just goes by feel!  The little red door is where the wood goes in!  In this oven we did cakes, focaccia, sweet focaccia, pesto pecorino cornbread muffins.  The flavors she uses are ingredients that can be grown in Italy, or not too far from.  Orange, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins, almonds, and fennel.

The dough, ready to go in the oven.

Viola, putting some final artistic touches on these multi-grain loaves.

To use a wood fired oven, you make a very very hot fire in the oven, move all the coal out, or to one side, and tricks will be so hot they will cook the bread.  We started the oven a few hours before we were ready to bake, with the trimmings from the olive branches that had just been pruned.  Viola cleaned out the ash than we put the bread in, than sealed it, for about a half an hour.

Beautiful loaves of wood fired bread.  Semolina, fennel, sourdough, multi-grain.  Wood fired bread has a different flavour, the crust is crunchy and the inside is warm and soft.  Tuscans do not use salt in their bread, which is so different for Americans but I think it’s still quite good.  They see bread as a vehicle for other things, to go with their other amazing products; bright green intense olive oil, cured salumi, or fresh pecorino, sheeps cheese, which is hugely popular here, and so creamy delicious.And here, our lunch break…salad, lentil, buckwheat, fava bean, beet greeen, sage soup, and a sort of crispy rice bake, both made in ceramic dishware in the wood fired oven!!!

~The next day we took all the bread we made to the oldest and largest, all organic, once a month farmers market in Florence.  And sold every loaf!!

It was quite a beautiful weekend!

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3 thoughts on “my day with Viola, a Tuscan baker

  1. Wow Courtney! That looks absolutely amazing…glad you are having such great adventures. I wish I could have a loaf of that bread right now!

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