Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bread and bikkies

I had the pleasure of spending the day helping to make traditional Italian style bread and biscuits with my Mum, Aunt and cousin (and son of course).  It was special because in our busy lives we don't often get a chance to get together and do the things we seemed to do more frequently as children.  All of our families would often get together for catch ups over dinner, to celebrate birthdays or just hang out while my Dad and Uncles played Briscola (an Italian card game) which they would play into the wee small  hours (sometimes even on school nights!), my cousins and I would bunk down in one of the family lounge rooms on blankets and nap while Mum and the Aunties chatted until it was time to go home... those were the days!

Anyway, back to the bread and biscuit making.  My Mum has a traditional wood fired oven at her place and has been making her own bread since I can remember (which is a long time).  The bread making was always the job of the women (although while my Dad was alive would often fire up the forno or oven and Mum would prepare the bread dough).  Mum learned the art of bread making from her mother, and my Nonna from her mother, and so on, and so on.

The process of making the bread is almost ritualistic, you must rise early in the morning as it is an arduous task, to a large quantity of flour (approx 20 kilos), the yeast is added, then just the right amount of water (there are no actual measurements here, just instinctual knowing of how much is enough), knead it all together (a process my son loves to help Mum with!), then cover the mixture with a few blankets to let it rise  (making the sign of the cross also helps too apparently!), after a while (again no real time frame, just when it has risen enough) you knead it again to knock down the dough, shape it into loaves, let it rest again (I'm getting tired just typing about it!).  Finally when the oven is ready and all of the burning wood and ashes removed and the oven is at the right temperature (again, there is no exact temperature, just when it is right) the bread it ready to be placed into the oven or forno, where it stays until it is cooked (you guessed it until it looks ready!)  I'm not sure how well Mum's succession plan to pass on this tradition will go if it is up to me, I think I'll need to help her lots more before I get everything just right!

Mum also thought it be a good opportunity for us to make biscuits as well while the forno was hot, so we did... 5 kilos of flour and 13 eggs worth!  That's a lot of bikkies, but they probably won't last long as they are the super delicious, lemony kind, yum, yum!
The fruits of our labour!  Yummy lemony Italian style biscuits and traditional wood-fired oven pane di casa.


  1. Funny thing Luci. Been thinking I should call and have a coffee one day soon with your lovely Mum. Maybe the time is right? Colleen

  2. Love hearing about this cultural sort of stuff!

  3. I wish I could have a bread making session with you and your mum, I am sure I should have been born Italian. As for the lemony biscuits, I'm off to find a recipe right now! Nicci

  4. You are most welcome to visit anytime you are visiting your folks Nicci... who knows, maybe we can arrange a baking session too!