I came to know the Istrian region three years ago, when I met my future husband. He grew up in Pula, a beautiful town on the Croatian riviera surrounded by Roman ruins, woods and a breathtaking sea. Not bad at all. But you can’t discover Istria without losing yourself through its culinary traditions. The confluence of hills and coasts has set the foundations for an eclectic cooking of land and sea. Prsut (ham), great cheese, game and mushrooms, but also fish and vegetables. What connects all these fabulous ingredients is homemade Istrian bread.
You will find it in every konoba, pekara or house you’ll visit in Istria. Warm, soft and homemade. Istrian hosts generally serve it to welcome you at their table, with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. It’s simply delicious. You could go on eating it with Istrian Prsut, pickles, olives and cheese forever. And nothing would stop you, but the thought of all the other dishes that you really need to try!
This recipe comes from an old book on Istrian traditional cooking. The result is identical to the many loaves I’ve tasted in Pula and in the surrounding villages. Try it at home, and enjoy the taste of Istria!
Homemade Traditional Istrian Bread
1 kg. all-purpose flour
25 gr. brewer’s yeast
250 ml extra virgin olive oil
20 gr. caster sugar
15 gr. sea salt
600 ml. warm water
LET’S DO IT!
Mix the warm water, the oil, the sugar and the brewer’s yeast in a large bowl with a wooden spoon. Let it rest for five minutes, or until the yeast is completely melted.
Add the liquid to the flour, then add the salt and gently mix. You will probably need more flour to knead the dough, but the quantity depends on the humidity of the ingredients. The dough should be very soft and smooth, with a good level of hydration. Knead vigorously for ten minutes, then let it rise in a large bowl for two hours, covered with a wet dishcloth.
At this point, knead the dough once again for one minute, then shape it in 4 loaves. Let them rise, covered, for one more hour.
Bake the loaves for 45 minutes at 200°C (392°F). To test if they’re ready, tap the bottom. If they sound hollow, they’re done!