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bonci bread

Bonci is a fairly well-known pizzarium in the district of Cipro in Rome. Their pizza-in-teglia (tray pizza) is mighty good and got very popular with tourists after the owner Gabriele Bonci was the feature of episode 2 of the Netflix series The Chef’s Table: Pizza (2022). There is also a Bonci bakery (panificio) just a few blocks away and it’s there that you can buy regular bread and a few sweet breads.

I arrived in Rome with a couple of my loaves as presents and was met by my sister-in-law who’d bought a half loaf (maybe a quarter) of simple Bonci sourdough. Here are a couple of photographs:

From Bonci’s online shop my guess is it’s the pane comune (common bread) or pane grano duro (hard grain bread), although I’m not sure as this loaf appeared to be much whiter than the listed loaves. It’s interesting to note that they add malto (malt) to all their sourdough breads and my assumption is that this will be diastatic malt powder, which is used to help increase the oven spring of a loaf (and something I think I experimented with many many years ago).

Whatever the bread is, it’s typical of much bread in Italy. It has a thick hard crust that contrasts steeply with the softness (and whiteness) of the crumb. It’s perfect for dunking, or putting at the base of a soup, or lathering in oil with a touch of salt. The taste was more sour than I like but it’s mighty good bread.

It got me thinking about the thickness of the crust. Assuming it doesn’t have to do with the particularly qualities of the flour or the hydration levels (both are terrible assumptions), my guess is that the bread is cooked for longer at a lower temperature. Perhaps they steam the ovens only briefly if at all (baking bread without steam thickens the crust) and then drop the temperature to allow that crust to thicken without the bread burning.

If you ever in Rome it’s worth fighting through the crowds and the noise for a slice or four of very expensive pizza at Bonci, but also sneak around to their quieter panificio and ask them to cut a chunk of sourdough for you. They won’t likely speak much if any English (and why should they?) but that’s all the more fun.

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