In the beginning, there were two. Focaccia and Ciabatta. And Grissini, of course, strictly a type of bread for making breadsticks, and the breadsticks are made straight out of the dough. Grissini are always dry, even when freshly baked, so thus rather an exception.
When we began in April 2004 and wanted to buy bread at the local bakers, the selection was very limited. As indicated earlier, not much more than the two classic kinds of bread were obtainable. I knew the possibilities and culinary importance of bread, and not just for the breakfast buffet. I had worked for three years in the kitchen of the ADLER Dolomiti in Ortisei. It was a clear case: We had to do something.
Italian bread is normally comprised of wheat flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil. The herbs, spices and vegetables which are added to the dough create the variety of flavour. Not rocket science, one would think. But when my team and I began to bake bread, we made a sobering discovery. We had acquired ovens, we experimented, but we were not satisfied with the result. The bakers who delivered bread to the ADLER in the Dolomites were called to Tuscany to demonstrate what really matters. It is complex, you must pay attention to the humidity of the air, the heat in the oven, the baking time and much more, but above all, attention must be paid to the quality of the flour. Good bread needs good flour.
Where to get it? I started asking around. I learned that a young miller in Spedaletto, near provincial road 53, had opened the “Mulino Val d’Orcia” not five minutes from the ADLER Thermae. I also learned there was a stone mill that the young Miller had installed in a former granary. The stone mill was a gift from his father - who grows organic wheat and spelt in the area - at the end of his studies in the agricultural sciences. The young miller’s name is Amadeo Grappi. He stands in his white work coat and white plastic clogs between the rattling mill and an apparatus from which pours thick, bronze-coloured strings into packaging. Grappi makes Pici, a specialty of the area. With his flours, he also produces Penne, Tagliatelle, Fusilli, and Paccheri, which he sells in his little shop in addition to wheat flour and bran and spelt flour, olive oil, and antipasti.
Grappi, 26, patiently explains how the stone mill works as the pasta is made. And also that Spedaletto belongs to the famous and unique Pienza. Birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, the late pope Pius II, who had the place reconstructed in the 15th century into the “ideal town”. But that is another story …
The ADLER Thermae now produces 15 types of bread with Grappi’s flours. In addition to their own version of Foccacia and Grissini, they now bake whole-wheat bread, ciabatta, spelt bread, nut bread, baguette and a variety of small bread rolls and pastries. My team and I have even cultivated our own yeasts for our bakery, which is also an important factor for the consistent quality of the bread assortment. How the guests judge all of this becomes apparent on departure days; the guests order and buy bread before leaving for home.