Pane Carasau: a short history of a Sardinian symbol
Carasau bread is the product par excellence of Sardinian gastronomy and, according to some findings by archaeologists, it is thought that its production was a custom already before the year 1000 in the so-called Bronze Age.
One of the best known and beloved foods of Sardinian cuisine is undoubtedly the carasau bread, also called pane carasatu, pane carasadu, pane fine, pane ‘e fresa or pane Fatu in fresa. A baked product that can be consumed as it is, as an accompaniment to sweet or savoury dishes, or softened with water to turn it into the soft pane infutsu used for the preparation of delicious rolls stuffed with cold cuts or creams.
Commonly used in every corner of Sardinia, the name of this symbolic gastronomical tradition of the island comes from the Sardinian verb Carasare which means “to toast”. What perhaps not everyone knows is that the word carasau has been inserted in the Italian dictionary Zingarelli since 2017, meanwhile, outside the regional borders, the carasau bread was renamed in Italian “carta da musica” – “music paper” because of its crunch that makes chewing noisy.
This type of bread has a characteristic disc shape and has a very thin diameter, however, there are exceptions: in some areas of Barbagia, such as Orgosolo, Ovodda and Gavoi, it’s prepared in both round and rectangular shapes, the dimensions are smaller than the traditional carasau bread and are known by the name of pane tostu or pane ‘e fresa. In Ogliastra, however, a variant of rectangular and thicker bread called pistocu is quite popular.
The secret of Pane Carasau is the double baking which, in addition to giving it a crisp note, makes it suitable for long storage, in fact, in the past, it was consumed by shepherds during long periods of transhumance from mountain pastures to those in the hills and plains.
The preparation and cooking of Pane Carasau: the various stages of bread making
In Sardinian they say Sa Cotta to indicate the entire cycle of preparation and cooking of pane carasau, a mixture of yeast, salt, water and durum wheat semolina.
Let’s find out which are the various stages that make up the baking process:
• S’inthurta: it is the first phase of Sa Cotta and takes place before sunrise. After melting the yeast in warm water, it’s mixed with the sieved flour and then kneaded either in a wooden cupboard called iscivu, lacu or lachedda or inside a terracotta container called tianu or impastera. The flavour, lightness and size of the carasau pastry vary according to the different preparation and cooking methods of the dough. There are, in fact, many variations depending on the different areas of the island, where ancient family traditions and villages are still kept up today;
• Cariare o hariare: the dough is worked vigorously, and the fresh dough is rolled, enlarged with the pressure of the fists and refolded on itself with the addition of water until it’s smooth. This second phase is particularly tiring, and the timing of it depends on the variety of pane carasau: the more the dough is well kneaded, the more the result will be appreciable;
• Pesare: in the third phase the dough is left to leaven, which in Sardinian is called “pesare” meaning “to lift”. The dough is left to rest in terracotta containers or Barbagia, or cork malune covered with woollen sheets;
• Orire or sestare: at this point, the dough is divided into equal, smaller sections (orire or sestare) then rounded, floured and left to rest in baskets called còrvulas or canisteddas, wrapped between the folds of wool or linen sheets to continue the leavening;
• Illadare: after the dough has risen, it’s worked with small pastry pins called canneddos or cannones, floured continuously, it is then flattened and widened with the fingertips to form discs of various diameters depending on the location. Once the desired diameter and thickness are obtained, the discs are positioned on the folds of woollen cloths, up to 10 meters long and 50 cm wide, called pannos de ispica or tiazas. Each pannu de ispica or tiaza, depending on its length, can contain up to twenty discoidal sheets (sa tundas) that are thus easily transportable;
• Cochere: is the first stage of baking bread and for the oven, which reaches a temperature between 450 and 500 º C, oak or olive wood is used. Before baking the dough, the embers are pushed to one side with an iron scoop and the oven floor is swept with a particular broom called iscovulos or ishopiles. Then, with a rounded shape wooden shovel, the sheets are put into the oven for the first baking where, thanks to the strong heat, they inflate in a short time and form a ball. The air inside the disk begins to expand, determining the separation of the two layers;
• Fresare o calpire: once the disc of dough has been removed from the oven, the two parts that compose it are now detached and can be separated (Fresare o calpire) quickly with the help of a knife. This results in two discs, the so pizos, which have one smooth and one rough side. The first baking comes out as a fairly elastic bread, which does not break easily and is called pane lentu, pane modde or pane cruhu. It can be eaten immediately and, unlike carasau, does not conserve well. The so pizos, on the other hand, are stacked inside the baskets and when all the tundas are ready, it’s time for the final phase;
• Carasare: is the second baking phase to complete the process. The so pizos are put back in the oven one at a time for the sa carasadura or the final cooking. Once cooked, the sheets are stacked in large baskets of asphodel and wrapped in special cloths. In the end, a weight is placed on the top of the pile, usually a wooden board, which serves to press the sheets a little.
Even today, this baked product is of gastronomic excellence. Its unique flavour and incredible fragrance continues to be a great protagonist of the rich, genuine and diversified Sardinian cuisine at the Osteria del Forte in Palazzo Doglio.
Do you want to discover the authentic taste of Sardinian cuisine and experience a holiday full of charm and elegance? Book your stay at Palazzo Doglio in Cagliari