In Laterza, an ancient city centre in the province of Taranto, the namesake bread has been produced for more than three centuries. It is made by using re-milled durum wheat semolina flour, from grains that are grown in the territories of Laertino or in those of the neighbouring municipalities, mixed with water, salt and mother yeast.
With an intense cereal aroma and a slightly acidic flavour, Laterza Bread has a crunchy crust, which is about 3 cm thick and tends to be brown, with an ivory white honeycomb crumb. The dough must rise for six hours and is then baked in wood-fired ovens which are preheated. Depending on the season, the oven is heated using aromatic wood, olive wood, or other products such as apricot pits or almond peels. According to the process handed down from generation to generation, once it reaches a temperature of about 400 °C, the wood and ash removed from the wood fired oven using wet hemp rags, and cooking continues for almost three hours thanks to the heat emanating from the stones, the chianghe, that the ovens are built with.
The traditional shape and size includes loaves of bread, called panelle or panédd in Laertine dialect, that weigh one, two and four kilograms, with a diameter of approximately 25, 35 and 45 cm respectively.
In Matera, until only a few decades ago the Laterza bread was kneaded at home and then baked in public ovens: the loaves were identified and marked with the initials of the head of the family or with a symbol such as a walnut or a branch of mastic.
In Laterza, until the 1960s, the management of the city’s ovens was entrusted exclusively to women: three workers (i fraschere) and a baker (à furnele) worked tirelessly in each oven. At the head of the group, the baker was the person who managed the oven, which she had usually rented, and oversaw the baking of the loaves. The workers, on the other hand, had the task of preparing the wood, collecting the dough prepared by the women of the village and, once cooking was completed under the supervision of the baker, delivering each family their own bread and collecting the remuneration.
In 1998 the Pane di Laterza consortium was born, which brings together local bakers and aims to protect and enhance the Laterza product with thanks also of the use of the “Pane di Laterza” collective quality brand. The city of Laterza is also part of the National Association of the city of bread, which, as part of its purpose, aims to promote the recognition and enhancement of the breads that are linked to the territories.
The research activities necessary for the reporting of this product in the Ark of Taste online catalogue were financed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Policies, the General Directorate of the Tertiary Sector and Corporate Social Responsibility – notice n° 1/2018 “Slow Food in action: communities protagonists of change”, pursuant to Article 72 of the Tertiary Sector Code, referred to in Legislative Decree No. 117/2017.