Pà Punyat is the traditional bread of Alghero and Olmedo, in the province of Sassari.
The origin and name of this bread date back to the period of Catalan domination in Sardinia (from 1523 to 1516). The term Punyat derives from the word ‘puny’ – ‘fist’ in Catalan – to recall the traditional method of rolling out the dough, worked with the fist and forearm.
The dough is made with remilled semolina flour of the Karalis variety and sourdough – characterised by low density and high hydration. The loaf, with an elongated shape of about 30-35 cm and an average weight of 500 g, is deep golden in colour, with a thin, crispy crust. The interior has a crumb with small, well/uniformly distributed alveoli and a pale straw-yellow colour. The taste is slightly acidic, while the aroma is influenced by the presence of semolina and sourdough.
The loaf keeps for eight to ten days.
Originally, being a product intended for the poor, Pà Punyat was made with equal quantities of semolina and flour, in order to lower production costs and ensure a low price. Once this need ceased to exist, bread began to be made only with semolina flour.
Karalis durum wheat is cultivated in the Nurra area of Alghero by companies associated with the short supply chain of the Porto Conte Regional Park and processed in the local Riu mill. The production techniques comply with the integrated production standards of the Sardinian region, as does the processing, which is carried out according to ancient recipes using sourdough starter.
In the documents of the Alghero Municipal Historical Archives, the reference to Pà Punyat dates back to the 14th century, when it was called ‘pa du sou’ (penny bread) to indicate its popular use. At that time, there were only two public bakeries in the city: the Sant’Antoni bakery, in the street of the same name (today’s Via Cavour), and the Majorca bakery in Via Majorca. The women who were in charge of bread-making, the so-called ‘panateras’, mainly prepared this ‘pa de sou’, which, due to its weight and shape, probably coincides with Pà Punyat (although there are no written documents attesting to this with certainty). The public administration of Alghero, which was then a fortified city, was obliged to guarantee an annual supply of wheat for all the inhabitants and soldiers of the garrison. It was probably for this reason that the name ‘pa de sou’ prevailed in popular circles, because it cost only a penny and was therefore accessible to all. From the end of the 19th to the beginning of the 20th century, the use of Pà Punyat, the name by which the bread is still called today, prevailed in documents.The lack of semolina and the change in diet over the centuries led to the disappearance of this product for a long time. In recent years, however, the collaboration of the Porto Conte Park with a historic bakery in Olmedo and other local authorities has allowed the recovery of this ancient tradition.
Today, Pà Punyat continues to have a limited and variable availability, depending on wheat production; moreover, it is only prepared by a single baker.