Marocca di Casola: Lunigiana Almond-Rye Bread…kind of

Happy Terra Madre Day! For those unaware, on December 10 Slow Food celebrated its annual holiday to honor a particular aspect of the movement. This year, Terra Madre Day was dedicated to the Ark of Taste, the carefully complied list of all the endangered and lost foods in the world. Some of the foods are vegetables that have been devastated by climate change or pollution, others are simple foods that aren’t cultivated because no one knows or appreciates them. Other foods, such as the bread I’m making right now, are traditional and local customs of specific areas in the world that are dying out. In this age of googling recipes and buying food without an awareness of its origin, oral recipes, family recipes and secret handed-down recipes are becoming obsolete. There are many foods now on the Ark from New Orleans; since the hurricane many little family-owned markets or bakeries never reopened. For the complete list, go to The Ark of Taste site online. You can choose the country and region, or else search by vegetable, breads, pastries or meats.

My inspiration today came from the site as well, however I decided to make a recipe from Italy, Casola Marocca. I wanted to learn more about the place that I lived for 5 months as well as honor the homeland of the Slow Food Movement. The movement began in Rome, but Petrini lived in Bra, an area in the very Northern Piedmont Region, close to the border with France. The are is famous for wines and cheeses. This bread, originally chestnut bread, comes from an area called  Lunigiana, south of Bra and west of Bologna. In this region, the autumn was rich with chestnuts, but not so much with wheat. Therefore this is a seasonal bread, most commonly made in November but not exclusively. I had to use almond flour, as chestnut was not available.

Casola Marocca, Slow Food Website

To quote the Slow Food Website:

The name seems to come from the dialect word “marocat”, meaning not malleable, and in fact in the past the bread was very hard. However, the small amount of potato in the dough meant that it would keep well for many days. In the past, every family had a wood-burning oven in which they would bake the bread weekly, but now only one bakery in Casola still makes it regularly.”

To be brief….it was a failure. As a pretext: I am not a bread baker. Not that one needs to be a “bread baker” to bake bread but I do feel that I rushed into the whole process. The problem? I am pretty confident that it was the liquid/flour ratio which caused a mishap of a certain fermentation process. The bread did not, could not, rise.

Almond-Rye Bread by Martina Rehmus

Almond-Rye Bread...kind of by Martina Rehmus

But hey, I ate it and it tasted fine! It was golden, it was cracked and warm, it was fresh, it was very short, it was very, very dense. I figured I wouldn’t waste any of our times by writing the recipe as you probably won’t be tackling it for yourself. But I’ll post the pictures and let know share my pain.

Fresh Egg, Kale Sandwich

I took a piece, sliced it in half and put an egg and sautéed greens in between with a bit of stone-ground mustard. Definitely not going to waste!

I am not deterred! I will make bread again, hopefully soon. For my next post, I am planning on crafting some fudgey raw brownies so don’t lose faith and don’t go away.

Anyway, Happy Terra Madre Day, it’s so important to stop and think.


2 thoughts on “Marocca di Casola: Lunigiana Almond-Rye Bread…kind of

  1. Giggle…I used to make bread weekly when the boys were little and bake it in my wood heated oven though you could use propane, and I did in the summer, as a back up….and even making it weekly, some weeks, the bread well, was embarrassing to the boys as it crumbled apart in their school bags….but yeah, even the humidity in the air can affect it…mostly it comes down to the feel when you are kneading it…I loved it when the loaf was as fat and full…then you knew you were going to have a perfect loaf…but that floor, its absorption properties, depending on its kind, and the water and the temperature and your type of sweetening for the yeast rising…all variables and is fun to do the weekly bakings to sort it out til you come to a place of feel….

    love your pictures and your stories!

    • Yes! Thank you for validating the trials and tribulations. I am currently making ANOTHER loaf, yet this one has figs and currants and fennel seeds, its another Slow Food Item. So far so good, its rising and looking nice and plump. But I think the problem with mine was the flour/liquid ratio (as I may have already said), the sourdough starter came out perfectly.

      Is your oven broken? That might be a fun project for us to fix in the spring! Want to? I would love to be able to used a bonafide wood oven and make smoky bread.

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