By Rachel Jane ZarrowThe first sign of assimilation into a different culture is when someone starts defending something she used to criticize. Or perhaps this is the first sign of having been brainwashed by a cult. Either way, I know that I have truly become Florentine because I have started to defend Tuscan bread, the same stuff at which I used to scoff.Let me explain: Pane Toscano (traditional Tuscan bread) is a crusty white bread, which at first bite tastes likeeuro welleuro not a whole lot. Pane Toscano is known for being euroscioccoeuro (saltless) and some might even call it bland. It is made without salt because after a war in Italy, salt was an expensive commodity and Tuscans had to make do without it.In a similar vein, the frugal Florentines (couldneurot help the alliteration) created many uses for pane toscano: day-old bread thickens Tuscan soups (Pappa al Pomodoro, Ribollita, and Acquacotta), composes bread salad (Panzanella), serves as the base for crostini and bruschetta, and can be grated onto fish or chicken. The possibilities are endless. But the mere versatility of this pane toscano isneurot why I love the bread here.When I say I love Tuscan bread, I do not necessarily mean that I love the classic europane toscano.euro I definitely respect it; pane toscano complements the complex flavors of Tuscan cuisine, acts as the perfect sponge for flavorful olive oils and sauces, and is rich with cultural history. But what I love more about bread in Tuscany is the variety of breads here. Pane toscano is only one of many choices! To try many of these variations, one might want to try Dolcezze Savini, a bakery with more than 15 locations in Tuscany, specializing in all sorts of baked goods from pane toscano to biscotti to salty snacks. Even the bakery section of the Conadeuros Sapori and Tintori supermarkets have an extensive array of delicious breads, my favorite of which are the small rolls with grains, seeds, and nuts. Some of these very small rolls have a salty, crispy exterior. This salty eurocrusteuro creates a unique contrast with the healthful tasting interior of the roll, something one does not usually find in a whole-grain or seed and nut bread.If one wants something that is sufficiently salty, she should go to the nearest forno or panificio (bread bakery) and ask for a piece of Schiacciata. Schiacciata is the typical Tuscan flat bread made with plentiful amounts of olive oil and crunchy salt. It is a bit dryer than its Liguran counterpart, Foccaccia, but is absolutely delicious. Without any additional oil or condiment it makes the perfect snack. For other snacks, one might try croccantelle- a crunchier, more cracker-like variation on schiacciata or perhaps a few grissini (breadsticks). Sciacciata can be found in most supermarkets and fornos; a few of my favorites have been at Il Ghiottone di Provazza Simone (Via Piagentine, 27/b) and at Gli Amici del Ponte Vecchio (Via dei Bardi, 49/r).As much as I love schiacciata, however, my favorite breads in Tuscany have been the multigrain breadseuroPane di Cereali. My favorite multigrain bread thus far has been at Gianna Cecconieuros forno euroI Sapori del Granoeuro located (Via Aretina 57).[caption id="attachment_3268" align="aligncenter" width="640" caption="Tuscan Bread"]
[/caption]This particular hearty and healthy loaf is packed chock-full of various seeds and has a deliciously satisfying crust. Cecconi also described her offerings that differ from traditional pane toscano; these include pane made with kamut (another grain) and pane integrale (made with whole wheat flour). Her forno also offers particular breads that are baked in a wood oven, which adds a subtle flavor and crispiness to the bread.For something else that tastes healthful and hearty, one need not look further than Pugieuros Forno for a hidden gem. Pugieuros is best known in Florence for its schiacciataeurothey go heavy on olive oil and while I can see how this sciacciatia is sexy, I prefer one of Pugieuros more elusive options. In the breadbaskets behind the counter one can find the hidden treasure: pane di segale. This uber-dense loaf is a variation on rye bread and tastes like what I imagine I would feed to a hungry school child on a blustery winter morning.[caption id="attachment_3270" align="aligncenter" width="318" caption="Tuscan Bread with Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Fettunta)"]
[/caption]Call it assimilation, call it brainwashing, I doneurot really care. The fact of the matter is that Tuscan bread is a category that contains pane toscano but also a cornucopia, or rather breadbasket, of other options. To write off Tuscan bread, as a category, would be the same as discounting an entire culture based on one sole encounter. If you do decide to pass on Tuscan bread, you can just pass the breadbasket to me.