My father has a thing about bread. Specifically, bread on sandwiches. It’s always too thick, too thin, too “bready” (I mean, it is bread!), too hard, too soft, too toasted, not toasted enough, the wrong ratio for the filling of the sandwich…the list goes on.
Simplicity is the key for him - a nice thin piece of bread, some meat, some cheese – perfetto. I'm more of a "load it on" type of girl. Extra peppers, extra cheese, extra mortadella...you get the picture.
But two years ago while we were living in Bologna, I finally began to understand the magic of such a simple sandwich when we were introduced to a specialty of Emilia-Romagna, the piadina.
The piadina is an Italian flatbread made from (usually) flour, salt, water and lard. It’s cooked on a flat griddle and filled with a variety of sweet and savory options. We've heard some compare it to a tortilla or a pizza but it's actually quite different - and you have to taste one to understand.
In Bologna after our Italian language class, my husband and I would walk to our favorite local piadineria and order the classic version of Romagna with wild arugula, prosciutto and squacquerone (a soft, fresh cheese that is unique to the region). We would stand outside with our friends and enjoy the slightly warm sandwiches, washed down with a Coca-Cola or an Italian beer.
Here in the States, it is almost impossible to find piadina and certainly harder to find a good one. So when our craving for a simple Italian sandwich needs to be satiated, we make piadine ourselves.
The most difficult part of this recipe is finding the lard and while we’ve made it with other types of fat (butter, oil), there is no debate on the difference lard makes to the end product. Call your local butcher or high-end grocery store to ask if they carry it.
3 oz. all-purpose flour
.35 oz. pork lard
1 ½ oz. whole milk (not ice cold, more room temperature)
1 ½ oz. warm water
pinch kosher salt
1/8 oz. baking powder
1. Place the lard in a mixture of the warm water and the whole milk. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of your stand-up mixer, add the flour, baking powder and salt (in that order). Remove the lard from the liquid (but reserve the liquid!) and add pieces of melted lard to the flour mixture.
3. Using a steel pastry blender, mix ingredients until incorporated. In a standing mixer fitted with the dough attachment, blend the flour and lard mixture at low speed while slowly streaming in the reserved milk/water liquid.
4. Increase the speed to medium-low and when the dough is almost in a ball, increase the speed to medium/medium-high and knead for until it forms into one mass (about 5 minutes).
5. Remove the dough and allow it to rest for 30 minutes, on a parchment lined and flour dusted sheet-pan covered with plastic wrap.
6. Heat a non-stick griddle over moderate heat. On a lightly floured work surface, cut the dough into 12 pieces and then roll them into small balls.
7. Roll out 1 ball of dough so that it’s about ½ inch thick (store the rest under plastic wrap until ready to roll).
8. Grill the piadina until lightly browned on the bottom (1-2 minutes) and then flip and brown the other side.
9. Once it’s ready, cut it in half. Add your choice of fillings to one half and top with the other. Fold in half again to eat (preferably while standing outside, with a cold drink!).
It’s a sandwich that would make even my dad happy – a perfect ratio of filling to bread - chewy, warm and lightly toasted.
This recipe, like most we make at D.O.P. Kitchen, is just a foundation of which to build off. Try a filling of mixed greens with a little vinaigrette, or nutella and banana, or brie and watercress…or have a piadina party and set out several different options for people to mix and match and try. Buon appetito!