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Stories of focaccia with lardo and a yellow school bus

Crescente con i ciccioli

Focaccia with lardo is a masterpiece among Bologna’s recipes.

Even if, in Bologna, the typical focaccia is called crescente.
There are two different kinds of focaccia.

Exists a kind of short crescente (“e” ending, don’t miss) made with finely minced prosciutto mixed into the dough. It is simply delicious. And then there is a more leavened one stuffed with cubes of lard. Less famous than the former but just as good.

Focaccia with lard is one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten.
Above all, it is a recipe full of memories. As soon as I think of this soft-leavened dough, the first thing I visualize in my mind is Mr. Ravanelli’s yellow school bus.

Focaccia with lardo. Typical Bologna's recipe

A yellow school bus

Mr. Ravanelli (in Italian, radishes) was the driver of the yellow school bus that, for five years, drove me to and from school. He was strict but kind, and even though I was small, I could tell he loved his job and us children.

He had his uniform neat, a greeting, and a joke for every child who got on. A glance from Mr. Ravanelli cast through the rearview mirror was enough to restore calm in his bus.

A few years ago, after decades, I met Mr. Ravanelli and discovered that 1) even in retirement, he dresses like a school bus driver, and 2) there is a Mrs. Ravanelli.
It was funny to find myself in front of a family of smiling Ravanelli.

With the snow and with the sun

Every morning at 7:15 a.m., I waited for the school bus in front of my home.

I was one of the first to get on. After me, along the same street, Mr. Ravanelli would pick up Claudia and Carlo, mates of afternoon merende and games, before leaving the city to take a long country road that led to the school my parents chose for me.

It was a happy choice because, along with my college years, they were the best years I spent in a classroom. About my experience in middle and high school, I save nothing except a few people among teachers and classmates.

Podcast, yes or not?

Tu conosci/ascolti i podcast?
Invece di leggere un libro, c’è una voce che narra una storia.

I would love to share the stories of my old country school. I would tell you about Mr. Ravanelli, the child with the cow fur, Teacher Nalòn, who picked cherries in May, and my Teacher Renata who, holding my hand, accompanied me to get books from the other classes’ supplies to quench my hunger for stories.

I often think, and always with a smile, of that yellow bus full of children happy to go to school.

But now it’s time for focaccia with lardo!

Focaccia with lardo. Typical recipe of Bologna

A warm, fragrant rectangle of focaccia with lardo

Mr. Ravanelli opens the door of the school bus.
I get off on a quiet country road in front of the bakery next to the school.

In retrospect, it is absurd to guess a school and bakery in the middle of nowhere.

There is a small bridge across a wide ditch. Beyond the bridge are a small country hamlet, a few houses, and a bakery. No church that the basilica of Madonna del Piratello, Imola’s version of Bologna’s Madonna di San Luca, is a stone’s throw away.

The bakery is a little dark room and one larger in the back where the baker processes and bakes. The smell of bread is intense. Beyond the wooden table that serves as a counter, I look at the bakery owner in a beige lab coat, bare legs, and clogs. He hands out smiles and rectangular slices of focaccia with lardo.

Each child takes a piece of focaccia, leaves the coin, and runs outside.
With my package still mild in my hands, I cross the bridge, turn right and, after a few steps, cross another bridge.

I am finally in the large park surrounding the school, an imposing building that was once, perhaps, a stately home.

As I cross the garden, I open the paper wrapping of the focaccia with lardo.
First, I breathe its scent, and then I start searching for the cubes of lardo, which, still warm, melts in my mouth.

When I think about it now, restraining myself from devouring the entire piece without waiting for the midmorning merenda was an impressive exercise in patience by a child who, once an adult, does not count it among her main virtues.

I hope there has been a Mr. Ravanelli in your life, too.
And, if not, you deserve a double taste of focaccia with lardo cubes.

In the 1970s, in Italy, we were in a frenzy about refined flours. So the focaccia I remember was white. But as you can see from the photos, I preferred a more rustic wheat flour. Of course, you choose your favorite flour or the kind you usually use.

In my focaccia I combine 200 g of lard and 100 g of sweet bacon.
The latter gives a flavor kick. But, if you prefer, use only lard cut into not-too-large cubes (in cooking, the size of the cubes reduces because some of the fat melts away).

Buona cucina, Monica

Focaccia with lardo. Typical recipe of Bologna

Focaccia with lardo. Recipe of Bologna


serves 6
rectangular baking dish, 32 cm long side
List of the Ingredients


200 g plain flour
350 g wheat flour
200 g lard
100 g bacon
25 fresh brewer’s yeast
350 g lukewarm water
5 g fine salt
1 or 2 tablespoons honey
30 g olive oil


Method


Dice finely lard and bacon and set aside.

Dissolve, while stirring, the brewer’s yeast in 100 ml warm water and, while stirring, add the honey as well.

In the bowl of the planetary mixer, combine the two different flours and create a space in the center to accommodate the dissolved yeast.

Let it rest for five minutes, add the oil, and start kneading, adding warm water a little at a time until the flour absorbs it (if you feel it is necessary, add more).

After five minutes, add the bold, and after another 5 minutes, the salt. Knead 10 minutes more.

Cover the bowl and let the flatbread rest for 1 hour.

Cover the bottom of the pan with baking paper, and wet the paper with some drops of water and olive oil. Place the dough, without kneading it, in it.

Roll out the dough with greased or wet fingertips, and let it rest in the turned-off oven until it doubles in size (for about 30 minutes/ 1 hour).

Bake in the preheated oven, 180C degrees, for about 40 minutes.

Let the focaccia cool in the oven without a baking sheet and with the door open.

Cut into squares and serve the focaccia with lardo on the appetizer board or in the bread basket.

Italian Focaccia

Focaccia of Bologna

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