Streghe of Bologna (strega means witch) are flaky, savory, and fragrant bread sheets that bake in the oven.
If home baking is for you, try this recipe, it’s affordable for everyone.
Streghe of Bologna: the origin.
They originated as a baked product that you could buy, at weight, from bakers throughout the city.
Streia (its name in the bolognese dialect) was born in the city bakeries and the surrounding countryside. The Strega of Bologna had a precise function, the same as the Tuscan schiaccia and, I imagine, other similar preparations. To test the oven’s temperature before baking bread, too much precious to end up burned.
The bakers, the night before, used to prepare the doughs to give them time to rise.
Then they would light the wood-burning ovens and, in the middle of the night, to assess if it had reached the right temperature, they used to bake a thin sheet of bread dough made from leftover dough, usually from focaccia.
If they were cooked and crispy, the baker could bake bread while snacking the streghe of Bologna that, in the beginning, was not made to be sold.
If, on the contrary, the high temperature burned the sheet of bread, the baker used to wait before cooking the bread. From here, the name of streghe (witches). With a macabre sense of irony, it has a reference to the witches’ burnings.
The most famous recipe for Bologna witches is from the Simili sisters, almost as legendary in the city as Pellegrino Artusi.
Valeria and Margherita Simili, twin sisters who were bakers and pastry chefs, have been baking delicious Bolognese bread and pastries for decades.
From the Bolognese cooking school of the Simili, generations of young ladies passed by before they got married, learning to cook or perfect the art of cooking. My mother-in-law also took the course at their school, but I’ll tell you that story another time.
Simili’s recipe but with whole wheat flour.
In flavor and crunchiness, they seem like crackers.
Streghe di Bologna are white or whole wheat and are made by mixing flour, water, and yeast with olive oil or lard. But you can make them just with water, without adding the fat part.
You might have already understood that witches call one of the most popular appetizers/appetizers in Bologna: tagliere of cured meats, cheeses, and jams. But you can also serve them in the bread basket with breadsticks and more.
More often I buy them, sometimes I enjoy making them at home.
Homemade streghe of Bologna.
The dough needs to be very thin, and it should be rolled out on the cutting board with a rolling pin as if it were egg puff pastry. You can also use the pasta machine.
Before baking, don’t forget to sprinkle with a little fine salt.
The crispy bite and the grain of salt exploding in the mouth are two characteristics of these crackers.
The surface can be smooth or have bubbles. If you brush with olive oil before baking, as recommended by the Simili recipe, they will be smooth. If, on the contrary, you do not do it, the crackers will bubble. Choose whichever way you prefer.
Unlike the Simili sisters, I used whole wheat flour.
I also recommend that you knead 250g of flour and not 500g. Otherwise, you won’t finish rolling out some bread sheets and baking.
With 250g of flour, you will get about 300g of witches, enough for an appetizer or breadbasket for four people. For eight people, knead 500g of flour.
Buona cucina, Monica
Cook with me.
You can find more traditional bread recipes from Emilia-Romagna on the blog. Included in this category are piadina romagnola (HERE), tigelle (HERE) but also crescentina fritta (HERE, find the recipe), or ficattola, a leavened and fried bread typical of the Apennine area between Romagna and Tuscany (HERE).
The true witches.
Historically, Bologna has not experienced a violent witch-hunting season.
The same, it has its stories. It seems that Bolognese witches would gather in the woods of Mount Paderno to celebrate their rites and that Gentile Budrioli, beautiful, rich, and learned, was burned as a witch in the 1498.
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Store the crackers in a paper bag. In winter, put it on the radiator.
Streghe of Bologna recipe
List of the Ingredients
whole-wheat flour, 250g
water, about 200-250g
lard, 50 g or 30 g olive oil
fresh brewer’s yeast, 25 g
salt, 5 g + that to sprinkle on the surface
Combine all ingredients in the planetary mixer and knead with the dough hook whisk for 10 minutes. Dissolve yeast and lard separately in a little warm water before combining with flour.
Or pour the flour onto the cutting board and, in the center, open a crater with your fingertips. Melt the yeast in a little warm water, stirring.
Then pour the water into the whole.
Also, melt the lard in some water and pour it into the center.
Knead and after 5 minutes, add salt. Knead vigorously again for another 5 minutes.
Shape into a ball, cross-cut the dough, cover, and let rest for 45 minutes.
With a rolling pin or pasta machine, roll out pieces of dough, keeping the rest in the refrigerator and wrapped in plastic wrap.
Fold each piece over itself and roll out again until the dough is very thin.
Use the pasta cutter, or a knife, to cut diamond shapes, the long side about 3-4 cm long.
Place the crackers on the baking sheet covered with lightly greased kitchen paper.
Decide whether or not to grease the surface of the streghe as well.
Sprinkle with salt and bake in a preheated oven (200C degrees, not ventilated) for about 10 minutes.