Ciao! I am Peppe from Caltagirone, a small town in Sicily. Since young I have been surrounded by the flavours and aromas of traditional recipes. Every day after school I would follow my grandma to the countryside and do my homework as she kneaded the next day’s bread and cooked exquisite sauces. These would go into the brown bag grandpa took with him to work each morning.
Lunchtime at the countryside was not a fancy affair. My grandpa would take a break from toiling in the fields, sit down under a tree, eat the sandwich that was prepared by my grandma, share a drink with his friends, and return to work. There was little fuss, but each sandwich was tasty, healthy and unique – the perfect reward for who contributed to the territory’s growth. In the evening, we would gather around the dining table. Bread was always there without fail, to pair with local produce, soak up gravies, and scoop up the last tasty bit of whatever was on our plates.
Fast forward a few decades, I somehow ended up marrying a girl from Singapore and starting a family in the city of skyscrapers. While I fell in love with the local cuisine, I wanted to continue experiencing the flavours of the countryside. After one summer in Sicily, I made the decision to swap my lawyer’s wig for my grandma’s apron, and bring a piece of my history with me – a third-generation wild yeast culture. After all, good old bread is something that connects me to my land, and is also the base from which I explore new terrain.
The most important ingredient in my rustic bread, and the inspiration for otiveiL’s name, is lievito madre. This is a wild yeast culture that has been bubbling and thriving for over 50 years. I brought it back from Sicily and all my breads are made with it. Lievito madre, also known as sourdough or levain, contains many different strains of yeast. On the contrary, commercial yeast consists of only one species. Lievito madre therefore lends the breads a complexity of flavours and also aids in digestion.
Working with lievito madre presents many challenges, especially in hot and humid Singapore. Unlike standardised production using commercial yeast, lievito madre breads require a sensitive pair of hands and an experienced eye. Breadmaking also takes a very very long time – start to finish takes 24 hours. The slow fermentation allows the flavours to develop fully in a harmonised way while breaking down the its gluten structure. That’s how you get pleasantly chewy breads with a crisp crust and tangy fragrance. You will never have a bloated stomach after eating otiveiL’s breads. In addition, the bread maintains its texture overnight.
To support this long process, otiveiL’s breads are made with a high protein flour, semola rimacinata di grano duro. It is from the same hard wheat used to make pasta but with a second grind. Semola rimacinata has a distinct aroma and pale yellow hue, and is unbleached and chock full of minerals and fibres.
The ingredients that accompany otiveiL’s breads are similarly selected with great care. After all, otiveiL feeds you and also my family, so I use only the very best.