Traditional Pită de Pecica

Bread and baked goods - Romania

Pâine de Pecica Pită de Pecica is a type of bread from northeastern Romania made using a starter from a piece of old and dried dough from the previous batch of bread kept in a small hemp bag. The piece of dough would be soaked in lukewarm water and kneaded with flour, water and ground hops. The new dough is then left to rise at room temperature in wooden containers covered with cloth for 2-3 hours. After the dough has fermented, it is turned over on the table, shaped and cut in order to get its specific appearance and then placed into the oven. The most important thing about this bread is the wheat, which in the past was provided by the local mills. The microclimate and soil, rich in chernozem (black soil with a high percentage of hummus) and groundwater, give the local variety of wheat special characteristics. Another important element of the bread is the oven. Traditionally, only local Rom populations knew new the art of making the bread-ovens, using clay, burnt bricks, pork hair and ground glass for the hearth of the oven. These ovens where then filled with wood and cornhusks to keep the temperature constant. The bread would be baked in special containers that were placed into and taken out of the oven using long wooden shovels. The bread has a thick and crispy, yellow-brown crust and a soft, aerated core. Pită de Pecica became famous during the communist regime when the politician Nicolae Ceaușescu had this bread delivered to Bucharest on a weekly basis using helicopters. The first written record of the product was in 1970, but there is a saying that goes back to 1918 when the youth saluted each other with the phrase: Trăiască nația și frăția și piața din Tekelia! (“Long live the nation, the brotherhood and the bread market of Tekelia!”). It is important to acknowledge that local people claim that it is not a specific type of wheat, but the local microclimate that gives pită de Pecica its specific taste that cannot be replicated elsewhere. By 2014, there were only two bakeries still producing this type of bread on a daily basis, but both were converting their traditional ovens to new electrical ones, affecting the baking process and characteristics of the bread. Overall, the modernization of the breadmaking industry and disappearance of old techniques and equipment result in a bread that lacks the typical crispy exterior and soft interior. Today, there remain only a few people who know how to construct the clay bread ovens, and imported wheat from nearby countries are destroying the local agricultural links to the finished product.