Torta al Testo, a sort of pita bread from Umbria in Italy, is baked on a wood-fire-heated stone, in a dying art that dates back to the ancient Etruscans.
In Umbria, the simple pizza-like dough is rolled out to the thickness of what the Umbrians describe as a “pretty woman’s earlobe.” Then it is slapped onto a stone that’s been heated in a wood-burning fireplace and pricked all over to keep it from puffing up like Indian naan. Because the dough is thin and therefore cooks fast, there’s no need to return the stone to the oven — the residual heat in the stone is all the dough needs to cook through. Before the advent of mechanical timers, Umbrians used recitations of “Hail Mary” to measure how long it took to bake the flatbread on each side, which doesn’t amount to many; it’s the equivalent of a couple of minutes per side at most.
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While the bread is still warm, it’s cut in half, then carefully split horizontally with a knife and stuffed with regional Umbrian prosciutto, porchetta or salume, especially Norcia’s specialties — capocollo and lombetto. For a meat-free version, Umbrians fill the torta al testo with cheese and veggies, like stracchino cheese and arugula. Served in wedges, torta al testo would make a unique snack or pre-dinner nibble. It’s also great for lunch with a salad.
Even though the Umbrians use a huge round stone as their testo, a pizza stone is a fine substitute.
Torta al Testo
This recipe comes from the nonprofit Italian group Home Food Italy.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Heat a testo or pizza stone in a wood-burning stove or oven set at 500 F while you prepare the dough.
2. Put the flour into a bowl with the baking soda, salt and ½ cup water. Stir with a fork, adding a few drops of water at a time until it comes together enough so you can knead it. Knead the dough on a lightly floured work surface for about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth.
3. Form a ball and roll out with a rolling pin until you get a disk about 1 inch thick.
4. Once the testo or pizza stone is very hot, put the dough onto it and pierce with a fork so it doesn’t rise. Allow it to cook on the testo or stone for about 6 minutes and once browned, turn over. Cook on the other side until done.
5. Cut the torta in half and then cut into it horizontally. Fill with cheese, salami, greens or your favorite sandwich fillings.
Main photo: Torta al testo, a thin dough, cooks quickly on a heated stone. Credit: Francine Segan