Italian friselle (or freselle, frisedde, fresedde, frise) is a typical “tarallo” made essentially of durum wheat, combined in varying quantities with barley. It is oven baked, then cut in half horizontally and it’s then baked again in the oven. The looks of the frisella is with one smooth and one rough surface. Friselle are a staple food that was produced and acclaimed for its long conservation period and was therefore a valid alternative to bread, especially in those periods when flour was scarce. The name with which friselle are also know in Apulia is “Pane dei Crociati” (Crusaders’ bread) as it was certainly used to equip the christian expeditions in their long travellings. A tradition for its consumption, from times past, was to dip freselle directly with sea water and with  pure fresh tomato, which was squeezed to let the juices out.

If you’re wandering why the circular shape, it was not for the esthetics: the hole at their center, allowed the friselle to be practically transported with a cord that was passed through them to form a sort of collier : that way they could either be hung for conservation or for comfortable transportation. Friselle were a typical travel-bread: that’s why sea water was often used, or it was used as bottom for the fish soups, which were usually consumed during the days-long fishing expeditions in the open sea. As it might have become a familiar image to you, also in the Salento tradition, bread baking was done according to a common schedule at shared ovens. Bread could be baked bi-weekly or with an up to more than quarterly frequency, so that the quantity of the dough that a single family (or more families together, even) could amount to up to 200 Kilograms.

Only a small portion of the total quantity was baked in softer bread to be consumed in the very first days, more often than not with the addition of ingredients like pumpkin seeds, olives, onion, is sliceable forms. The rest of the dough, though, was reserved for the production of the friselle, which allowed for longer bread-making periods. Along with their hanging from a wooden beam on the ceiling, friselle were preserved in clay jars, called “quartieri” or “capasoni”. Freselle, then, were a typical staple food, not a specialty, and were popular where fresh bread could not be consumed.

How They Look Like

Friselle have a characteristic shape, derived from their production process: they are typically circular and with a hole at their center. Oven baked twice and cut after the first baking, they always come in pairs as they are nothing else that the two halves of the same form. Characteristic is also the surface, rough where it’s cut after the first baking, smooth where it’s remaining form the original manual shaping of the dough. Sizes are variable: friselle’s diameter and their holes’ diameter can vary from 5-10 centimeters to 20 or more. The color depends on both the baking time and the flour composition (more or less wheat/barley flour): color can then range from light to (very) dark brown.