The Ultra-Thin Sardinian Bread Inspired By Sheet Music

What makes a perfect cracker? Some are thick and dense while others are thin and crisp. If anyone has perfected the cracker, perhaps it's the Italians, with one of their traditional and super thin flatbread known as Carta Di Musica. These crackers are simple, unleavened wheat crisps made with a paper-thin dough.

Originating in Sardinia, one of Italy's islands floating in the Mediterranean, Carta Di Musica can sometimes be found in other parts of the country, though it's not common to stumble upon this simple delicacy in your local grocery store. While the crackers were originally a Mediterranean dish, they're at home on any dinner table, whether as an appetizer, an accompaniment to a meal, or a vehicle for a dip or slice of fine cheese. While Carta Di Musica has the crisp texture of a light cracker, it's traditionally baked in larger rounds or squares that look a bit more like flatbread.

The origins of Carta Di Musica

The name of these crackers hints at the otherwise unexpected inspiration that led to their creation. Carta Di Musica translates to "sheet music" in English. While the yeasted flatbreads almost resemble a thin piece of paper, that's not likely the reason for this wheat cracker's name. Instead, according to local lore, they're called this because the dough is meant to be thin enough to see the fine lines of sheet music through it—an even tougher standard than the windowpane test used to tell if your bread is over-kneaded. And that ultra-thin dough is what makes this cracker so crunchy and crisp.

This variation of flatbread is likely almost as old as Italy itself, and the crackers were useful in part because of how easily they could be stored. The thin crisps don't contain ingredients that often turn foods rancid, and baking removes all the moisture from the thin dough, so they can last for several weeks without spoiling. That was much more useful in the days before refrigeration and other modern methods of food storage, but Carta Di Musica is still a popular and delectable item that's found at the table today.

Making Carta Di Musica at home

The basic ingredients for Carta Di Musica are not complicated. The dough is made with wheat or semolina flour (or often a mixture of the two), salt, yeast, and water. For the simplest version, this is all you need—though a mixer and rolling pin come in handy for making and rolling out the dough. A baking stone can also be useful to achieve the crispness of this cracker, though it's not entirely necessary. Either way, make sure you've got a hot oven.

Some versions of the flatbread take it to the next level by adding fresh parmesan cheese. Others even use unique ingredients like tender herbs and edible flowers, which makes for a cracker that looks more like a summer garden, almost too beautiful to eat.

With the main dough recipe being so simple, home bakers can use as much creativity with ingredients and accouterments as they like. Carta Di Musica is often eaten with only a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. But don't be afraid to pair it with your favorite cheese, use it to dive into a dip, or even crumble it into a soup like an elevated oyster cracker.