As this might be one of the less famous books I will totally concentrate on the content. The ugly duchess is a historic person: 14th century ruler of Tirol Margarte von Tirol-Görz. Her ugliness is, which is now common sense in historic search, result of a misinterpretation of her nickname, but Feuchtwanger did not know that (and I am not sure whether this was already the state of research back then). So he wrote his novel giving it a central theme: Margarete's ugliness that always stands in her way and is used against her. But it would be too simple to break the plot down on that part. This is also a book about women's chances and about how important women are treated, it is about society's view on women in general, about what seems to make them "worthy" in the eyes of public opinion and how this especially affects women in powerful positions, it is a book about antisemitism, it is about struggling and fighting, about the manipulations of public opinion and about politics in general. Feuchtwanger manages to transfer the guiding principal's of s of his epoch's politics (the 1920s) to the 14th century and by this illustrates that the driving forces of world politics never change.
But even though this book is about ugliness it is not cheesy. It is not the kind of book that tells you to look behind a mask to reveal the beauty on the inside or about a "good" but misunderstood person, instead it concentrates more on the effects, on human behavior and the fight of an unfortunate person.
I decided to go with a traditional bread recipe from Northern Italy, as this is one of the districts that were ruled by the historic Margarete and because I think there is no dish that describes the simple life of this place better than the bread recipes. It is one of those recipes that were born out of necessity as it is the kind of bread that stores very well and can be taken as provision. The taste is unique as the spices (mainly the bird clover) add a very special touch. Usually the bits could even be flatter that the ones I made and most recipes ask for baking two next to each other so that two of them stick together, but as there are so many different recipes, there is no 'must'. The only necessities are the spices, as they add the typical taste, and the crunchy crust. If you are into aromatic bread this will be the one of your choice, trust me on that.
300g whole grain rye flour
150g wheat flour
~600ml lukewarm water
30g fresh yeast
1tsp salt, 1tsp dandelion honey (or agave syrup/sugar)
1tbsp caraway seeds, 1tbsp bird clover, 1tbsp fennel seeds, 1tsp coriander
mix rye and wheat flour in a bowl, mix yeast and dandelion honey with 1/2 of the water and pour mixture in the bowl; add salt and herbs/spices and knead while pouring in the rest of the water, if the dough is too dry add more water, allow to rise for at least 1h
sprinkle a greater amount of wheat flour on a countertop and knead dough once more, cut into 6 parts and form flat circles
put two of them closely onto a griddle and allow to rise for 15 more minutes; preheat oven to 220°C, bake for 20 minutes whilst decreasing the temperature every 5 minutes by 10°C until you reach 180°C.