Prosciutto Bread

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Makes

    2

    loaves, each about 10 inches 25 cm ) long

Appears in

Bread that includes something rich and fatty such as ham, bacon, or salt pork is an old tradition common to many nationalities. In the United States it is sometimes also referred to as “crackling bread,” which is a key to its origin, I think. Nowadays when we no longer render animal fat to use for cooking, cracklings—those little pieces of stray meat and skin that accumulate while fat is being melted down or rendered—are but a faint memory, even in cultures that used to have them available regularly. This bread uses purchased prosciutto, but there are instructions for using bacon or salt pork as a substitute.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (spoon flour into a dry-measure cup and level off)
  • teaspoons salt
  • teaspoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground or cracked black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons (about envelopes) active dry yeast
  • cups warm water, about 110°F (45°C)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 ounces (175 grams) prosciutto, sliced inch (3 mm) thick when you purchase it, then cut into ¼-inch (½-cm) squares
  • 1 jelly-roll pan covered with cornmeal

Method

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, sugar, and pepper and stir well.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the yeast into the water, then whisk in the oil. Use a large rubber spatula to stir the liquid into the dry ingredients, continuing to stir until they are completely moistened and no dry areas remain. Mix in the prosciutto, using the spatula to fold the dough repeatedly from the bottom of the bowl over the top of the dough, until it is evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and use a bench scraper to fold the dough over onto itself several times to make it smoother and more elastic.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn the dough over so that the top is oiled. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise until it has doubled in bulk, 1 to 2 hours, depending on the temperature of the room.
  5. Scrape the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a bench scraper or a knife to divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a bâtard. Arrange the loaves on the prepared pan equidistant from each other and from the sides of the pan. Cover the pan with a towel or oiled plastic wrap and let the loaves rise until doubled.
  6. About 20 minutes before the loaves are completely risen, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400°F (200°C).
  7. Use a single-edge razor blade to make 4 to 5 diagonal slashes on the top of each loaf, holding the blade at a 20-degree angle to the top of the loaf and only slashing through the very outside of the loaf and not into the crumb within.
  8. Bake the loaves until they are well risen, deep golden, and firm to the touch, about 40 minutes. Slide the loaves from the pan onto racks to cool.

Serving

Serve the prosciutto bread with hors d’oeuvres, or with first courses, especially if they are Italian dishes. It’s also a very good accompaniment to a simple salad.

Storage

Keep the loaves loosely covered with plastic wrap on the day they are baked. Wrap in plastic and freeze for longer storage. Defrost the bread and reheat it at 350°F (180°C) for 10 minutes, and cool it before serving.

Variations

Prosciutto bread also makes a good braided bread. Make one large 1 (the baking time will be a little longer) or 2 small ones, as in the Semolina Sesame Braid.

Substitute bacon or salt pork (with skin removed) for the prosciutto. Dice and cook a pound (425 grams) in a wide sauté pan over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally to brown evenly. Drain on paper towels, allowing to cool before adding to the dough. You may also use the rendered fat instead of the olive oil.

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