Week Forty-Seven: Miscellaneous International Breads
If you’re familiar with panettone, you’re halfway to understanding today’s bread, casatiello. For those who aren’t familiar, panettone is that Italian Christmas specialty that can’t quite make up its mind as to whether it’s bread or cake. The towering confection is usually studded with gems of candied fruit, but other versions, such as chocolate chip or even custard-filled, are not uncommon.
Casatiello is a savory variation of panettone; the rich dough is dotted throughout with bits of meat and cheese instead of the standard sweet additions. The result removes any overt tones of holiday spirit, making it appropriate for other times of year, though the richness indicates that it would be most welcome at a heavy-laden Winter table.
You can use whatever meat or cheese you prefer here, but full-flavored options will have the most impact; suggestions are given below. This recipe doesn’t require much meat or cheese, so I recommend finding good-quality versions. It won’t cost a whole lot more, and you’ll absolutely taste the difference.
The meat is diced and quickly sautéed, which helps its seductive flavors permeate the bread fully, while the cheese is coarsely grated and mixed into the dough, where it melts into singularity with the crumb, leaving richness and a lush texture. A starter is used here, bringing a complex and gorgeously balanced texture to the bread, and helps give enough strength to the airy interior that it can support the weight of the meat and cheese effortlessly.
Generally speaking, I’m a bread purist; I’m not usually a big fan of stuffed breads, especially those packed with heavy foods like bits of salami and smoked Gouda, preferring the loaves to speak for themselves. But this bread somehow remains light in texture while remaining bold in flavor, and in a thoroughly sophisticated way. This is one excellent bread, impressive and delicious, and I know I’ll turn to it again, any time of year.
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, by Peter Reinhart
Makes 1 large loaf
For the sponge:
2 1/4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) unbleached bread flour
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup milk or buttermilk (at about 100º F if making the final dough the same day, otherwise cold)
For the dough:
4 ounces cured salami, or other similar meat (see note 1 below), in one piece
16 ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) unbleached bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (6 ounces) coarsely shredded or grated smoked Gouda, or similar (see note 2 below)
1. To make the sponge, whisk the flour and yeast together in a bowl. If making the bread the same day, heat the milk or buttermilk to about 100º F. Add to the flour and whisk until smooth. Cover loosely, and let stand for 1 hour at room temperature. If making the bread later, whisk the cold milk or buttermilk into the flour until smooth. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 and up to 48 hours. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before proceeding.
2. Dice the salami into small cubes and sauté lightly in a pan over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove from the pan, and reserve the rendered fat (to be used in place of some of the butter).
3. To make the final dough, whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the eggs and all of the sponge. Using the paddle attachment, mix at low speed until a rough dough forms. If there are any dry spots, drizzle in a little water or milk until moistened. Without removing the bowl or the paddle, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest for 10 to 20 minutes.
4. After resting, remove the plastic wrap. At medium-low speed, slowly mix the softened butter (and any reserved rendered fat), one small piece at a time, into the dough. Let each piece of butter incorporate before adding the next, scraping the bowl and paddle as necessary. You may need to add a small dusting of flour to help it incorporate. This can take some time. When mostly incorporated, switch to the dough hook. Eventually, the dough will become tacky and supple, and clear the sides of the bowl.
5. When the dough is smooth, add the meat and cheese, and continue mixing until evenly incorporated. The dough should not be sticky; if it is, add a little extra flour. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl, and cover tightly with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Let rest at room temperature until 1 1/2 times bigger in size, about 90 minutes.
6. Lightly oil an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan or springform pan. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, pressing gently to deflate. Shape the dough into a round by pulling the outside edges into the center, pressing to seal. You should be forming a tight skin around the outside of the dough.
7. Transfer the dough to the prepared pan, smooth side up. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let stand at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until nearly doubled in size. Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350º F, placing a rack in the lower third of the oven.
8. Bake at 350º F for 20 minutes, then rotate the pan 180º. Bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until fully baked and golden brown. An instant-read thermometer should register 185º to 190º F when inserted into the center.
9. Remove the bread from the oven, and let cool in the pan briefly. When able to handle, remove from the pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
1. I used a peppered salami, with extremely good results. Any full-flavored similar meat will do, though, such as pepperoni, andouille, pancetta, chorizo, tasso, or bacon. Even a quality vegetarian meat substitute can be used with good results.
2. Any full-flavored melting cheese may be used here, such as provolone, Swiss, or cheddar. Mozzarella or Jack cheeses tend to be mild in flavor, and won’t lend much to the bread. Parmesan and similar hard cheeses will not melt properly, and are too salty for this application.