Prosciutto and Mozzarella bread

March 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

 

Yeah, I know, right?  Prosciutto and Mozzarella in bread.  I kind of feel like I don’t even need to write anything more because it’s just exactly as amazingly ridiculously good as it sounds. I can’t believe I haven’t done this before.  After all, the whole concept makes so darn much sense!  You put ham and cheese on your bread all the time.  I could come very close to being happy eating ham and cheese for lunch every single day – indeed, I think my mother actually does.  So, why on Earth not put the ham and cheese in the bread?  Why not indeed?  And here it is, in all its glory.  Every bite of tender, spongey crumb pocketed through with crevices oozing gooey cheese or sheltering salty, savory meat.  Such a good idea.

It’s not a particularly original idea.  I can’t make any claim to it, and in fact  I believe there are a number of variations on bread studded with ham and cheese, or other similar combinations, floating about out there.  Actually, come to think of it, I even had something similar on a visit to San Francisco that went by the name of Syrian shepherd’s bread.  It had olives instead of meat though, which would be a nice vegetarian alternative.   The inspiration for this particular loaf came from a cooking friend who said that she and her husband had become addicted to a pancetta and provolone bread from Eataly on a recent trip to New York.  After returning home, suddenly deprived of their bready-cheesy-meaty fix, she decided to try to recreate it, using a version of Mark Bittman’s no-knead bread (which is actually Jim Lahey’s bread, but it was popularized via a write-up in the Times by Bittman).  Upon hearing about this, I promptly decided I needed to do the same.

Have you tried making the no-knead bread from the New York Times?  It was one of those stories and recipes that was on the most emailed list for ages, and every home cook and blogger from here to kingdom come gave it a whirl, wrote about it, adapted it, and so on.  You don’t hear about it as much anymore, but that doesn’t mean that it has suddenly ceased to be an extremely excellent way of turning out a chewy, crusty artisan loaf of bread.  The long slow rise of the bread takes the place of kneading, and is what gives the gluten plenty of time to develop and create the texture of a bread you normally would have to get up at 6 am and scoot down the street to a tiny old-world bakery for.  And, it means that the bread takes a very bare minimum of time and effort.  You just have to plan enough ahead to take the 1 minute to mix up the dough on the day before you want to bake it.  Then, you wait while the yeast does its magic, puffing up the dough into a floppy, bubbly mass.  A dusty coating of flour, another rise and you’re ready to bake.  The crowning touch is the baking method.  Baking the dough up in a crock with a lid captures the steam and yields the crisp, craggy crust we always yearn for when baking bread but rarely achieve.

Some friends of ours, who cruelly abandoned us last year for San Francisco, owned a bread crock and they used to turn out and bake up the most magnificent loaves, with burnished crunchy, cracker-like shells protecting the most pillowy, springy, flavorful interiors.  Obviously it was sad to lose their lovely company when they moved away, but I must say, it was also pretty sad to lose that bread.  Ever since then I’ve had a yen for a bread crock, and a certain husband of mine had planned to get me one for Christmas, but somehow that plan was forgotten (I got a pretty awesome, and very needed, backpack out of the deal though).  Anyway, the point towards which all of this is tending is that I don’t actually have a bread crock, and though to make this bread you need to bake it in a container that you can cover, it does not need to be something that is officially denoted as a bread crock.  I found that a pot and some tin foil (I couldn’t even fit my pot lid into the oven – too tall) worked just swimmingly.

Instead of pancetta and provolone, I used prosciutto and smoked Mozzarella.  Prosciutto is very slightly leaner than pancetta (which is the fraternal twin of bacon), and I thought it would be a bit nicer in a bread.  the smoked Mozzarella has a soft smokey flavor and melts like a dream.  But, don’t feel limited to these choices.  You could use Black forest Ham or nubins of bacon or speck or any pork product you wanted to experiment with (or olives!), and you could try out just as many (if not more) cheese options as well, though I would stick to cheeses that melt well (Provolone, Fontina, Tallegio, Gruyere, some Cheddar…).  Whatever you try, I can virtually guarantee you’ll be happy.  I mean, you’ll have a fragrant, flavorful fresh-baked loaf of bread to nosh on – which, by the by also makes fabulous toast if you can keep yourself and the other members of the household from downing the whole thing in one go.  It’s just a very good idea.

Prosciutto and smoked mozzarella bread (makes 1 loaf)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup semolina flour (I added this for the slightly heartier flavor and lovely golden color, but you can replace it with more regular flour, if you wish)
  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/4 lb. prosciutto, cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 lb. smoked mozzarella, cut into small cubes
  1. In a big old mixing bowl, stir together the flours, yeast, salt, sugar and water.  Cover and put somewhere out of the way to rise overnight (it doesn’t have to be a warm place).
  2. The next day, take out your beautiful, goopy, spongey mass.  Drop the cheese and meat on top of it and mix it in well using your hands (flour your hands to keep them from getting stuck).  Then, scoop out the dough, form it into a loose ball, drop it onto a floured counter and roll it around a bit to get it covered with flour.  Then, put it in another bowl, either greased or lined with a floured cloth.  Cover again and let rise for another 2 hours.
  3. Preheat your oven to 400F.  When your bread is almost risen, take a Dutch oven, oven safe pot (8 or 9 inches in diameter) with a lid (if you don’t have an oven safe lid, you can cover the pot with tin foil), or casserole dish and pop it into the oven for 5-10 minutes to preheat.  The baking vessel does not need to be greased, but you can if you’re worried.  After the pot is preheated, carefully take it out and plop the dough in.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Then, remove the cover and bake for another 20 minutes until the bread is brown and crusty on top and baked through (you know this if you turn the bread out of the pot and tap on the bottom and it sounds hollow).  Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool at least for an 30 minutes to an hour before you try slicing it, or you will wind up with very squashed bread.  But, once it’s ready, have at it!
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