The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


louie brown's picture
louie brown


Anyplace you find a substantial Italian-American community, chances are you will find a bakery, and chances are that the bakery will offer something called "prosciutto bread" or "meat bread." It usually has nuggets of prosciutto, or pancetta, or even just cubed cold cuts. Sometimes, cheese is in there too, usually provolone. There might be semolina flour mixed in. Zito's in New York is an example of an Italian bakery with a good reputation for their prosciutto bread. There are others.


Let's be honest. If you mix some prosciutto or some pancetta or some mortadella into bread dough, the bread is going to taste good. Bacon on Wonder Bread tastes good. But the way in which the antecedent came into being back in the old country is at once more homely and more true.


The pig was slaughtered. Every last bit of it was put to use. When it came to the fatback, it was beaten with a stick to break it down. Then it was rendered, resulting in lard and cracklings. The lard was used in all sorts of cooking, including baking. The cracklings were thrown into the dough, along with some cracked black pepper. It was usually baked in the traditional ring shape.


It's somewhat dispiriting, how easy it is to flavor something with pig, especially smoked or cured, and sit back and wait for the praise. I am here to tell you that I have never had a "prosciutto bread" that was good bread. It has always just been hammy tasting bread.


So, some friends got to telling me how their mother made it for their father, in Lazio, north of Rome. Rendered pork fat, not smoked or cured; cracklings in tiny pieces; cracked black pepper. Rolled into a log, twisted, shaped as a ring.


I forgot to twist. Otherwise, this is it. 100% sourdough. The lard gives the crumb a smoothness and makes the crust crispy. I think it could use more cracklings and a rougher crack to the pepper. Readers here may be interested to know that I used a stainless bowl for a cover for ten minutes. I have been switching to convection after the covered portion of the bake, but I forgot this time. Nevertheless, you can see that there is a nice relatively thin crust. It is pretty flaky, almost like pastry. All I'm missing is the wood fired oven to get some smoke and char. 







LeeYong's picture

Hello all bakers!

I have a question in regards to making streusel topping in Cakes,muffins and so forth... Why some would prefer melting the butter vs. cold butter when incorporating the dry ingredients before baking...

Thank you!


ehanner's picture

The only way for me to make any relivent decisions about how best to use my new combo cooker is to bake the same basic formula repetedly, making procedural changes and noting the change in outcomes. So, this bake is another in a series of the Basic Country Bread from Tartine. I did make one small change in the formula to suit my personal prefrence in flavor. I really like the flavor of a French style bread with around 5% rye in an otherwise white bread flour mix. When you get the ferment right there is a great nutty after taste that is IMHO the essence of that great full flavor French bread.

My levain was made from 50g of AP and 50g of whole rye mixed with 100g of warm water. Left to ferment at 78F for 12 hours, it had a fruity fragrance and had just peaked I believe.

The dough was made with 950g of bread flour, 50g of whole rye, 700+50g of warm (80f) water and 22g of salt. The salt number is a reflection of taking into account the 100g of flour in the levain which Robertson forgot about.

I have been adding the salt to the last 50g of warm water but honestly, I find it hard to get it all out of the cup when I dump the water in as it isn't completely dissolved. I think I'm going to go back to adding the salt dry and pouring the water in over it.

The stretching and folding has become more relaxed as I get more comfortable with this process. I mix the dough well with my fingers cutting the last 50g of water and salt in. It looks and feels like I'm damaging the strands as the dough becomes a disorganized and chopped up mess. But 30-40 minutes when I do the first stretch, the dough has become connected and cohesive as a mass. I have been trying to stretch and fold in the container every 30-40 minutes with the exception that at 4 hours of fermenting when the dough is well aerated, I pour it out on a lightly oiled counter and do a standard tri fold both directions. I think the letter fold is less damaging to the structure and it gives me a chance to give it a good stretch and feel the development. Then after another 30 minutes or so, I divide and shape using a linen lined dusted basket.

The suggestion of the author is to pre heat the cast iron cooker at 500F. The oven is set at 450F after loading the dough. While it may be easier to load the dough in a cold cooker, I have found I like the crust and spring better using Robertsons suggestion of preheating. The change I made to the suggested procedure this time was to shorten the amount of time the top is on and baking covered. Robertson says 20 minutes covered and 20-25 minutes open baking at 450. My bakes have produced thin crusts using those times. This time I removed the cover at 15 minutes and for the second loaf, 12 minutes and open for 25 and 28 minutes respectively. At the end of the bake I opened the door a crack to help dry out the crust some.

My conclusion is that the 20 minutes of covered baking is to long for this high hydration dough. The crust is so thin and soft after the bread has cooled, slicing is difficult. You can see in my image taken when I removed the cover at 12 minutes, the dough is just starting to take on color and has started forming a crust after expanding. The crust then is more substantial having been exposed to dry heat for a longer time, making a crust that is still crisp in the morning after baking.

The oven spring was so great that the dough crested in the top of the cooker. You can see the flour marks in the cover where the top of the loaf kissed the iron top. Remarkable spring if I do say so.

My next effort will be to make a similar sized loaf but at a lower hydration.


Uncovered after 12 minutes. The spring hit the cover!

This is what it's all about. Just perfect!

yozzause's picture

A really good friend that has recently been diagnosed with ovarian cancer is undergoing treatment and the hospital is fund raising with a bake off for tomorrow. To show our support i am entering some loaves in the savoury section, i have just finished the loaves which are  BEETROOT AND SUNFLOWER and a 50% WHOLEMEAL WITH STOUT, FETA AND WALNUT. 



after the oven

 AND THERE WE HAVE IT ready to go to the hospital for judgement and sale

i do hope to be able to get a crumb shot at the hospital.

i will post the details of the doughs the bake and how tomorrow goes

oh! and a 2009 EVANS AND TATE CLASSIC WHITE from Margaret River for those that might be interested

regards Yozza 


aldecrust's picture

Hi there,

This is my first blog from across the atlantic and i wonder if somebody could help me with conversions.   I am looking to make the White Sandwich Bread from Crust and Crumb and it asks for 4 cups (16 ounces) of ferment and 3 1/2 cups (16 ounces) of flour. Why are the ounces the same and the cups different?  Depending upon the ferment does this then make the conversion different

The cups i have here are 250ml



happylina's picture

I like Millet ferment. So I mix all-purpose flour with homemade millet wine as water. I use 350ml wine and 50 water,  500g all-purpose flour, and  some Millet from ferment . About 100g 100% no active stater. A pinch salt. Here winter already cold. I put the mixture(no use 50ML water) in  12 degree room one night. Stretch and fold 3 times with 50ML water in morning.  The dough in room time about  20 hours. When the dough size bigger I shape to one about 100g ball for pizza and another big boule. After take out room. 1 day 2 night after I take back room. dough already a little froze.  So I waitting time again. Looking dough change to big . I bake pizza first in 250 degree. Pizza  blow up bubbles. So I think for boule no problem.  Before pizza out 5 minutes I take out boule from bowl and score. 

For keep heat, I take Mini Oven advice, before baking pizza I put 6 pieces broken earthware on oven bottom. And a little grain on ovenware(experience from Eric, after I think maybe not enough). pizza baking time is 15 minutes 250 degree. After take out pizza. I quickly take boule dough on ovenware. And cover with a  thin aluminous pot. This pot have 2 small holes on bottom. Under layer 20 minutes 250degree with pot cover. After I take off pot. I can see small water round hole.  20 minutes 210 degree. boule top very brown and other place not brown. So I cover top with folded aluminum paper. Round bread 10 minutes heat again. round and 10 minutes more. 1 hour heated stop. Open oven.

20 minutes later I take boule out. 



Happy crack and brown color.  When I see bottom. Bread edge already black. Compare aluminum pot before I use, ovenware get heat very quick. bread edge always near heating tube. So black.  Next time I 'll try to take ovenware on middle layer. 

After bread cool. I cut and the bread show me: Near edge big hole and bread center heat not enough no big hole.


With Millet wine, bread flavor good. even 3 or 4 days crumb still very soft. 


Thanks for your reading 

Any appraise and advice will be appreciate




By the way, I cover with bread pot same with this pot. Of course I took off the pot ears already. 

italianlady61's picture

I am new to this sight - my sister googled and found this site for me.  It is so interesting that there are others who have a passion for learning how and perfecting recipes they hold dear.  I have been cooking since I was little and have started up with baking my own bread once again.  I consider myself adept at cooking - I'm italian - what can I say - anyway - I am putting myself out there if anyone wants homemade bread - so far white and herb bread is what I do but will be working on doing other breads as well.  If there is anyone who is interested in purchasing good grade, natural fresh ingredients bread for the holidays or I can teach you how to cook some italian food, please e-mail me at


I would love to connect with someone who appreciates homemade.  Meanwhile I will love to go through the site for great ideas!  so cool!



txfarmer's picture

Used the recipe by harrygermany in this thread, comparing to the BBA version last year, this one is richer, denser, and more dilicious in my opinion.


Used osmotolerant SAF Gold yeast (24g) instead of the 84g of fresh yeast, the dough rose well and had great ovenspring - a little too much oven spring actually, I think a bit of proofing time wouldn't hurt. But the formula works great as is.

I waited for over a week before cutting open the first one, the other two are wrapped and frozen. Will cut another one around Christmas, the third one sometime next year to see how flavor develope. The generous amount of butter brushed on the finished loaves is really the key for great flavor, even after only "aging" for one week, I am impressed by how rich the taste is. The texture of the loaf is like a rich pound cake, or even a shortbread cookie! I prefer this one over the BBA version.


Submitting to Yeastspotting.

EdTheEngineer's picture

Today is a big day for me. Since starting baking a few months back I've known that I've wanted to make sourdough bread, but not wanting to jump ahead, and travelling a bit for a few weeks at a time, I've put off trying to start a sourdough starter. This was until eight days ago when I returned from my final awayness of the year and set to work on a starter, following a guide I found linked to from here (forgive me for forgetting the source, but it was just the usual flour + water + saltana + go for a wonder around the kitchen while whisking).

Anyhoo, yesterday it was 'Mouldy Mildrid's One Week Birthday Party' and in honour of this I cracked open a beer and set to work on my first ever sourdough. The recipe was:

 - 150g starter (should probably be 150g levain but my starter is still quite young and only just fed and I was impatient). 100% hydration.

 - 450g white flour

 - 50g rye

 - 10g salt

 - 360g water

 - probably about half a Tbsp of olive oil worked in in the process of stretch and folds

I did about 2 hours worth of half-hourly stretch and folds and then another after an hour, then went to bed leaving the dough in the fridge overnight, about weight hours. The next morning I shaped it (improvised a banneton from a fish kettle) and left it to prove and warm through in the pantry (about 12C at the moment) for about five hours. Then into the Aga.

And a crumb shot:


My shaping was more retard than batard and I have a lot to learn about handling these higher hydration doughs (tips gratefully received!). But the flavour and texture are enough for me to say that I'm completely hooked on bread baking now. Am enjoying it with another beer (fermentation - surely the greatest invention ever?) and then I'll have a go at the Tartine Plain Country Bread tomorrow.


turosdolci's picture

A Pasta Roll is a beautiful way to begin a Holiday dinner.  It takes a little effort but serving such a lovely dusg will impress your guests.




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