Italian Lard Bread
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.