The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Italian Lard Bread

louie brown's picture
louie brown

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. 








OldWoodenSpoon's picture

Very nice loaf!  I don't think you lost much by not twisting it, and it sounds like we would love it around my house.  Thanks for teaching me something new, too.  I never really knew this type of bread had a back story, and always just assumed some deli-dabbling baker threw it together to use up some meat getting long in the whiskers.   I should have known better than to think it could have come from so mundane an origin. 

Thanks for sharing, and it looks excellent.

LindyD's picture

Truthfully, bacon on anything tastes good, Louie.  Just have to keep muttering "moderation, moderation...."

Your bread and crumb look terrific.  A definite A+ for creativity!


Baker Frank's picture
Baker Frank

I would appreciate knowing your recipe.

Thanks, Frank

Jaydot's picture

It looks fantastic and your kitchen must have smelt like heaven while you were baking it :).

I'd love to know more about the recipe too!

louie brown's picture
louie brown

for the nice comments. This was a dangerous bread to have around, as every time we passed it, a piece got torn off. It's gone now, mostly prudently given away. I gave a big piece to the guys who gave me the idea and I'll have their feedback when I see them again tomorrow.


Baker Frank and Jaydot, this was a basic 65% straight dough, with about 15% prefermented flour. After a rough mix of the preferment, flour and water, it was autolyzed for about 45 minutes. Then the salt went in, then the lard, and then cracklings and pepper. Adding the lard to the dough is similar to adding water to a dough; it feels as if it isn't going to come back together, but it does. I mixed all by hand.

Since my kitchen was on the cool side, I gave the dough a 4 hour bulk fermentation, with a stretch and fold each hour. Instead of a final fold, I lengthened the dough by stretching it, rather than rolling it as one might for a baguette.

For proofing, I used a stainless bowl lined with a flour-impregnated towel. I placed a glass in the center to preserve the hole, closed the whole thing up, put it in several layers of plastic bags, and put it in the fridge overnight. Baked as described above after being removed from the fridge an hour and fifteen minutes beforehand.

ehanner's picture

Creative adaptation of an old idea. Your bread project looks great from here. I'll bet your friends will give a thumbs up.


louie brown's picture
louie brown

I will let you know what they say.

Candango's picture

Louie,  The bread looks great. If I understand correctly, you made a 65% hydration sourdough (with 15% of the total flour in the starter).  Given the additional weight of the lard and the cracklings, I am guessing you also added a bit of yeast to help with the lifting, and about 2 percent salt.  As the lard was probably in solid form you probably did not reduce any of the water.  About how much lard did you add?  Thanks.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

Yes, a 65% (approximately) hydration sourdough etc, but no yeast. The water stayed the same. I used about two tablespoons of lard for about a pound of dough. I am sorry not to be more precise; my nature runs in the opposite direction, which is why I am lucky to be a decent bread baker at all. I hope this helps.

wally's picture

and very interesting ingredients.  I tried adding Smithfield ham (which in terms of flavor is similar to proscuitto) to some loaves of cheese bread, but the flavor of the ham got lost and the pieces shrunk up so much you could hardly tell I'd added the ham.

Your experiment looks much more successful!


louie brown's picture
louie brown

Something interesting in walking this bread back to its original idea, you get a closer sense of the people who made it and their lives. They were using up the pig. They were living "slow food" well before the phrase came into use. As for the bread itself, between the lard and the cracklings, it is very porky.


That said, I have also eaten (in Mantua, iirc), and made, a loaf with huge chunks of mortadella and some semolina that wasn't exactly bad.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

I can report that my advisors on this bread gave the bread itself a A+. and the emendments an A-. For an overall A+, they asked for more, larger pieces of cracked pepper and more fat. "Your fingers are supposed to get greasy when you eat a slice," one of them said. Please stand by.

dablues's picture

I, also, would like the recipe if possible.  Thanks!

louie brown's picture
louie brown

if I can manage something close to a recipe.

Italian Lard Bread

makes two loaves


Preferment 6oz 100% starter until ripe

Blend 8oz cold rendered pork fat into 17oz flour with your fingers

Mix the levain with 9oz water.

Combine the flour/fat with the levain/water

Aiutolyse 30 - 60 minutes

Add .4oz salt, 4tbsp coarsely cracked pepper and 10 - 12oz pork cracklings. Mix until combined. I like generous inclusions in my bread.

Ferment dough until ready, about 3 - 4 hours at about 76 degrees, giving a stretch and fold at the first and second hours (and the third if it seems to need it.)

Divide into two pieces, rest 15 - 30 minutes.

Shape into rings. Twist if you like. The dough is very flaky from the fat and if you twist, it will pull apart nicely when baked.

You can proof these overnight in the fridge or right after shaping on the bench. Be careful not to overproof, as a dense loaf with all that fat will be unpleasant.

It's not necessary to score these, especially if you twist them.

Bake with steam for 15 minutes at 500 degrees. Remove steam setup, reduce heat to about 460 to finish baking.

If your fingers aren't greasy from eating this loaf, add more fat next time. The pepper should be assertive.

Be prepared to do it all over again, as these will disappear very fast.

Hope this helps.




mrjeffmccarthy's picture

I know this post is years old, but thank you. 

dablues's picture

for the recipe.  Can't wait to try it.

ww's picture

Hi louiebrown,

just stumbled on your post as i was doing a search for lard bread. A friend just got some lard bread from Brooklyn and is ABSOLUTELY RAVING about it. I know what that usually means - i must try to replicate :)

I made Peter Reinhart's casatiello before. That's basically a slightly lighter brioche with salami and cheese. I'm guessing the lard bread is along the same lines, except it uses lard instead of butter, and there's no cheese in lard bread? My friend said she could taste pepper and cheese. Or maybe it just depends on which bakery/family huh.

Is the crumb fluffy with a flaky crust? Somehow i can't see your photos! is there anyway i could view them? I've come across other posts of yours where the photo is similarly inaccessible. There is an image of a frog in an ice cub with the tag 'domain unregistered'.




louie brown's picture
louie brown

Hi. That is right, no cheese in this loaf, although, as you say, I'm sure somewhere along the line, some ends of cheese were chopped up and thrown in. The crumb is very soft and the crust is very flaky because of the lard. Lots of cracked black pepper. Real pork cracklings. From a cultural point of view, any leftover ends of cured meat could be added. Purpose-bought ham or salami or cheese etc would be counterproductive to the idea of using what was on hand.

I am sorry you can't see the photos. I have used imageshack (the frog). Perhaps going forward, I should use the tags here.

Good luck. Please share your results.

ww's picture

Hi Louie Brown,

This was SO long ago and I hardly have time to come on TFL anymore, but I finally made lard bread and I just wanted to thank you -let me see if i manage to get the photos up. I started out with good intentions of following your recipe to the letter but in adding the lard, my leaven and I got scared by the slippery quality and i chickened out, adding only half. I also added cheese. I know you didn't but I made this for a friend who ate it in NY and she spoke of cheese. I used a bit of crackling and mostly sausage (also less than your qty - i couldn't get it all in!!). Now about the pepper - i used 2 generous tablespoons of black pepper toasted and cracked, and I find that's too much. I'm not one to shy from spices and pepper but the taste overwhelms, which is unfortunate. I'm wondering how you managed to add 4 tablespoons!! I let it ferment overnight and shaped it into a ring, twisted.

No pix of the insides but don't put that down to restraint :) I grabbed a bite AS SOON AS it was out of the oven - it's best eaten warm is my excuse. And it was lovely  - crunchy, porky and i was glad to see that the insides were light, quite open and shreddy, not dense as I had feared with all the add-ins.

just a question abt the lard - was your lard the white solid stuff?? and so you could rub it in?? i used a block of lard from Italy which was solid so I had to melt it down, so it actually went into the dough as a thick liquid. I dare say had the lard been solid, I would have been more likely to add everything, and the texture might have been flakier??

In any case, thanks for this delicious recipe! I finally made it!


louie brown's picture
louie brown

I am probably the worst person on this site to depend upon for a formula or recipe, so I'm glad you gave it a shot and had such good results. Thanks for sharing them.

grind's picture

My mother used to work in the lard while still hard; just smushed it in.  Her's was more pastry like, with no holes in the crumb and dense, yest lush and soft.   Wish I paid more attention, other than just eating it!  Gawd I miss it.  Both look yummy too!

ww's picture

just to report back. The bread was gone in no time at all.

Thanks again Louie Brown, for providing even a rough recipe so I could get a grip on this bread. And do give it a shot, grind. Nostalgia is always a good reason to make anything. Although you know, and I know, that nothing would taste as good as mama's or grandma's... :)) Your mama would no doubt shudder at how I went out to buy sausage just so I could make the bread (defeats the purpose of using odds and ends huh), and would she not fall off her chair if she heard this was the first time I've ever worked with lard, hence my strange question.

But I see what you're talking about, and if i should make this again, I'll incorporate the lard cold. I figure that's what gives the flakiness. I did want to when preparing htis bread but was really too impatient. Even then I got a pretty crunchy crust. And the bread's tasty even cold :)

If you do make it, I would consider the addition of cheese, yum... And just to let u know, while I found it too peppery (but it was very fresh and strong pepper I used), the one with whom i had to share the bread (yes, i did share) gave it the thumbs up.