So we went to Italy earlier this year and mostly did nothing but gorge ourselves on delicious food. At the end of our trip we stayed in an amazing little hotel just outside Bologna which served what must have been the best food we’ve ever eaten … and we have eaten a lot so that’s really saying something … in particular this amazing bread laced with Italian cured meat.
Low and behold just this morning I found a recipe that sounded almost exactly the same in the back of one of my bread making books (The Bread Bible) and couldn’t wait… a quick run to the store to stock up ( I tend not to have stocks of Italian meat in the refrigerator sadly) and bread baking began.
I kid you not this stuff is awesome!!! It is now time to stop whatever else you are doing, drop everything and bake …
Italian Pancetta Bread Recipe
2 cups strong white bread flour
1 teaspoon easy blend dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup water (at room temperature … not warm!!!)
2 tablespoons butter
180 g Italian cured meat (I used half pancetta half salami milano)
1. Meat – First things first lets sort out the meat. I used a mix of pancetta and salami but whatever you fancy and can get your hands on will certainly be delicious. Cut all the meat into 1/2 inch strips. Place the pancetta into a small pan over a medium heat to render out some of the fat and cook through for about 5 minutes. Take the pancetta out of the pan and set aside to cool. Keep the pan of meat fat handy as this will be used to glaze the bread before it is baked.
2. Make the Dough – In the bowl of your stand mixer add the flour yeast and sugar and mix until combined. Next add the yeast (make sure the salt is thoroughly mixed through first to make sure it doesn’t kill off the yeast) and mix again to spread evenly. Add the butter and then with the mixer on low slowly add the water until combined.
3. Knead it – Turn the mixer up to medium speed and knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth. Add all your meat and mix for another minute to spread evenly through your dough. The mix should be tacky but not stick to your fingers. If its still a bit too wet knead in a tablespoon of flour and check again.
4. Rest – Lightly flour the top of the dough, cover with cling film and leave to rest for 20 mins.
5. Shape and rise – Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape. The original recipe called for a ring loaf but the crust is so tasty I think you are best to cut the dough in two and make two long ciabatta style loaves.Place on a baking sheet and loosely cover with well greased cling film in a warm place for an hour to rise.
6. Glaze and bake – Preheat your oven to 200°C. Once the dough has doubled in size brush liberally with the reserved meat fat from step 1 to glaze. If you don’t have enough left melt a little butter into the pan to dilute. Once glazed place on the lowest shelf of your oven and cook for 30 minutes turning half way through for an even bake.
As ever tap the bread top and bottom and listen for a hollow sound to check if it’s ready. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.
Wait as long as you can possibly manage then tear a chunk off and eat.