I was a bit leery of the BBA Casatiello to begin with. I’m not a huge meat-in-bread fan, so I wasn’t sure I would like this bread. I’ll spare you the anticipation and tell you that this is far and away my favorite BBA Challenge bread so far!
Up ’til now, I have followed the BBA recipes pretty much to the letter. But five recipes in, and I’ve gone astray. I don’t eat salami, so right off the bat I had to make some changes (I’m not one of those crazy generous souls who bakes bread for everyone but me to eat). And I wanted to use my sourdough starter in place of the sponge. And substitute buttermilk powder for the milk. And of course choose my own cheese. Oh, and I didn’t have any unsalted butter on-hand, so I decided to use salted butter and adjust the salt in the recipe. So, what started out as a small departure from the recipe became a bunch of changes that added up to my own version of Casatiello.
Given all the changes I was making, I knew two things. First, I had to take good notes if I was to have any chance of remembering (and possibly recreating) what I had done. And second, if this bread was a colossal failure, I would have no idea why.
Probably the biggest change, and the one most likely to cause problems, was substituting sourdough starter for the sponge. I pondered how to do this, and came up with the following: I would use 16 ounces of a 100% hydration starter, which would equal 8 ounces of flour (leaving 10.25 ounces to add later) and the entire 8 ounces of liquid. PR’s recipe calls for 8 ounces of milk or buttermilk, but this was no problem, as I was planning on substituting buttermilk powder anyway. So I spent a day or two before I started baking feeding up my starter to just over 16 ounces, so I would have enough for the bread and a little bit to keep.
As far as the salami goes, I decided to substitute all-beef Lebanon bologna. It has a taste similar, but far superior, to salami, and my family loves it. And the cheese? Well, I didn’t bother to pick up cheese at the store, since we eat cheese like it’s our job around here, and we always have a drawerful in the fridge. I sorted through my choices, and decided to use a mix of three cheeses: muenster, provolone, and just a touch of a hard, white, very sharp cheese that I’m not sure exactly what it was because it wasn’t in a wrapper. I think it might have been Parmigiano-Reggiano. As indicated in the recipe, I cut up and sauteed the bologna, and shredded the cheese.
Before I began mixing the recipe, I did my mise en place. I try to do that for most recipes, although I admit to not always taking the time. This time I felt it was important, since I was changing around a lot of things and it would be easy to forget something.
I started by putting 10.25 ounces of flour, the salt, yeast, and 4 tablespoons of buttermilk powder into the mixer bowl. I mixed the dry ingredients on speed 1 with the paddle attachment just enough to stir them together. Then I added the eggs and sourdough starter and mixed on medium speed (4) for a minute or so.
After a 10-minute rest, I added the butter 1/4 at a time and mixed well between each addition. Then I mixed the whole thing for 12 minutes, switching from the paddle attachment to the dough hook (which I sprayed with pan spray) after 4 minutes. The dough started out very sticky, clinging to the side of the bowl and the paddle. I was sure I would have to add flour before I was done. By the 4-minute mark, it had started to come together. And within a few minutes of switching to the dough hook, it really came together, just like the recipe said it would (imagine that!).
By the end of the mixing period, the dough was very tacky but not sticky, so I added the meat. Having had trouble kneading in add-ins with the dough hook in the past, I took the bowl off the mixer and folded in the meat with my bench scraper. Once I got the meat worked in, I did the same with the cheese. Then I put the bowl back on the mixer and gave it another minute on low to finish it off.
After mixing in the meat and cheese, the dough was back to being sticky again, and I once again thought about adding flour. However, I decided against it, because I really wanted to see how it would turn out without the addition of flour, and because I was planning to retard the dough overnight and figured it would firm up in the fridge. Here is the dough, ready for a long, cool ferment:
By morning, the dough had risen but not quite doubled. I took it out of the fridge and let it rest for an hour or so. After reading all the options for baking it — in a loaf pan, paper bag, or cake pan — I decided to do something completely different, and do a free-form boule. So I shaped the dough and put it into a banneton to proof.
While it was proofing, I re-read the baking instructions and came across this phrase: “…the cheese will ooze out into crisp little brown pockets.” I began to rethink the boule idea, as I had visions of cheese “oozing out” on my baking stone and the bottom of my oven. One of the options for baking given in the recipe is to use an 8-inch cake pan. I have a round 8-inch stoneware cake pan, and I could tell by looking at it that the dough as shaped would fit neatly into it. So, after the 90-minute proof, I gently lifted the dough from the banneton and inverted it into the cake pan, which I had sprayed with pan spray.
The dough had risen some, but not as much as it seemed like it should. Nonetheless, I decided to go ahead and bake it. In retrospect, I realize that it should have proofed longer, as the dough was still cold from the fridge.
I baked the bread for 20 minutes at 350, then rotated the pan and inserted a probe thermometer. To my surprise, the dough was only at 65 degrees. I left the probe thermometer in the bread and put it back in the oven. I realized it would take longer than the recipe called for, so after about 15 minutes, I tented the loaf with foil to keep it from getting over-browned. I didn’t pay attention to how long the loaf took to reach 185 degrees, but it was probably close to an hour and a half.
What the dough lacked in final rise, it more than made up for in oven spring.
And the smell! Oh, man, it was amazing. It almost killed me to wait an hour before cutting into this loaf, but wait I did. And it was more than worth it.
The crumb was soft and open, with lots of holes. The eggs and butter gave it a beautiful golden color. And the Lebanon bologna was delicious but not overpowering. All in all, an excellent loaf of bread and one that I will make again and again.