Mi Casatiello Es Su Casatiello

Casatiello - Open Crumb

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.

Casatiello - Lebanon bologna and 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.

Casatiello mis en place

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. 

Casatiello first mix

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:

Casatiello - ready for retarding

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.

Casatiello in banneton

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.

Casatiello - Monster 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.

Casatiello - sliced

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.


  1. August 15, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    […] substitution for the prosciutto. Faced with a similar problem during the BBA Challenge when baking Casatiello, I used Lebanon bologna in place of salami with great results. So I decided to do the same thing […]

  2. Jim Jenkins said,

    September 5, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    That is gorgeous. Mine was made with ham, pepperoni, cheddar, mozzarella and parm since that’s what I have on hand. It’s on it’s first rise and I think after seeing yours that I’ll bake it in a ten inch cake pan. Hope it comes out even half as beautiful as yours.

  3. June 11, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    Looks great! I’m jealous that you actually have a selection of sausages/meat and cheese to choose from. If I wanted to use sausages, it would be chicken weiners. All we’ve got…

    I’m making mine today, also sourdough. Good to know the amount of starter you used. Makes it easier for me. 🙂 Thanks!

  4. Nicole said,

    June 11, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Mine’s in the oven now. I totally forgot I was going to use my sourdough starter in the sponge, so I hadn’t taken it out and fed it. So I just went with flour, yeast, and buttermilk. The house smells SO good right now! Since I remembered yours being so tall in the cake pan, I decided to use a 10-inch springform, so mine will be wider and not as tall. Although regardless of the pan size, yours has WAY more oven spring than mine!

    • gaaarp said,

      June 11, 2009 at 7:41 pm

      I think a 10-inch pan was a good idea. Mine had so much oven spring because it was underproofed. I should have read my own blog!

  5. June 9, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Oh I am so looking forward to this one! Oven spring – I’ll say! Gorgeous loaf. Think I might go a bit with my starter as well.

    • gaaarp said,

      June 9, 2009 at 5:51 pm

      Thanks. I really enjoyed this loaf. I think I might make two challahs – one with yeast and the other with sourdough.

  6. Susie said,

    June 8, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    Your write ups are always so interesting. Love your Casatiello.
    Reminds me………….I need to get my starter out and feed it so I may as well use it. 🙂

    • gaaarp said,

      June 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm

      Thanks, Susie. Your Casatiello looks great, too!

  7. Di said,

    June 7, 2009 at 10:41 pm

    That looks fabulous! I love the idea of using Lebanon bologna. Fortunately I can get it here (TX). I grew up in northeast Pennsylvania, so we ate it a lot. =) Oh, and your cheese drawer sounds a lot like our cheese drawer (right down to the guessing games).

    • gaaarp said,

      June 8, 2009 at 6:51 pm

      Thanks, Di. I didn’t know you could get Lebanon bologna in TX. I was actually surprised when they started carrying it here (NE Ohio). I, too, grew up in Eastern PA (Lancaster Co.), and fell in love with it there. Now, if I could only find some Birch Beer!

      • Di said,

        June 10, 2009 at 9:25 am

        I was pretty surprised when I found it here. I doubt you can get it very many places, but we have a great store that carries it. It probably helps that there are lots of transplants from the northeast in the Austin area. I’ll pass on the birch beer. My husband would probably love to have some, though. We cover both sides of the state between us–he’s from Johnstown. I grew up in Scranton for the most part.

  8. natalia said,

    June 7, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Your casatiello is super fantastic !! I wish I was around to try a slice !!

  9. sbrim said,

    June 6, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Looks *very* tasty to me.

    I’m still trying to figure out what type of sausage to use in mine when I make it. I’ll probably use a locally made, slightly spicy pork sausage.

  10. Flour Girl said,

    June 6, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    Wow! That looks incredible. Just need to pick up some meat and cheese so I can make my own. Now, I can hardly wait. Thanks for such a detailed description!

  11. June 6, 2009 at 8:29 pm

    Looks Ah-mazing! I can’t wait to bake Casatiello next week! Bravo!

  12. Nicole said,

    June 6, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    Looks delicious! I’d like to try using my sourdough starter in place of the sponge too. Glad you tried it first! 🙂

    • gaaarp said,

      June 6, 2009 at 5:50 pm

      Thanks, Nicole. I would use my starter to make this bread again. The only thing I would do differently is to allow extra time for proofing. And I think if I were going to retard the dough overnigt, I would let it ferment a bit on the counter first to give the sourdough a headstart.

  13. Görel said,

    June 6, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Mouthwatering!! It looks gorgeous. It sounds like a great idea to use a sourdough starter, I believe that would add more depth to the taste. And mise en place is very good idea. It’s not fun at all to take a bite of your bread and discover that you forgotten the salt, which has happened to me more than once!

    • gaaarp said,

      June 6, 2009 at 5:48 pm

      Thanks, Gorel. It really did have a great flavor. I was worried that the sourdough and buttermilk together might give it too much tang, but they didn’t.

  14. Kayte said,

    June 6, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    What a beautiful loaf. Very interesting post, I learned a lot and I thank you for that. I can’t get things to add in well with the dough hook either, so thanks for the tip. Your bread looks and sounds wonderful. I am working with the slower paced group, so I will get there eventually…yours is very inspiring. Oh, I didn’t know there was such a thing as buttermilk powder. May have to go there as I keep wasting buttermilk when TWD calls for it.

    • gaaarp said,

      June 6, 2009 at 5:47 pm

      Thanks, Kayte. I love buttermilk powder. I don’t use buttermilk that often, so I always have to go out and buy it when a recipe calls for it. Then I end up throwing the rest away. I use dry milk powder for milk in most bread recipes, too, even though I usually keep milk on-hand.

      • Paul said,

        June 12, 2009 at 1:26 am

        FYI anyone who buys “wet” buttermilk: it freezes quite well. I measure out the leftovers into cups and pour that into freezer baggies. Then it’s just a matter of pulling out a bag or so whenever I need more.

  15. kellypea said,

    June 6, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    I loved this bread, too and gave away one loaf to keep us from inhaling it. I used powdered buttermilk not expecting much but all seemed fine. The sponge was incredibly active, and the bread rose at room temp quite nicely. Your bread turned out beautifully!

    • gaaarp said,

      June 6, 2009 at 4:24 pm

      I should have given some away. We ate 2/3 of the loaf within an hour of cutting it.

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