America is a melting pot that was formed by the hard-working people who migrated here from lands as far east as China and Japan and as far north as Russia and Europe. They utilized American supplies and prepared them in ways that they had prepared them in their homeland.
True American food is a collection of these culinary traditions passed down from generation to generation. Each culture brought their cooking methods, food, and spices to America. They farmed the soil, hunted game, and incorporated their ways into the food of America. This new series will be about what they cooked.
Brooklyn’s Lard Bread or Prosciutto Bread or Prosciutto Cheese Bread
There’s a bread that can be found at most Italian deli’s in New York City – it used to be called Lard Bread but now is referred to as Prosciutto Bread The lard bread story is not clear if you try to trace it back to Italy. Like Nicolo Mazzola, who founded their Brooklyn bakery in 1928 and whose family originated in Sicily, but on trips back to the homeland, he’s never seen anything like Mazzola’s lard bread on the streets of Palermo. Recipes for lard bread don’t appear much in Italian cookbooks either, and while stuffing fatty odds and ends into bread dough is a common theme throughout Italy, no particular region seems to have much connection to the peppery cured-meat-and-aged-cheese bread that’s popular on this side of the Atlantic.
For most Italian Americans who eat it, lard bread is mainly a Christmas and Easter tradition.
If you’ve never heard of lard bread—also called prosciutto bread—you’re not alone. The loaf is virtually unknown outside New York City and parts of New Jersey and Philadelphia, where a critical mass of Italian Americans has kept the tradition alive since their ancestors immigrated to the country in the 1800s. But even in the Northeast ItalianAmerican communities, you won’t find it in most Italian bakeries. “Lard bread” isn’t the most appealing name in times like these, especially after decades of healthy eating conditioning, it never captured the public imagination as you might expect for a bread stuffed with meat and cheese.
I thought it would be a fun thing to try at home and take to my Sons & Daughters Of Italy In America meeting. I doubled the recipe to make 2 loaves to take to the potluck supper we have before the meeting. I used my go-to pizza recipe for the bread dough and then added the traditional ingredients as described below.
Brooklyn Street Bread
3 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 teaspoon honey
1 cup lukewarm water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces provolone cheese, diced
2 oz pancetta, diced
2 ounces prosciutto, diced
2 ounces pepperoni, diced
2 ounces Genoa salami, diced
2 ounces capicola, diced
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
Combine all the ingredients for the dough in the large bowl of an electric mixer and with the paddle attachment mix until the ingredients come together around the paddle. Attach the dough hook and knead the dough for 5-6 minutes.
Spray a large ziplock plastic bag with olive oil cooking spray. Place the dough in the bag and close the top. Place the bag in the refrigerator overnight. Alternately, place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubles, 60-90 minutes and make the bread the same day.
Place the dough in the center of a floured pastry board and flatten the dough with your hands into a large circle. Spread the black pepper, meat, and cheese over the top. Fold the dough over to cover the meat and cheese, and then flatten and fold the dough over a few times with your hands to distribute the ingredients throughout the bread.
Shape the dough into a large oval shape or into a baguette and place on a rimmed baking pan.
Cover with greased plastic and let rise at room temperature until puffy and dough springs back slowly when pressed lightly with your finger, about 45-60 minutes.
Adjust the oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a sharp paring knife make a ½-inch-deep lengthwise slash along the top of the loaf, starting and stopping about 1½ inches from ends. Bake until the loaf register 205 to 210 degrees, about 30-35 minutes. Transfer the loaf to wire rack and let cool completely about 3 hours. Serve.