Thank goodness I got myself moving this week. Just in the nick of time, it would seem.
The fifth recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice is the aforementioned casatiello, which Peter Reinhart describes as "a rich, dreamy Italian elaboration of brioche, loaded with flavor bursts in the form of cheese and bits of meat, preferably salami." I don't eat red meat, but decided to make my casatiello with Genoa salami anyway and feed it to Dad, who never met a cured meat he didn't like. (In fact, he has been known to eat a stick of pepperoni for dinner, slicing off piece after piece until the whole thing has disappeared. Mom generally disapproves of such behavior, for the record.) I headed over to my very favorite Italian market, DeVitis, to buy the salami and provolone. Then I remembered that I had some olives in the refrigerator and decided to make two loaves, one meat-full for Dad and one meat-free for me. Everybody wins!
The casatiello dough is similar to brioche dough -- both are enriched with butter and eggs. However, the casatiello dough only incorporates one and a half sticks of butter versus the rich man's brioche's four sticks. So you see? Right there. Saving calories.
Casatiello also might be the most gorgeous dough with which I've ever worked. It's soft and stretchy and supple, and at no point did it make me want to kill myself. (Most doughs, at one time or another, occupy this hellish territory -- either it's too sticky and encases your fingers until it's well-kneaded or it's too dry and starts to feel like glue as you incorporate a little water or it just plain old has a bad attitude, the Mr. T. of gluten.) This dough was a pleasure to mix and knead. It didn't stick to anything and required little bench flour and just felt right. What fun.
I baked my loaves in paper panettone molds that I bought last December when I was feeling industrious and thinking I'd bake up some panettone for Christmas. I never did get around to that, but was very pleased to remember that I had the molds stashed away in the pantry. The dough fit the paper molds perfectly and rose and baked nicely in them. The finished casatiello looked at home in their paper cloaks -- somehow fancy and rustic at the same time.
As for the finished product, I can't vouch for the salami and provolone loaf. But I'm thinking if you liked salami you'd like this casatiello. The suspended nuggets of Genoa salami looked right at home in the crumb, surrounded by flecks of melted provolone. I can understand what Reinhart means when he describes this bread as a sandwich unto itself. I sent the loaf home with Mom when she came over to walk the dogs with me tonight; she's going to pack some up for Dad's lunch tomorrow but we're guessing he'll probably eat it for breakfast instead.
Now, I am qualified to say that the olive and provolone loaf is spectacular. I used flavorful wrinkly-skinned Moroccan olives along with the shredded provolone to enhance the dough. The olives permeate the crumb with their assertive but not overpowering salty flavor, making you want to eat slice after slice.
But you know, since I'm a runner now I'm trying to control myself. Emphasis on "trying."
The Bread Baker's Apprentice challenge asks that we do not share specific recipes. But if you have some salami, cheese and/or olives on hand and wish to experiment with an obedient and tasty dough, turn your copy of the book to page 129.