Friday, December 12, 2008

Lard bread

I'm making a different sort of bread this week--bread with stuff in it!

Lard bread is a traditional Italian loaf. Apparently, Astoria, Queens in New York is known for them but I don't recall seeing them when I lived (just slightly to the south of) there. On the other hand, my neighborhood was mostly Greek, Brazilian and North Indian so the local Italian bakeries probably weren't the best around.

Lard bread, as you've probably guessed by now, is made with lard and plenty of it. I looked around for recipes as usual. There are a lot of recipes for crepe-like dishes and schiacciatas that use a lot of lard and some sweet lard loaves too, but I was looking for something similar to the loaf featured in a food/travel show I saw that included salami, cheese and lots of black pepper along with the generous amounts of lard. I settled on a recipe posted to by Patricia Grande that wasn't quite the same, but was different in interesting ways I hadn't tried before. Here's her recipe halved to bring it down to a more reasonable size.

But before we get to that, more on the lard. This is Miami so I could have just gone out and bought some but I've been saving in the freezer fat trimmed from the various cuts of pork I've cooked over the last couple of months. I figured it would come in useful eventually and look, hey, it did. Easiest way to deal with it was to just drop the frozen pork fat into my crockpot, turn it on, cover, and come back eight hours later.

I was a bit concerned about the smell since pork rendering plants don't have sparkling reputations in that regard but it just smelled like pork fat. Although after a while it, my apartment and I all just smelled like pork fat and I can see why that might be an issue. From a full bucket of fat scraps I ended up with a bit over a cup of fat and pile of pork cracklin's. I strained those out, cooled the lard and was ready to go on the bread.

Lard Bread

1 envelopes dry yeast (5 tsps.)
around 1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 oz. cold lard, cut into tbs. size chunks
On a large wooden board, make a mound of flour and mix in the salt. Distribute the lard over and rub into the flour. Sprinkle the yeast/water over and begin kneading. Knead 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic, adding either flour or water as required (needed?! - OY!)Form into a ball, put into a greased bowl, cover with a towel and rise til doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

[I used my mixer for the kneading, but I cut in the lard by hand. The original recipe had a typo and only called for a half cup of water for five cups of flour so I had to judge the hydration by eye. I think I'm getting the hang of this as I had no problem slowing mixing the water and determining when I had enough.]

2 oz. lard, at room temp
1 oz grated Parmeggiano Reggiano
1 1/2 Tbs. grated Pecorino Romano
1/2 Tbs. coarse ground black pepper (or more to taste)
1/3 c. salami (or prosciutto, or a mixture of both) cut into small dice
3 oz. provolone cut into small dice
(You may also use all one or the other, or use crumbled cooked Italian sausage meat - although if you can't get this bread maybe you can't get good sausage either.)

Grease and flour a baking sheet. Punch dough down after it has risen and turn out onto floured board. Roll into a rectangle 1/2 inch thick, 16 inches long, 12 inches wide. Spread the lard evenly over the dough. [I wish I could get a picture to turn out of the slathered on lard. It's vaguely upsetting but also looks pretty tasty.] Sprinkle with remaining filling ingredients (I like more pepper, you may too).

Roll up like a jelly roll, starting at the long side. Pinch all seams to close tightly then bend into a circle shape, pinching together the joining. Place on sheet and cover with a cloth. Rise until doubled, at least one hour. Bake at 350 for one hour, until light brown. Try to let cool (at least a bit) before slicing.

[Argh! Just now while I was typing this in I realized that I forgot the Parmesan and Romano! No wonder the results are a little blah! Dang.

Other than that, though, it's a nice loaf of bread. The lard makes it light, tender and flaky the same way it does in pie crusts. I added an egg wash to get a nice golden brown crust although, because of the lard, the crust keeps flaking right off. Despite the lack of Parmesan, the flavors still pretty good; if you like salami and provolone sandwiches, here's one ready-made. Some more of each wouldn't be a bad thing though. Just about enough of the black pepper, though.

Despite my lapse there, I'm pretty happy with how I managed to make the dough, roll it out, roll it up and get it baked without mishap. Pretty advanced bread-making technique there. What other odd variant should I try next?

I've been snacking on the bread all afternoon and now I've got a tummy full of lard. I don't feel so good.


kat said...

I love the idea of the filling but have no clue what lard bread would be like. It just makes me think of my grandmother telling me she ate lard sandwiches as a kid

billjac said...

The bread didn't taste of fat at all. The rendering process took just about all of the porky flavor out of it. It mostly affected the texture the same way you get different textures out of pie crusts if you add butter, shortening or lard. The main effects were a tender but substantial crumb and a flaky crust. A lard sandwich would be a different matter entirely.