Friday, April 06, 2012

Promise of Spring and a Casatiello Napoletano Bread

Traditional Italian chocolate Easter egg given to us by our butcher
It's springtime and Easter is just around the corner this Sunday, April 8th. What better way to add some zippety-do-dah to your Easter table than with a dramatic Italian Easter bread, Casatiello Napoletana. Easter  seems to focus on eggs and chocolate so it seems that my last years offering of a chocolate cake and this savory Casatiello added enough of both that I have been asked by the family to make them again this year. I'll see what I can do. 

Chocolate always tries to steal the show
Casatiello is a traditional celebratory special bread of Naples. This  light savory brioche type bread is laced with abundant salami and cheese to make it irresistible and then dolled up with whole eggs on top held in place with crosses of dough to make it a conversation piece for sure. It is often made quite simply with the salami and cheese being adding to the dough and may be varied with all sorts of various cheeses and meats. This Napolitano Easter bread is rich with religious symbolism from the various ingredients to the presentation. Every bite tells of the celebration of the rebirth of Christ and earth. The use of milk, eggs and sheep cheese recalls the birth of Christ in the manger amongst the farm animals. The ring itself  representing Christ's crown of thorns embedded with eggs like jewels held in place with crosses like the one he was put upon and yet there is rebirth with this bread. Rich indeed. 
My photo of a photo in Sapori di Pasqua magazine
I want to make this again this year to work on my presentation as my dough was not entirely cooperative. The dough seemed to want to engulf the eggs and keep them out of sight. Tasted great and we make quick work of it even if the eggs weren't as distinctive as I would have liked. It was enjoyed by all anyway. I saw an interesting variation of it yesterday by a popular Sicilian chef who chopped the cooked eggs up and put all of the salami, cheese and egg on the rectangle of dough before rolling it up and baking it off in a tube pan, making it more of a appertivo treat. I will be trying that as well.  I hope you will enjoy making this bread and sharing it for years to come as I think you will find it a worthy treat for all of your senses.  
Buona Pasqua!
My own Casatiello Napoletana

Casatiello Napoletano per Pasqua

Recipe based on Peter Reinhart's version with some traditional twists

1 large round or 2 smaller loaves

Ingredients:

Preferment:

  • 1T/.33 oz (18-20 g) yeast, dry instant traditionally in Italy they will use 25g fresh yeast
  • 1T /.33oz (15 g) sugar
  • 1/2c/2.25 oz (70 g)  flour, here a "00" is used you can use a bread flour and all purpose flour combination to get a somewhat similar result or all of one or the other
  • 1 c/ 8 oz (236 g)  milk, luke warm 

Main addition

  • 3 1/2 c (16oz)  (450 g)"00" flour, same as above, bread or combo with all purpose
  • 1 t (5 g) salt
  • 1/4c / 2 oz (50 g) pecorino finely grated or parmigiano if you can't find pecorino
  • 1/2 c/ 3.5 oz (100g)butter, room temperature, although lard is the traditional fat used here

Additions 

  • 3/4c /6 oz (170-200) provolone, cubed or caciocavallo or other firm but easy melting cheese with some flavor, even swiss would be tasty
  • 4 oz  (100g) Italian style salami, here usually thin sliced, cut into strips or diced, your preference

Topping

  • 5 eggs raw in their shell, washed and dried
  • egg wash

Method:

Mix the flour, instant yeast, sugar and milk together in a medium bowl. Mix till smooth, cover and let rise for an hour.
Mix the other flour together in a large bowl or on the table of you prefer, with the salt, the pecorino cheese and add the fat into the middle of the flour working it into the flour till it is crumbly. 
Add the risen preferment to the middle of the flour mixture and work it all together to get a workable dough adjusting flour or liquid if needed. If mixing by hand be generous with keeping your hands and fingers floured. Work the dough till it is soft and pliable. 
Cover with a plastic cover in a bowl and let it rise for about an hour and half or till it has risen till almost double. 
Sprinkle some flour on the table, and turn the dough onto the table.
Gently work your dough our into a rectangular shape with your finger tips, gingerly pulling the dough trying to not lose all the air bubbles and lightness. 
Cut a few lengths of dough from one end to make crosses for securing your eggs on top later. 
Cut your strips into 10 even lengths.
Sprinkle all the salami and cheese over the rectangle and roll up the dough into a roll.
Grease a tube style pan with removable bottom for ease of removing after baking. 
Place the dough roll into the tube pan with the seam side down. Press down gently and make 5 indentations, even distance around the ring.
Place one egg into each indentation, pointy tip up. 
Place two strips of dough in a cross over the egg, pressing the dough cross ends into the dough ring.
Cover and let rise for an hour and maybe a half more or until the dough has risen till light.
Brush egg wash all over the top of the dough ring and crosses.
Bake in a preheated 330*F/ 170*C oven for about an hour till evenly brown and cooked through.
Remove the bread to a cooling rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing the sides of the pan.
Wait another half an hour before removing the bottom pand and allow to full cool om the rack. 
Cut after a full hour of cooling. The eggs will be full cooked as well. 
Enjoy with friends and family.

3 comments:

bellini said...

There will be none of this bread available when I am in Naples this October but I could always dream of being in Italy now.

Bella Baita View said...

Or make the bread and pretend you're here Bellini!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Your bread looks wonderful. Buona Pasquetta.

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