This is the first of the three recipes I made for this year’s Thanksgiving. Better late than never, right? This recipe is so easy and straightforward, but the result is something fancy enough to impress people: the common chef’s dream.
If you are wondering who the Pakistani guy in the flour-covered NYU shirt is in the third photo, that is my boyfriend, Zabih, who might be attending NYU next fall (we’ll know by Monday–fingers crossed!). He is often forced to help me cook, but he has a good time (or so it seems). The ironic part is that, because of his religion, he can’t eat pork, so he never did get to taste this yummy bread.
- 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons bread flour or all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon malt powder, barley malt syrup, honey, or sugar (whichever is available; I used sugar)
- ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
- Scant ½ teaspoon coarsely cracked fresh pepper
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup room temperature water
- ¾ cup Prosciutto, trimmed of excess fat, sliced not too thin and cut into ¼- to ½-inch pieces
- 4 tablespoons bacon fat or butter, melted
Mix the dough: in the mixer bowl, whisk together the flour, malt (or honey or sugar), yeast, and black pepper. Then whisk in the salt (this prevents the yeast from coming into direct contact with the salt, which would kill it). With the dough hook, on low speed (#2 if using a KitchenAid), add the water and mix for about 1 minute, until the flour is moistened. Knead the dough on medium speed (#4 KitchenAid) for 7 minutes.
Add the prosciutto and mix on low speed (#2 KitchenAid) for 1 minute or until evenly incorporated. The dough should be very elastic and jump back when pressed with a fingertip. It should still be a little tacky (sticky) but not cling to your fingers. If the dough is very sticky, knead in a little flour. If it is not sticky at all, spray it with a little water and knead it in. (The dough will weigh about 1½ pounds/675 grams.)
Dust the dough lightly with flour and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rest for 20 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, if it’s not already on the counter. Roll it into an 18-inch-long rope. Shape it into a ring, overlapping ends by 2 inches, and press lightly to seal them; the ring will be about 7 inches in diameter and 1¼ inches high, with a 3-inch hole in the center.
Set the bread on parchment and cover it with a large container or oiled plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise (ideally at 75° to 85°F) until almost doubled, about 1 hour. It will be almost 9 inches across by 1½ inches high, and when it is pressed gently with a fingertip, the depression will very slowly fill in.
Preheat the oven to 450°F 20 minutes before baking. Have an oven shelf at the lowest level and place a baking stone or baking sheet on it, and a cast-iron skillet or sheet pan on the floor of the oven, before preheating.
Shortly before baking, brush the dough all over with the melted bacon fat or butter. (Do not slash the dough.) Lift the ring onto the hot baking stone or hot baking sheet; or use a peel if it is on parchment. Toss ½ cup of ice cubes into the pan beneath and immediately close the door. Bake for 20 minutes. Turn down the heat to 400°F and continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until the bread is deep golden brown (an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read about 211°F). Halfway through baking, with a heavy pancake turner, lift the bread from the parchment and set it directly on the stone, turning it around as you do so for even baking. When the bread is baked, turn off the oven, prop the door slightly ajar, and leave the bread in the oven for 5 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven, and transfer it to a wire rack. Brush with another coat of melted bacon fat or butter, and cool completely. The texture of this bread is most appealing when torn rather than cut.
The bread stays fresh for 2 days at room temperature.