In 1986, after my stint working at WNET on a show produced by Walter Cronkite, I got a job in the design studio of a toy company called North American Bear. The “office / studio” was in a brown stone on Leroy Street off Bleeker Street in the village. One of my jobs was to feed Fred, the ferret, mashed up bananas or avocados in the morning and periodically give him a bath in piña colada ferret shampoo (yes, it exists) to try to mask the underlying funky skunk-like odor that he exuded. He used to sit under my desk and lick the fake tanning lotion off my ankles. Needless to say, this was a very interesting and entertaining job. I loved being around so many talented designers.
Anyway, this is a very long-winded way of explaining my love of Proscuitto bread. There was this Italian bakery on Bleeker called Zito’s that sold this prosciutto bread that was to die for. We would buy it and eat the entire loaf, usually with a bottle of wine (after office hours, of course). For some reason, I thought of it the other day and called up my friend and ex boss to ask her what the name of the bakery was. I could not remember it. Unfortunately, Zito’s went out of business. This is a short film about the closing, you can watch it here. I trolled around the internet and found this recipe, which is as close as you’re ever going to get to the real thing.
Barley malt syrup is an unrefined sweetener produced from sprouted, or malted barley. It is dark brown, thick and sticky; and possesses a strong distinctive flavor that can only be described as “malty.”
Makes 1 ring
2 cups plus 3 Tbs bread flour or unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbs malt syrup, honey or sugar
3/4 tsp instant yeast
scant 1/2 tsp coarsely cracked black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 tsp salt
4 tsp bacon fat, lard, or butter, melted
1 cup water, 70 – 90 degrees F
3/4 cup proscuitto, pepperoni, and hot sopressta sausage, cut into 1/4 – 1/2 inch pieces
Using the whisk attachment on a stand mixer, thoroughly combine 2 cups flour, black pepper, cayenne pepper and yeast. Add salt and mix. (Note: the salt is added after mixing to avoid it coming into direct contact with the yeast.)
Swapping to the dough hook, add water and malt syrup (or honey or sugar) to bowl and combine with flour at low speed (#2 on a Kitchen Aid) until moistened. Increase speed to medium (#4 on a KA) and knead for seven minutes. Add prosciutto and mix in on low. Dough should be slightly tacky but not sticky. If it is too sticky add a bit more flour a tablespoon at a time and knead in, if too dry, spray with a bit of water and knead in.
Dump dough onto a lightly floured counter, shape into a ball, dust lightly with flour, brush with bacon fat (or lard or butter) and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Place baking stone or a baking sheet on the bottom shelf of the oven and a baking sheet on the bottom of the oven. Heat oven to 450F.
Roll dough into an 18-inch rope, form into a ring, overlapping ends by two inches on a sheet of parchment paper. Cover with a large bowl or oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in bulk – about one hour.
Transfer bread on parchment to stone or baking sheet. (Use a peel if bread is on parchment.) Toss half a dozen ice cubes into the pan on the bottom of the oven.
Bake for 15 minutes, remove parchment, and rotate bread 180 degrees. Bake another five minutes and reduce heat to 400F. Cook another 10 to 15 minutes. Turn oven off, prop open door, and leave the bread in the oven for five minutes.
Remove bread from oven, brush again with bacon fat or butter, and allow to cool completely.