Sunday, February 1, 2009

Lard bread.

Jake is in Brooklyn this weekend, and I hope he leaves some clothes behind so he can fit baked goods in his carry-on bag. Fat chance. But it reminds me I never posted the lard bread recipe.

I had to hunt for it, and found out I'm not the only one pining for Caputos in Carroll Gardens. Multiple people posted on baking websites looking for the Caputo's lard bread recipe, or one from a place on the Lower East Side that apparently no longer exists. Caputos also has an amazing olive bread with whole calamata olives that makes me miss my friend Amy. I'm going to try making olive bread as a reward for getting through the next dissertation milestone, which will be completing the pre-test of the survey (maybe as soon as next week).

Anyway, at first I could only find a recipe from the Italian Trade Commission (seriously) that was for a traditional Easter bread with six whole eggs baked onto the top. Overkill. The recipe I finally found is from the Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum, who also wrote the Cake Bible--which is massive and in its like 764th re-printing. I have the Cake Bible, and was initially bummed that Beranbaum's recipe seemed to be my only shot at lard bread. I bought the Cake book years ago in a flurry of enthusiasm about something or other, but was in over my head and found it impossible to make any of the recipes in my mini-kitchen that was equipped with two bowls and a ladel.

I figured I'd have to buy the bread book and then need to find some tool or special mail-order only ingredient to pull it off. So I picked the book up at Borders with every intention of returning it immediately after jotting down the recipe (yeah, I know -- but both money and shelf space are scarce and I didn't even open it all the way). Turns out I was only half right. I did end up unsuccessfully searching for malt powder, whatever that is, and bought a silicone baking mat. But I'd been eyeing the mat for a while and it was only $12. If I bought all the stuff Beranbaum mentions, I'd be out thousands. Otherwise, I'm really happy with the Bread Bible. She is seriously in love with bread and a bit over the top (here's a line from the intro to her "Heart of Wheat" recipe: "The thought of making this bread inspires me to sing 'America the Beautiful' while picturing vast prairies of golden waves of wheat. But eating it inspires absolute reverence and silence!"), and she really, really wants you to love bread too. There tends to be a lot of stuff involved for even simple recipes, but if you sift through the prose you can find a scenario that matches your tools and time and interest.

I did return the book to Borders, however. Amazon had it for 15 bucks cheaper (subsidizing the mat) and Jake gets free shipping, so I returned and re-bought.

In the end, the lard bread was a hit. Not Caputo's caliber, but Jake's Grandma Irma et el. gave the thumbs up and I'll play with the recipe it a bit. It needed more meat and a bit more pepper, I think, and maybe some cheese. I may try it with a bit more lard. This is not an everyday meal kind of a thing.

A warning: The recipe (and several others in the book) calls for a tray placed on the bottom of the stove as it pre-heats that you throw ice in to produce steam for a better crust. Here's a picture of a really funny-looking gadget that injects steam into your oven for you (not mentioned in the Bread Bible).

My steam was lame. Whatever. I tried, but my electric oven sucks. The crust was fine, though, and next time I'll give it an egg wash or brush it with butter. Ice throwing notwithstanding, this is easy. It is not hard, so don't be put off. Her recipe called for shaping the dough into a ring. I kept it a loaf because that's how I'm used to it.

Ok, sorry for all the narrative -- Beranbaum is getting to me.

Here's what I did, adapted from the Bread Bible and using a standing mixer:

Bread Bible Lard Bread

  • Bread flour: 2 cups+2 tablespoons/12oz/340 grams (Or 2.25 + 2 tablespoons all purpose flour)
  • Sugar: 1 tablespoon/.3 oz/9.3 grams (she called for malt powder, sugar or honey)
  • Instant yeast: ¾ tablespoon
  • Coarse pepper: ½ teaspoon
  • Salt : 1 teasp
  • Lard : 2 tablespoons
  • Water: 1 cup / 8.3 oz./ 236 grams
  • Meat: ¾ cup meat in ¼ to ½ inch pieces (mix of prosciutto and spicy soppresata)

Whisk flour, sugar, yeast, and pepper. Then whisk in salt.

Add the water and lard for about 1 minute at #2 speed, until flour is moistened.

Mix at #4 speed for 7 minutes.

Add meat on #2 for 1 minute or so until evenly incorporated

It will be very elastic dough that is somewhat sticky but won’t cling to fingers. Dust lightly with flour and cover for 20 minutes.

On a lightly floured surface, turn the dough out and roll it into a log about 12 inches long. Put the loaf on parchment paper or the silicon baking mat and let it rise for 1 hour, covered with lightly oiled plastic wrap or a big bowl.

Preheat the oven to 450 for one hour, with the rack and a baking sheet at lowest level and a pan or skillet below on the bottom of the oven. When the bread is ready to bake, put it (still on parchment paper or a mat) on the hot baking sheet.

Put 1/2 cup ice cubes in the skillet or pan to make steam. Quickly close the door to trap the steam and cook 20 minutes at 450. Then turn the oven down to 400 for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Beranbaum says to turn the loaf halfway through the baking, pulling it off the parchment or liner and directly on the baking sheet. I'm not sure why this step exists, but I did it. When it's done, the bread should be golden brown. Turn off the oven and prop the door open slightly for for 5 minutes before taking the bread out and putting it on a cooling rack.

There you go. I hope someone tries it.


  1. Your blog came up when I was trying to find, figure out what malt powder is, does and where to find it. While being new to baking I am having fun with it. Bread is cooking right now. My friends think I am crazy, but the TV took some kind of toll when I fell asleep with it on one night and I voved to leave it off for thirty days. I am at day 10 and I am giddy from the drop in saturation level. So, I am coming up to loaf #50. I bought a 50 lb bag of flour. Yikes! I am attemping Kasier rolls. It calls for "malt powder". No one knows, no one has heard of it. The closest I have gotten is malted milk powder. And I tempted to try it but must hold myself in check regaurdless of my newly found "lust for the loaf". Sorry for all the narrative. Any suggestion? Kevin

  2. Hi Kevin! Good luck with the TV thing. As I understand it, malt powder is basically a sugar -- so any sugar (white, brown, honey) will do as a substitute. The malted milk is different because it has milk in it, but I bet nothing bad would happen if you used a bit of it (dry milk is often added to breads, too). It's an enhancer as opposed to a key ingredient, so you can also probably skip it entirely. It makes crust crustier or shinier, depending on the type of malt powder and the type of bread. Hope it helps. M

  3. Hi Martha'
    Thanks for getting back to me. I found malt powder at the beer brewing store. That's where my search led me. It was an interesting store, bottles of every shape and size in wonderful colors and gidgits and gadgets of all kinds. I am going to try it and see. I have learned that There are two types of malt powder available. Non-diastatic and diastatic. Diastatic malt powder is allowed to develop enzymes, which digest starches into sugar. When diastatic malt is used in baked goods, it tends to result in sweeter, smoother, and higher rises. The extra sugar it produces helps feed yeasts used to make yeast dough, so less yeast can be used.
    Much more common is non-diastatic malt. This does not have enzymes but it can still impart wonderful flavor, and lovely appearance to baked goods. Non-diastatic malt is common in malted milk powder. Both forms may be available at your local health food store, but non-diastatic malt is usually easier to find. Some non-diastatic malts are blended with maltodextrin, to be used as a sugar substitute.
    So with that said...I think you are right and I am going to try it both ways and see which I like better. Thanks again Kevin

  4. Updated:

  5. The lard bread in my neighborhood (Carroll Gardens) also contains cheese.

  6. I have a Hub of Old recipes and it contains lard bread so give it a try. Pretty close to Caputos.

    Let me know what you think.


  7. Saveur magazine just emailed me a recipe for lard bread stuffing that I want to make for Thanksgiving. I could not find a bakery in seattle that makes lard bread so i will make my own.

  8. Saveur magazine just emailed me a recipe for lard bread stuffing that I want to make for Thanksgiving. I could not find a bakery in seattle that makes lard bread so i will make my own.