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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Italian Easter Bread: Savory (Casatiella)

Buona Pasqua or Happy Easter to all! 

Buona Pasqua! I simply love  love Easter it is my favorite Holiday and always has been....and what would a holiday be without food traditions? This is my family's version of a Savory  Neapolitan Easter Bread called Casatiella. My Dad made this every Easter and it was the high point of the meal and even more appreciated than the main meat dish, I have continued this tradition and my  husband starts talking about it weeks before Easter reminding me to make my castaiella, as if I would forget : ) One of my favorite Easter memories was the year my Mom made all four of us girls and herself matching dresses, they had these little tiny purple flowers all over and I felt like a spring garden! I also remember, for some odd reason, we used to bring our Easter Baskets to church for the priest to bless, do any of you remember doing this odd ritual or am I just making this up? Buona Pasqua!
1 Master Hearth Bread Dough Recipe OR use 1 frozen/defrosted bread dough OR use bread dough you purchase from a bakery such as Publix.(If you want a more traditional "cakey" texture use lard in place of the olive oil in the above recipe.)
Eggs:  about 4 raw colored ones for the top and 2-3 hard boiled eggs for the stuffing.
4 ounces provolone cheese
2 ounces mozzarella
1/4 - 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
8 ounces salami, ham, prosciutto, but please please NO pepperoni!
olive oil
fresh ground black pepper
1/2 stick butter (diced & cold)
egg wash: 1 egg white and a tablespoon water whisked together
First color your eggs but do not boil, they need to be raw when they go in the oven or else they will crack.
Chop the eggs, salami, and provolone into bit size pieces, chunks work best if you can get thick pieces of cheese and salami. Dice and refrigerate the butter to chill. Grate the Parmesan and mozzarella. Mix the meat, butter, and cheeses together along with lot's of fresh black pepper. Add some olive oil to moisten. You can do this ahead and place in fridge.
Make the Italian bread dough and after the first rising spread the bread dough on lightly floured surface to 12-inch rectangle.
Place on parchment lined baking sheet and spread lightly with olive oil. Now you can stuff this several ways.
Before you begin the stuffing set aside 3 small pieces of dough for the braid on top, this is optional.

How To Stuff The Bread (several options)

1) Do as my Dad did and don't stuff it but rather knead the mixture in. This will create a nice cheesey crust.

2) Place the mixture in the middle evenly leaving a good 1 inch space clear all around the edge. Roll up (long ways) placing the  seal on bottom and seal and tuck ends under. Press out any bubbles. This will create a long log and will have as spiral affect when cut.

3)Do the same as above but form a ring sealing the ends together by tucking 1 end inside of the other and pressing closed. Make sure the tucked pieces have some filling! Place a bowl in the middle during the rising.This will create a nice ring.

4) Pour 1/4 cup olive oil in a large (12 inch) round cake pan with no parchment. Spread the dough out dimpling and turning it once. You want a thicker middle with thinner edges. Add the filling in the middle leaving a slight edge all around. Now bring all the corners together and seal well. Turn over. If there are any tears (sometimes the extra olive oil causes this) simply tear a piece from somewhere else and seal it up.
5) Roll out to a nice wide square and add to middle then roll up. Now shape into the same shape as regular hearth bread nice and fat and wide. This will create the same shape as my photo.

The Braiding & Baking
Now after you have "stuffed" your bread place it on the parchment lined sheet.
Take your 3 pieces and roll them each into a snake. Now braid together and place on top of the bread. Pace a colored egg in between each section and press down. Or place any way around the top as you so desire!
Heat oven to 450
Cover with a loose cloth and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Brush the bread with the egg wash ever so gently.
Bake at 450 for 15 minutes and then lower to 375 and bake for 20-25 more minutes.
Allow this to cool before cutting into it, 2 hours or more. Serve at room temp and then wrap in plastic and store in fridge.This is great the next day (I make always make 2 so we have left overs) for breakfast with a cup of espresso and is one of my favorite post Holiday breakfast treats right up there with pumpkin pie for breakfast after Thanksgiving!


Anonymous said...

Remembering the casatiella too!
It was our family practice to prepare a basket with Easter things and take it to the church on Holy Thursday for blessings.
Have a serene and happy Easter!

Ann Minard said...

Are you making some this year? I never heard of the Thursday blessing. Happy Easter!