Once upon a time, I studied Italian. Like, I was trying to learn how to speak Italian for a whole year in University. I needed a language for my undergraduate degree, and Italian seemed like a fun (if not exceptionally useful) option. I absolutely loved every minute of it.
Sadly, I’ve forgotten most of what I learned. That’s what happens with languages, I think, if you don’t keep practicing and learning, your grasp on them slips away to near nothingness. As you may know, I am planning a trip to Italy with my husband in September, so hopefully I can remember enough to be able to confidently order due bicchieri di vino rosso and un grande gelato al cioccolato, per favore.
I tell you this because I first made this bread a number of years ago for my Italian class. For our midterm oral presentations, we (with a partner) had to stand up and describe a significant historical event in full-on Italian. If I recall correctly, my partner and I chose the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and the subsequent destruction of Pompeii to describe to the class. What I do remember is that we decided to bribe the class & la professoressa with homemade Italian goodies. I guess we thought that if our treats were delicious enough, people might not notice our improper use of the subjunctive…
I decided on this cheesy prosciutto-stuffed bread, because who can resist cheese bread? It worked like a charm, and our classmates and teacher happily munched away on soft, salty, cheesy slices of bread as my partner and I enthusiastically stumbled and stammered through our presentation. In fact, I’m pretty sure we aced it. Whether the A can be attributed to our presentation or our baking remains a mystery.
I’ve made this bread a number of times since then, and it is always as good or better than I remember it. It’s some work rolling all the cheeses and meat into the dough neatly and rolling it into a ring, and it comes out of the oven looking like a giant bagel, but it is so very worth the effort. It’s light and soft, and I’ve started adding herbs to my dough which I recommend wholeheartedly. The plentiful sliced prosciutto throughout results an incredible salty bite, and the cheeses (provolone and parmigiano, to be precise) melt and ooze into every inch of the bread.
- 1 package (2 and ½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to ½ cup more as needed
- ½ teaspoon coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 tablespoon italian seasoning, herbes de provence, or other dried herb blend (optional)
- ½ cup prosciutto, diced
- ⅓ cup provolone, diced
- ½ cup parmesan cheese (parmigiano reggiano, if you can get it), grated
- 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water, to glaze (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine yeast, warm water and sugar. Let sit until bubbly, about 5-8 minutes. Add oil, 2 cups of flour, the salt, pepper and herbs and mix until a dough begins to come together. Knead either by hand or with a dough hook on your mixer for about 10 minutes until smooth. If the dough is sticky, add up to ½ cup more flour as needed. Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm area until doubled in volume, about 1 and ½ hours.
- Punch down dough. Oil a baking sheet and flatten the dough onto the sheet with your hands into a large oval. Spread the prosciutto, provolone and parmesan evenly over top. Roll the dough into a log, then form into a large circular ring, sealing the ends together well. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If you wish, beat 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and brush the mixture on top of the ring to give your finished bread a shiny glaze. Bake bread for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown on top & bottom. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly. Best served warm. Will keep covered at room temperature for a day or two, but I suggest warming the slices before eating them because melted cheese.
Source: Adapted from Italian Food Forever, recipe by Deborah Mele