I really wanted to love this bread. I was looking forward to it, especially after reading rave reviews from those getting a head start on the BBA Challenge schedule. It sounded wonderful—rich, savory bread loaded with meat and cheese.
Unfortunately, it was just OK. But I'm pretty sure it wasn't the fault of the recipe. I made alterations to the it, some mentioned in the book, but the others were my own. Based on what I've read and seen, the lackluster quality of the bread almost has to be the result of these changes.
This was definitely a "learning experience" bread for me. Here's what I learned:
1. When making a recipe for the first time, follow the recipe. Don't assume you know more than the author, at least that first time. I used some whole wheat flour in place of bread flour and cut the butter in half. While the latter was an option listed in the book, the former was not. I also used less pepperoni than called for because it seemed like way too much.
2. Use chunkier pieces of cheese and meat. I used turkey pepperoni slices and sliced provolone. I was trying to keep the fat content down with the turkey pepperoni and the store I shopped at only had provolone in slices, not blocks. I think the nature of the thin slices of both ingredients made it difficult to knead into the dough and I didn't used as much as was called for (see #1). The density of chunkier add-ins would work better.
3. Use stronger flavors for add-ins. This might not be a problem if I used the correct amount of meat and cheese, but mine didn't have the depth of flavor I was hoping for.
Now, even though I didn't love this bread, it was pretty good, especially fresh out of the oven. I served it with pizza sauce, and Dwight and I had it as our dinner that night. We ate about half of the loaf, so clearly I didn't hate it. I just think it has the potential to be great, not just "good."
Check out some of the other Challenge members for better examples of casatiello. It seems like there were as many different takes on the bread as bakers.
Italian sausage and robust provolone
Mortadella and asiago
Pepperoni, extra sharp cheddar and sun dried tomatoes
(2 versions) Sun dried tomato with double cream Gouda and Sopressata with provolone
Nicole of Pinch My Salt has a list of links to additional posts as well, so check them out for inspiration and read about other experiences with casatiello.
Note: I baked this casatiello two weeks ago knowing I wouldn't have time to make it last weekend. I'm just now getting around to writing about it! I made challah today, the next BBA Challenge recipe. Stay tuned for my report on this lovely, braided bread. It definitely did NOT disappoint!