Wednesday, June 10, 2009

That's cä-sŭ-TEE-lō in my version...

Pronounce the first "a" like in map and the second like the "u" in cup and you'll have a good idea of my version of Casatiello. Think a very American pronunciation of the word. I'm sure that some of you may think I should be ashamed of myself for transforming this beautiful bread from it's Italian origins into this bastardization I have conceived. But I assure you this bread is beautiful in its own right. So before I get into this, I have a confession to make. I love food. I think anyone who reads this does. I love quality food. I am a member of a local food co-op, I have a freezer full of meat and chickens from local farmers, I love getting my vegetables fresh and local and am ecstatic that it's time for the local farmer's markets to allow the farmers to share their bounty with me and my family. And yes, I love Spam! That's right Spam. It's not something eaten frequently in my home, but it really is my favorite meaty treat in a can (really my only one). I could argue however that I am eating locally since there is a Spam cannery less than an hour drive away, but in the infinite logic of our mass produced food culture I'm sure that can has to make its way to Texas or California somehow before it comes back to me. And so this weeks adventure began with Spam... mmmm.... I can't eat or cook with spam without thinking of Spam by the band Save Ferris.
Spam, it's pink and its oval,
Spam, I buy it at the Mobil,

Spam, it's made in Chernobyl,


And I love it anyway.

So after thinking long and hard about how I was going to prepare this I finally decided I was going to dice into a fairly large dice and roast in the oven @ 450 F until it was nicely browned and had rendered out a good amount of fat.

As usual I started with my mise and got the sponge going. Unlike the other formulas in the book, for this one I just followed it closely (other than the meat and cheese) and I was amazed by the amount of yeast. A whole tablespoon/.33 oz (and I also used ounces this time rather than the logically superior metrics I usually use) ?!?!?!?

My second biggest dilemma was deciding on what type of cheese to use. The obvious choice with Spam would have been Velveeta, but I couldn't go there. So I settled on that most American of cheeses Kraft Cracker Barrel white cheddar. Also, rather than grating it I went with a small dice to leave nice chunks of cheese in the crumb. I didn't want to turn the bread orange, and just because I used Spam doesn't mean it didn't deserve some respect. I let the sponge get nice and bubbly for an hour and then mixed up the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. I then slowly mixed in the butter in four additions and mixed it for around the 12 minutes the book calls for and I was able to achieve a really nice windowpane.

Once I had my windowpane I tried mixing in the meat and then the cheese in the machine, but it just wasn't cooperating so I dumped it onto the counter and mixed by hand until I got a nice even distribution.
I greased the bowl and let it rise for about two hours (with a small interruption from the contractors I'm dealing with in the whole basement finishing we are in the middle of).
After it rose I measured the whole mass and determined I had about 1400 grams of dough so I measured two halves around 700 grams each and divided each into six pieces about 115 grams, give or take a few, and lined them up six each in a loaf pan as I had done for my brioche.

I let them proof in the pan for about an hour and a half (the temperature in my kitchen was PERFECT today) and I set the oven to 350F. I also baked some plain hamburger and hot dog buns today so my oven was already preheated. I baked them for 20 minutes and when I went to rotate them I baked them an additional 15. At that point they were perfectly browned and were right at 190 F.

I couldn't wait to cut into them and they cooled for maybe five minutes before I lost all willpower and made my first cut. Amazing! I may or may not do this bread again, but I have to say I loved it. I think I felt my heart stop for a minute after my third slice, but I made sure to take one of the loaves to my parents so I wouldn't gain everything back I've lost since the first of the year. The crumb on this bread was fantastic. I actually may make it again at Xmas time as my family is not really a raisin and dried fruit eating bunch, but it will definitely be a while. And for those of you who haven't made this one yet, I double dog dare you to try it with Spam! Or maybe chipped beef. S**t in a shingle!


  1. The last time I had Spam was Spam sushi in Honolulu, and I have to say that although I have never put Spam in bread and probably never will (sorry!), this bread looks, and I imagine tastes, a whole lot better than that sushi. Thanks for submitting YeastSpotting's first Spam bread!

  2. I haven't had spam in probably 30 years. :) I'm not sure why and I'll probably grab a can next time I go shopping.
    Your bread turned out super.

  3. LOL. Awesome post! Great job on your bread.

  4. Very funny post and great looking breads! What book was that you got the original recipe from?

  5. Thank you all for the compliments.
    MC, I got the recipe for this from The Bread Baker's Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. I'm part of an online group who is baking our way through the entire book. If you don't have it it's a must have for bread baking.