Baked Surprise Bread

By • October 20, 2009 • 4 Comments

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Author Notes: This is a rich and tasty bread that is great for parties since it can be eaten without a plate or a fork and is brilliant for children's parties (leave out the pepper and use only ham and cheese) or for picnics This recipe derives from a Portuguese traditional stuffed bread made in the North of Portugal called "Bola". This was made by the farmers wives for the farmers to take to work when they were out working the fields. It consists of bread dough enriched with lard or butter and then put in layeres in a baking tray, filled in the middle with meat leftovers like roast pork, veal or chicken, chourizo, or in hard times just plain lard and some chourizo (smoked sausage). You still find it in most pastry shops cut in slices which people eat for a quick snack. My take on this recipe is to make enrichen the bread dough with milk and butter and fill in the middle with whatever I have as left overs - roast meat, chicken or in the absence of left overs, with ham, salami and cheese. As I live in Italy most of the time I have to go with whatever products I find so this is an Italianized version which we eat at home. I call it surprise bread because everytime I make it, I put different things inside and when somebody asks me what is in it I answer "Surprise!".
This recipe has been updated on 6th of March 2012 to use dry yeast, as it's easier to obtain than fresh yeast.
Maria Teresa Jorge

Serves 8

For the rich bread dough

  • 2 cups all purpose flower
  • 1 1 packet of dry yeast (1/4 oz or 7 grams)
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of milk room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 pinch salt (it's a small quantity because the filling, especially salami and chourizo, already have a lot of salt

For the Filling

  • 6 slices of good cooked ham
  • 20/30 slices of salami paper thin sliced
  • 5 ounces rich, creamy, fresh cheese like Crescenza or Stracchino
  • pepper freshly ground
  • 1/4 cup Scamorza (dried mozzarella) shredded thick
  • 2 tablespoons Grated Parmesan
  1. Warm the milk to no more then 97º F. Take the cheese, ham, salami out of the fridge, they need to be at room temperature.
  2. Dilute the dry yeast in 1/4 cup of milk. When well diluted add the remaining milk.
  3. Sift the flour into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attatchment. Make a well in the center and pour the yeast and milk, the eggs and the butter. Start mixing on low speed until all the ingredients are mixed. Add the salt and beat on medium speed until dough starts to unattach from sides of the bowl, about 10 minutes. The dough is very moist and sticky and will remain like that. Change the paddle attachment to the bread hook attachment and knead for a further 10 minutes. At this point the dough should be all together in aball around the hook attachment and not stick at all to the sides.
  4. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough so when it rises it doesn't stick to the tea towel. Cover with a clean tea towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes. Don't put the bowl on a cold surface like marble or granite as this will prevent the dough from rising neither on top of a hot surface. The dough should rise slowly and not be forced to rise. If you need put a tea towel underneath the bowl so that the base is warm.
  5. When doubled in size, push down the dough gently to deflate. Divide the dough in 2 equal parts.
  6. Line a deep baking pan with parchment paper or gease it with butter and put 1/2 the dough in it. Gently push the dough all over so it covers the bottom of the tray. The dough is sticky but gradually it will spread if you pull it with both hands gently. If you get holes pinch the dough together to close them.
  7. Add your filling which should be at room temperature so the dough rises better: spread the ham in 2 layers, then add the salami and finally the cheese cut up in small pieces. Grind some fresh pepper. If you have left overs, it's delicious with thin slices of roast pork or shredded roasted or braised chicken.
  8. Once you have the filling in, gently push on it especially on the sides and corners and the dough will spread evenly underneath very easily.
  9. Cover the filling with the remaining dough and with both hands gently pull the dough so it spreads all over the filling. Sprinkle a little flour on the dough, cover with a tea towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours in a warm place, away from drafts. Again let the dough rise slowly and not forced by a heat source.
  10. Pre-heat the oven to 300ºF with rack in the middle.
  11. Grate the Scamorza (dried mozzarella - you can't use fresh mozzarella because it has too much water and would soak the bread dough). Sprinkle the Scamorza and the grated Parmesan on top.
  12. Cook the bread for about 40 minutes, until it's golden, and when you tap on it, it sounds hollow. You cannot use the toothpick method here to test for doneness because the ingedients in the middle are moist and you probably will get cheese in the toothpick rather then uncooked dough.
  13. Let cool, cut in squares or slices with a serated knife and serve warm or cold.
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Tags: bread, cheese, ham, rich, salami, savory

Comments (4) Questions (1)

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over 2 years ago Maria Teresa Jorge

I have updated the recipe to use dry yeast instead of fresh yeast which is more difficult to get in the US.

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about 5 years ago Lisa Maria

Oh my goodness, that looks delicious. Sadly, I do not have standing mixer. Any thoughts/suggestions on trying to make this by hand?:-) Thanks!

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about 5 years ago Maria Teresa Jorge

Lisa, before I did it by hand, it just takes a bit more time. Do everything the same mixing by hand the flour with the wet ingredients. When everyhting is well mixed turn it out on a big board or marble top, whichever you have, and work the dough for about 15 minutes until it starts to unglue from the working surface (at the begginning it is very gluey but eventually it starts to stick together). If you have a bread cookbook look at the movements of kneading rich bread dough by hand, it's a pull and stretch movement. You want to get air in the dough and work a lot of gluten in it so it rises ell and is light dough. If you need any more help tell me. Thank you and hope it comes out well.

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about 5 years ago Lisa Maria

Oh my goodness, that looks delicious. Sadly, I do not have standing mixer. Any thoughts/suggestions on trying to make this by hand?:-) Thanks!