Easter Ham Baked in Bread Dough
Where I come from holidays are all about food. A good, hearty and, above all, huge meal is undoubtedly the leitmotif of all festivities in Croatia. Food has the power to bring us together, evoke loving memories and create new unforgettable moments.
Every holiday meal, although essentially the same, is a unique experience. It tells a different version of the story you’ve heard so many times before, the story you love, and it can still surprise you in the most pleasant ways.
If there’s something I look forward to every Easter, it must be the ham. Don’t get me wrong, I like colorful Easter eggs, Pinca, spring onions, radishes and all the other Easter stuff, but ham is the highlight for me. We’re not talking any random dull ham here. Oh, no. Croatian Easter ham really is something else.
The ham is cooked and cooled in the cooking water overnight so it stays nice and juicy. It then gets wrapped into a rustic homemade bread dough and baked in the oven until the ham is cooked through and the bread gets this gorgeous golden-brown color. The crust is thin and crispy and the flavor of the bread is just sensational. The dough soaks up some of the ham juices during baking and becomes soft and gorgeous. And the ham itself… Oh, it’s the juiciest and most succulent piece of meat you can imagine.
Easter Ham Baked in Bread Dough
20 grams fresh yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
400 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
300-350 ml warm water
For the bread, proof the yeast by mixing it with some warm water and a teaspoon of sugar. Let it stand for a few minutes in a warm place until it becomes foamy. Meanwhile, mix both flours and salt in a bowl with a wooden spoon. Incorporate the yeast mixture to the flour. Mix with an electric mixer (paddle attachments) and gradually add warm water until you obtain a dough that detaches itself from the edges of the bowl. You may need a bit more or less water, depending on the quality of flour. The dough will be firm but sticky, but don’t worry. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and a clean kitchen cloth and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles in volume (30-45 minutes). Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly for a minute or two, and then return it to the bowl. Cover with plastic and a cloth and let it rise again until it doubles in volume. Repeat this process 2 times.
After the dough has risen three times, you can proceed to form the bread. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a rectangle about 2cm thick. Put the ham in the middle, wrap the dough around it and seal it. If necessary, brush some water on the dough to help it stick together and pinch it with your fingers to help it seal. Transfer to a parchment covered baking sheet seam side down, cover with a cloth and let rise for 30-40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Just before you put the bread in, sprinkle some water over the oven to create steam. Immediately put the bread in and close the oven door. Every 15 minutes during the baking time, sprinkle some more water into the oven to create additional steam. Steam helps the crust stay thin and crispy, rather than thick and hard to chew. Bake for 1 hour or until the crust is nice and golden.
Wrap the hot bread into a damp cloth and let it cool completely. Wrapped into a cloth and a plastic bag, the bread will stay fresh for couple of days.
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