Week 92: Muffuletta Sandwich Bread

NEW ORLEANS by way of SICILY: A focaccia-type bun, that was traditionally served for breakfast during Festa dei Morti (Day of the Dead), and topped with olive oil, anchovies, oregano, and caciocavallo cheese. It’s ties to New Orleans are through Salvatore Lupo, an Italian immigrant who opened the Central Grocery & Deli in the French Quarter, and began making his own version of the stuffed focaccia. Legend says that at lunchtime, farmers would buy a loaf of muffuletta bread, sliced deli meats, olives and cheese, and then proceed to eat standing up. Lupo decided to put all the ingredients together in a sandwich to make it easier for them to enjoy their lunch.

Today’s muffuletta sandwich feeds 4-6 people and is made with a large 14″ round loaf. It consists of layers of marinated olive salad, mortadella, salami, ham, and provolone, mozzarella and Swiss cheeses. Although Central Grocery has been closed since Hurricane Ida, you can still order a muffuletta and/or jars of their olive salad to ship anywhere in the U.S. And, here’s a good recipe for olive salad if you want to make your own.

Napoleon House is another place in the Quarter that folks like to go for their muffuletta. They serve the sandwich heated, which I prefer because then the crust is crunchy, but of course, there’s a TON of controversy surrounding that!

how to make a muffaletta

This version is adapted form the muffaletta recipe on the King Arthur Baking website. I used the ingredients exactly as listed, and it produces a superb loaf. But my method is a little different, so I’ve written out instructions below. And be forwarned: timing is a factor, and it’s important to figure out what schedule you’re going to follow before you begin. You can start in the evening, before you go to bed, or first thing in the morning. Also, you need a 14″ pizza pan to bake the bread.

Start just before bedtimeStart in the morning
10:00pm – 8:00am, First rise, 8 hours10:00AM – 6:00pm, First rise 8 hours
9:00am – 10:00am, 2nd rise: 1 hour6:00pm – 7:00pm, 2nd rise: 1 hour
10:30am – 12:30pm, 3rd rise: 2 hours8:30pm – 10:30pm, 3rd rise: 2 hours
1:00pm – 9:00pm, 4th rise: 8 hours11:00pm – 8:00am, 4th rise: 9 hours
9:30pm -10:00pm, 5th rise: 30 minutes8:30am -9:00am, 5th rise: 30 minutes

Step 1: Make starter (8 hour rest)

  • 113g water
  • 120g all purpose flour
  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast
  1. Mix the starter ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl, cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.

Step 2: Make dough

  • 420g all purpose flour
  • 227g water
  • 9g salt
  • 1/4 tsp instant yeast
  • All of the starter
  1. Measure the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Add the starter.
  3. Mix with the handle of a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.
  1. Using a dough scraper, do some in-bowl stretch and folds. You’ll notice the dough begin to get a little smoother as you go around and around the bowl.
  2. Cover and let rise 1 hour.

Step 3: Envelope kneading, proofing, and shaping

  1. Scrape the dough out onto a to a lightly oiled countertop.
  2. Deflate the dough and press it into a rectangle. Do 2 envelope folds: first stretch out and fold the right end over to the center, then stretch out and fold the left end over that. Then do the same from the top end and the bottom end. Turn it over and place into an oiled bowl.
  3. Cover and let rest 2 hours.
  1. Scrape dough back out onto the oiled countertop.
  2. Deflate it, then pull the sides out and over towards the center to form a circle. Turn it over and shape into a ball, dragging it along a dry part of the countertop to make the top taught.
  1. Press into a flat round.
  2. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
  3. Place the disc onto a piece of round parchment, cut to fit into a 14″ pizza pan and pat or roll the dough into a 14″ round. If it keeps springing back, just cover and let it rest for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cover and let rest in the fridge for 8 hours.

Step 4: Bake

  • 1 egg white, beaten with 2 tbsp water
  • about 1 tbsp white sesame seeds
  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. After 30 minutes, or when the oven is at 350, uncover the dough and brush the top with egg white and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  4. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s a light golden brown and the internal temperature is 190°F when measured with a digital thermometer.
  5. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Sandwich fillings

  • 4 oz. genoa salami
  • 4 oz. soppresata
  • 5 oz. thinly sliced black forest ham or capicola
  • 8 oz. provolone cheese, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. Swiss cheese, thinly sliced
  • 8 oz. mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • olive salad

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