Pane al Formaggio: Italian Cheese Bread

This month I have returned to breads made with yeast, particularly those from one of my favourite reads, The Italian Baker, by Carol Field. Carol Field journeyed through villages and homes throughout the Italian countryside to collect recipes. They were then published in her original volume in 1985. This classic was revised in 2011. Few photos or glossy styled food shots adorn this book. It is a pleasure to read even if you never bake from it. It is often assumed, because of its title and appealing photo of ciabatta on the front cover, that it deals solely with bead: in fact, there are numerous chapters on cakes, biscuits and pastry, some of the latter collected from Nonne in remote villages, recipes that are tinged with nostalgia e memorie.

A traditional walnut cake made by the older folk in Vaireggio, Toscana
A traditional walnut cake made by the older folk in Viareggio, Toscana, Italia.

A good egg enriched cheese bread is not a daily offering but a special treat to go with a creamy soup, a celery velouté, for example. I followed Field’s recipe for this, but decided to make dinner rolls and a little bâtard with the final dough. The recipe is simple and precise, but next time, I might use all the little odds and ends of leftover cheese residing in boxes in the fridge.

The recipe includes details for making the bread by hand, by mixer and food processor. Each method is a little different. I am using a stand mixer, because I am lucky enough to have one: it gets a good workout every week and was a worthwhile investment.

Pane al Formaggio– Cheese bread.

  • 2½ or 7 g active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons or 30 g olive oil
  • 3¾ cups or 500 g unbleached bakers flour
  • 2 teaspoons or 10 g salt
  • ½ cup or 75 g grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup or 50 g grated pecorino cheese
  • cornmeal
  • I large egg white, beaten, for glazing.

Method By Stand Mixer

Stir the yeast into the water in a mixer bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Mix in the eggs and oil with the paddle, then the flour, salt and cheeses. Change to the dough hook and knead until firm, velvety and elastic, 3- 4 minutes. The texture may be slightly grainy from the cheeses.

First Rise.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.

Second Rise and shaping.

Punch the dough down on a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Cut the dough in half and shape each piece into a round loaf or batârd shape. Place on a baking sheet or peel sprinkled with cornmeal, cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

six rolls and a batard, ready for the oven.
six rolls and a batard, ready for the oven.


Thirty minutes before baking, preheat the oven with a baking stone ( if you have one)  to 220c. Just before baking,  baste the loaves with the egg white. Slash the long loaves with three parallel cuts. Sprinkle the stone with cornmeal and slide the loaves onto it. Bake for 40 minutes, spraying the oven three tines with water in the first 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Panini al formaggio.
Panini al formaggio.

The Italian Baker, revised. Carol Field, 2011. Ten Speed Press.

Another contribution to Leah’s Cookbook Guru, who is highlighting The Italian Baker this month.




28 thoughts on “Pane al Formaggio: Italian Cheese Bread”

  1. It must taste and smell delicious in your house! Where do you buy good walnuts that are not strong tasting but fresh? I fluked it and found some decent new season ones at Woolies a month or so ago, but other than that I really struggle. Just wondering if there is an online place one can buy them? Dale introduced me to the Nambucca Macnuts for macadamias and that are delicious, much better than the ones I can buy in retails stores. x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I buy them in two places in Brunswick which have good turnover and packing of nuts, grains and spices on site. One is Bas foods, in Victoria St, Brunswick and the other is Royal Nut company, near the corner of Sydney Road and Albion St, Brunswick. Not sure about online supplies.
      I know what you mean about walnuts- sometimes they can taste bitter.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. My grasp of Thai is bad too. You would think after 15 or more visits that I would progress beyond good morning and thank you! Maybe the typos are coming from too cold fingers or an addled brain now that we are six in the family and I am chief cook!

          Liked by 1 person

    2. I bought but haven’t yet opened the pack of Woolworths Select Australian Walnuts… after reading an article that Walnuts Australia from Leeton are supplying Woolworths for its Select brand.


  2. Do I need another cookbook? Hell No. But The Italian Baker, by Carol Field looks so good and so does your bread… I’ve added it to my wish-list so it’s likely just a matter of time until it ends up on my bookshelf!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent way to use up those ends of cheese! I’ve been making something like this for years (minus the eggs), but your rolls look so light and delicious. Must try Field’s variation. I expect it is the addition of the egg which makes it a softer dough. And, yes, every time I make them, the smell drives the inhabitants of our house mad – salivating and eager to snatch them straight from the oven. I really love Field’s bread chapters. Typos are the bane of our online existence. I have my own personal copyeditor who usually corrects mine – but only after they’ve been posted!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, my copy editor is either too busy to do it before the post but loves pointing out things after it’s published. He loves lots of little paragraphs. I don’t fancy so many at all. He can get a bit legalistic and pedantic about terms- his training I suppose and we also disagree here too.
      The eggs made a huge difference. The little rolls were so light. will keep this recipe for the guests.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow Francesca .. I bet you can do that with your eyes closed! Oh it sounds too delicious. And of course I adore cheese .. who doesn’t? LOL .. Spray the oven with water .. now that sounds interesting. I am yet to bake one loaf .. but I can feel that things are starting to change. Thank you F!


  5. I think I might have to get my hands on Carol’s book! Have you read “The Tuscan Year” by Elizabeth Romer? I love it and still occasionally pull it out when I want to escape. I might try this using my cheeses I picked up in Brunswick!


    1. Thanks for the recommendation Fergie, I’m looking for a few books to load onto my Kindle as I’m off again on Sunday. I love those renovation, I’ve moved to Italy, crazy neighbours books. Some are better than others but all do the escape trick.
      Hahah, had to leave Brunswick without more cheese!


  6. Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    Who could go past a combination of cheese and bread together? Francesca has shared with us another delicious loaf from The Italian Baker by Carol Field as part of our Cookbook Guru collective. The bread looks fabulous and I can almost taste the smells that must of emanated from the oven when this was baking. Make sure you check out the post.

    Happy Reading and Happy Baking,


    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m really trying to clean out the fridge and freezer at the moment and I’m sure I have some rather aged Stilton up the back – not very Italian but would also make a bread that would be fantastic with celery soup I feel 🙂


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