For the love of scali bread…

Scali bread. If you’re from Boston, you grew up with it; it was the daily bread of choice for most Italian families. And a common offering in sandwich shops, as in “Ya want that on white, wheat, rye, or scali?” Now, it’s sold at Trader Joe’s. And if you google scali, you’ll find all kinds of recipes and discussion about it.

This shiny, mahogany-brown loaf, heavily coated with nutty sesame seeds, has lots of low-key buzz surrounding it; I’d say it has good mojo. (A word to my son, Nik: if I’m using that word wrong, DON’T bother to tell me. Thank you.) And, I have a personal attachment to scali bread: it was my first “showoff” loaf, made strictly to impress someone—my new husband.

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We were walking through the grocery store hand in hand (remember those days? Grocery shopping as part of the ongoing courtship ritual?), and he casually threw this seedy braid into the shopping cart—without consulting me, the designated shopping maven.

“We don’t need any bread,” I offered, thinking of the Pepperidge Farm thin-sliced sandwich loaf in the breadbox at home.

“We don’t have any bread,” he said.

“We have Pepperidge Farm,” I countered.

“That’s not bread.”

Uh…. I had no rejoinder. Pepperidge Farm, beloved companion of my childhood, not bread? Toasted bearer of butter and jam in the morning, sandwicher of PB & J at noontime, the perfect loaf for grilled cheese—NOT BREAD? I let it slide. We were newlyweds, after all, still testing the waters of potential marital discord.

Later, at home, I asked Rick what he was going to do with the scali bread. I thought there might be some strange Italian food ritual surrounding it. Like, you can ONLY eat spaghetti and meatballs with scali bread.

He looked at me strangely. “Eat it?” he ventured.

“I’m not planning on making spaghetti,” I said.

Mystified, Rick offered that scali bread was eaten with EVERY meal. Just as Pepperidge Farm was my daily companion, scali was his. He toasted it for breakfast, had sandwiches on it at lunch, and wiped his plate clean with it at dinner. Scali bread quickly earned a permanent spot on my shopping list.

And soon, I learned to make it. I was a budding bread baker, and despite its appearance, scali was pretty simple to make. I’ve since tweaked the recipe, adding an overnight starter for flavor, some milk powder for texture, but scali has remained a regular in my repertoire for over 30 years now.

Rick and I are both grayer, slower, and more creaky than we were when I first learned about scali. And we occasionally still grocery shop together, though he’s more interested in browsing the wine section than trailing me through frozen foods. I still love my Pepperidge Farm-style white bread (though I’ve learned to make my own). He still loves his scali. And we still love each other. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Here’s my tried-and-true recipe for Scali Bread.

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As with many crusty artisan-style loaves, we begin by making a starter, a simple combination of flour, water, and yeast. Overnight, this gnarly little ball of dough is transformed into…

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…a lovely, bubbly mass of dough.

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Mix the starter with the remaining dough ingredients.

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That unassuming mixture becomes a lovely, smooth, slightly sticky dough.

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Set it in a greased, covered container to rise for 2 hours.

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Ahhh, VERY nice!

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Next, spray a work surface (here I’m using a silicone rolling mat) with vegetable oil spray. I use Everbake; it’s a good all-purpose spray that, when you use it on your baking pans, doesn’t leave that icky dark goo that some sprays leave. Divide the dough into three equal pieces, and gently pull them into rough logs. Walk away for 10 minutes; you can leave the dough uncovered. This gives the gluten in the dough a chance to relax, which will make it easier to roll into ropes.

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Gently roll the dough under your cupped fingers to make ropes about 24” long.

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Paint each rope with 1 large egg white beaten with 1 tablespoon water. This “liquid glue” will make the sesame seeds adhere nicely.

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Sprinkle heavily with seeds, rolling the ropes gently on the work surface to pick up as many fallen seeds as possible.

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Squeeze the three ropes together at one end…

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…and start to braid. Cross the left- and right-side pieces, alternating them, over the piece in the center.

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Keep going, trying not to stretch the dough too much. Stretching it could result in a misshapen braid, as the gluten will want to shrink back again as the braid rises.

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When you run out of rope, squeeze the ends together. Tuck both ends underneath to make a neat loaf.

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Cover the braid and let it rise till it’s very puffy, 1 to 2 hours.

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Bake the loaf to transform it into a shiny gold, seed-studded work of art—scali bread!

Find the recipe online by clicking here: Scali Bread.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. Bridget

    What a lovely story AND I can’t wait to try this bread. Being of Irish and French heritage, raised in Texas, I’ve never heard of it. :) Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
  2. PJ Hamel

    Bridget, I’m Irish, too. And I’ve had a LOT more success baking scali bread than any typical Irish bread—aside from Americanized Irish soda bread. My attempts at “true” Irish soda bread (whole wheat flour, buttermilk, baking soda…) have been dry and basically flavorless. If anyone has a “basic” Irish soda bread recipe (without the raisins, caraway, sugar, etc.) that they think is actually tasty, I’d love to know about it!

    Reply
    1. kim

      Oddly enough Fannie farmers latest edition has a traditional soda bread recipe that always works for me

  3. Cindy Y

    Wow PJ, what a beautiful loaf! I’m also Irish & I must have been drawn to this page by the fairies. I’ll try this one this weekend. My first job was in an Italian bakery and this was one of my favorites. We used to swap pastries for deli meats with a shop down the street and I still remember the wonderful smell of hot scali, mortadella, salami & provalone sandwiches hot from the oven. No way not to get busted by the owner when he came in to count stales in the afternoon & he always joined us for a bite. Thanks for sharing it.

    Reply
  4. deb

    Heee, oh yes….I remember those days of grocery shopping together, hand in hand.
    What a great story.
    Thanks for the recipe, I can’t wait to try it.
    Oh and thank you for all the great pictures on step by step tutorial, it really helps.

    Reply
  5. Candace

    Looks like this will be a scali bread weekend! (as well as oatmeal bread for the weeks lunches) PJ, I think it was somewhere on the blog that I saw a comment about cooking spray. Some kind that doesn’t leave that gunk all over the pan where the baked good doesn’t touch? Maybe called Ever-or Easy -something? Please tell us again what kind it is and is it available in supermarkets? Shaw’s only has Mazola and Pam.

    Reply
  6. Bev

    OH, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your posting this recipe. I can’t get decent bread in the part of SC where I live. The closest good stuff is about 100 miles away in either direction! Thanks a bunch.

    Reply
    1. sandra

      Im in northern VA we now have good bread since Wegmans moved in..im originally from the Boston area and love good bread

  7. LeAnne

    Thanks for the lesson and background on Scali bread. I’ve just noticed it popping up in the grocery stores in town and had no idea what it was. Now I’m looking forward to trying my hand at baking some myself!

    Reply
  8. PJ Hamel

    Candace, I was referring to Everbake, which is the professional pan spray we use here in our test kitchen. We also sell it—go back up into the photo section, and the picture where you’ve divided the dough into three logs has a link to Everbake underneath. I recommend it highly!
    Bev, good luck – with gas prices what they are, avoiding a 200-mile round trip for bread is a very good thing.
    LeAnne, best of luck; this is a lovely easy, forgiving bread dough, and I’m sure you’ll do just fine with it. Cheers, everyone-

    Reply
  9. Phil

    I’m new to this blog. How do you get it from the work surface to the oven? with a peale? do you bake it on a stone? Looks great!

    Reply
  10. betty vickers

    Up til now I have viewed this computer as a necessary evil Thank you so much for the lovely essay and a great recipe Again Thank you B

    Reply
  11. PJ Hamel

    Phil, I braided it on the mat, then simply picked it up and put it on a parchment-lined baking sheet; let it rise there, and put pan and bread into the oven to bake. If you want to bake on a stone, braid the loaf and then transfer to parchment; or braid it right on the parchment. When it’s ready to bake, use whatever you have (peel, bottom of a baking sheet) to transfer the bread, parchment and all, to the stone. The bread’s crust doesn’t have to touch the stone directly to get the benefit; that layer of parchment in between won’t hurt anything, and it makes it a heck of a lot easier to move the loaf from counter to stone, and stone to cooling rack.

    Reply
  12. Karina

    I loved hearing about the different culinary backgrounds you and your husband came from, I’m fascinated by the ways different families eat and how couples blend those traditions. Thanks for sharing!

    What a gorgeous loaf of bread, I just love how pretty braided breads are without being all that much work! I’ll have to try this recipe soon!

    Reply
  13. Beth

    PJ, The photos and your essay were wonderful. I did notice, however, that in your actual recipe for the scali bread, you don’t list the sesame seeds with your ingredients, and you also don’t mention when to sprinkle them on the dough. That sure is a beautiful loaf, though. I need to rush out and buy some sesame seeds!! Thanks for the love story too.

    Reply
  14. PJ Hamel

    Beth, thanks for the heads-up—I went in and fixed the recipe. Doh!

    Karina, I agree – I’m all for “beauty without the work.” And since many of us learn to make braids as kids, it’s not hard to apply that skill to bread later in life.

    Reply
  15. Marj

    I made the starter last night and this mornig it looks like your first picture not the 2nd lovely bubbly picture. It looks it needs more water than the recipe’s 1/3 of water. I am going to replace it with a little sourdough starter and see if it helps…. going to continue now… Please clarify, thanks.

    Reply
  16. PJ Hamel , post author

    Marj, did you use instant yeast? We use SAF Red instant yeast in the test kitchen. If you used active dry, it might not have been as fresh/vigorous; also, you would have needed to dissolve it in the water first, and use more of it. Perhaps that’s what happened?

    Reply
  17. PJ Hamel

    Great job, Doberlady! I see you’ve already sampled a piece… Isn’t that just the easiest, best bread? A real keeper recipe. (Do you raise Dobermans, by any chance?)

    Reply
  18. Marj

    The scali bread turned out good – not as brown as the picture. It is still very good with crunchy crust and soft bread. Next time I will make the braids looser. Yum!

    Reply
  19. Candace

    PJ, I made the Scali and had the same results as others. My starter was dry, too, so I added a bit of extra water right at the start. I thought it was because I have a wood cook stove and the air here was dry from that. Then this AM the starter looked just like Marj’s. Didn’t want to throw it out cause it’s too much fun to experiment. I added extra water to the bread machine and it seems OK, just not shiny. It’s only 3-ish inches tall, though, and I remember you said it’s used for sandwiches. How do you get it to go taller instead of wider?

    Reply
  20. PJ Hamel

    Candace, this IS a dry starter; it takes some work to integrate all the flour into the water. Did you measure flour by the sprinkle and sweep method, i.e., sprinkle it gently into the cu, then sweep off the excess? A cup of King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour measured this way should weigh 4 1/4 ounces. Did you use good, fresh instant yeast? Did you give it 15-16 hours or so? I should be more specific; to me, overnight means 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. I’ll go in and fix the recipe to clarify. Shininess comes from the beaten egg white. And yes, mine is only about 3″ tall. Just slice it crosswise, like you would any loaf, and make 3″-wide, 5″ to 6″ long sandwiches; same square inches as a 4″ to 4 1/2″ square sandwich, just a different shape. Hope this helps-

    Reply
  21. Doberlady

    PJ- Yes, we raise Dobermans :) They are the sweetest dogs. The bread is way easy and tastes like it should be harder! The dough was so easy to work with. I sent my parents home with 1 of the loaves and we sampled the other for sandwiches. My kids loved it! Thanks so much for the recipe!!

    Reply
  22. Melinda

    PJ — I also had trouble with the starter being really dry, even after 18 hours had passed. I went ahead and used it as it was and the bread turned out great. Next time I’ll add more water to it. Also, it wasn’t shiny like yours but still very nice. Maybe I should have used the entire egg and not just the white. Thanks for the recipe. It was really tasty!

    Reply
  23. PJ Hamel

    Melinda, go ahead and use a bit more water; it won’t hurt anything. There’s often a big difference in the dryness of flour in different parts of the country; as well as a difference in how we all measure. the egg white should have made a nice, shiny loaf; the yolk will make it darker and shiny. Again, give it a try; the experimenting is half the fun!

    Reply
  24. marie foohey

    I can’t wait to make this for my dad. He keeps asking me to find a recipe for the italian bread his mom used to make covered with sesame seeds. When i showed him the picture he yelled”THATS IT” and when are you going to make it? I told him after I make the gruyere cheese bread today!!!!!

    Reply
  25. Marj

    This bread is so tasty, I have to bake this again today. Here is what I’ve learned.

    – Have to add the pinch of yeast to the water and mix first (then it looked more like the picture), but I still replace ¼ with the sourdough starter.
    – Overnight meant from 4 pm till 8 am 16 hours per PJ
    – The logs are about 18” to 20” long not 24” (I guessed it from the picture as I have the same KA Rolling Mat)
    – Brush more egg white before baking

    Viloa!! The Scali bread turned out just like the picture! I am gong to take a picture and show it soon.

    I will make the Cheese brad coming weekend!

    Thanks again!!

    Reply
  26. Susan

    Hi PJ,

    You askedabout an basic Irish soda bread recipe; I’ve had great luck with this one, found at http://lowfatcooking.about.com/od/bakedgoods/r/sodabread.htm :

    INGREDIENTS:
    3 cups all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 tsp baking soda
    1 1/2 tsp salt
    1 1/2 cups low fat buttermilk

    PREPARATION:
    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    In a large bowl, stir dry ingredients together with a whisk. Make a well in the center and add 1 cup of the buttermilk, reserving 1/2 cup. Combine dry ingredients and buttermilk with a fork, gradually adding more of the remaining liquid until a soft dough is formed.

    Knead the dough lightly on a floured surface for 1 minute. Form into a slightly flattened circle. Place on a parchment lined (or silicone baking mat) cookie sheet. Mark a large 1/2-inch deep X with a sharp knife and bake soda bread for 40-45 minutes. The bread is ready when it is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

    Yield 1 round loaf (8-10 wedges or slices).

    Reply
  27. PJ Hamel

    Susan, thanks for the recipe I’ll definitely try it. I think I’ll enjoy it more with AP flour than the usual whole wheat…

    Reply
  28. Kat DeFonce

    Your essay brought back wonderful memories of my Italian-Irish husband and my French-Dutch self going shopping, discussing holiday celebrations and the like! My late, Italian born father-in-law was always asking me to make Scalli. Although I was able to make all of his other favorites, I was never able to find the recipe for Scalli and my attempts at recreation never quite filled the bill. I can’t wait to begin the starter tonight! Thanks.

    Reply
  29. coleen

    Thanks for the recipe and the detailed instructions with pictures. I’ve been looking for a recipe like this for a while now; I just didn’t know what the bread was called. Funny, I had just purchased sesame seeds about two days before seeing the recipe in the blog. I plan on making up the starter tonight.

    Reply
  30. Tom

    What is good to cover it with while it rises? What is good to “grease” the container with? Is it ok to leave it on the parchment paper and put that on the stone to bake (while on the parchment paper)?? I can never slide it into my oven without deflating it.

    Reply
  31. PJ Hamel , post author

    Tom, you can cover it with greased plastic wrap, tenting it lightly. Grease it with vegetable oil spray – olive oil spray is a good choice. But what I do is take a big cheap plastic cover from a supermarket bakery cake – or a “party platter” – and simply put it on top of the bread. You need a big one, but once you find one, hang onto it! It’s a great “proof cover”. If you’re baking on a stone, yes, leave the bread right on the parchment, and slide it, parchment and all, onto the stone. The parchment won’t negate the effects of the hot stone. And you’ll never deflate your bread when you use parchment.

    Reply
  32. Tena

    My husband & I happened to be in the Boston area late last week. One of my ‘souvenirs’ was a loaf of scali from Bob’s, an Italian market in Medford. I’ve been eking it out, but now I won’t need to. Thanks!

    Reply
  33. Rose

    Good looking loaf of bread but it is NOT Scala or Scali. My grandfather actually had an Italian Bread Bakery and made Scala, Vienna, French Sticks, Hard Rolls, Rounds, large and small every day. His Scala didn’t have big air pockets and was run through a “dough breaker” many times until it had an almost cake like, fine texture.
    Also, he didn’t braid it, but made a long rope and pushed it together accordion like. The only way I know of coming even close to the way his looked and tasted, is to mix the dry ingredients in a Cuisinart, including instant yeast, then adding the liquid last. It has something to do with not oxidizing the dough.

    Reply
  34. Morwen

    Here’s a brown bread recipe from Co. Clare Ireland. Since I’ve started making it with KA Irish-style Wholemeal Flour it tastes exactly as it did at the B&B where I got the recipe! It had a bitter taste when made with regular ww flour. That’s gone when using the Irish style! It’s rich, dark and begs for Irish butter or clotted cream and jam!

    3 1/2 c KA Irish-style wholemeal flour
    4 Tbsp oatmeal
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 c mixed seeds and grains (poppy, sesame, millet, quinoa, wheat berries, etc)
    1/2 c coarse chopped nuts (any kind)
    2 Tbsp butter, cut in pieces
    2 Tbsp honey or dark molasses
    2 c buttermilk

    Preheat oven to 425
    Oil a loaf pan
    Combine dry ingredients
    Add butter and cut in until it looks like coarse crumbs
    Make a well in the center and add buttermilk and honey or molasses
    Stir from center incorporating flour a bit at a time. Dough will be soft and sticky.
    Bake about 40 minutes or until tester comes out clean. Bread wil be dark brown.
    Turn out on rack and cool.

    Reply
  35. Rose

    For those still wondering what to cover a bread with while rising. Try putting a loaf(s) into a large clear plastic bag.

    If any are still trying to make Scala, in addition to the usual flour, yeast, salt, water, try adding a tablespoon or two of powdered malt. That’s where the flavor of Scala comes from. Grandpa used a malt syrup, but the powdered form works.

    Also, for rising dough, get yourself a KA Rising bucket and don’t bother greasing the dough or the sides of the bucket.

    Reply
  36. Jon Moss

    My husband has dietary restrictions which prevent me from using all-purpose flour. Can KA White Whole Wheat be substituted in this recipe?

    Thanks,

    Jon Moss
    Lansing, KS

    Reply
  37. MJ

    This bread looks great. After reading all these comments I wonder how do you get the bread that is rising to the oven?

    Reply
  38. PJ Hamel , post author

    Jon – white whole wheat can be substituted; you’ll need to increase the rising times, and the bread will be denser.

    MJ – the bread is on a pan. Just pick up the pan and stick it in the oven – no problem!

    Reply
  39. Carolyn

    Thanks for totally rejuvenating my homesickness for the western Boston suburbs! I’ve been here in NC for 12 years and still miss bean town desperately. It was not being able to find scali bread at any store that pushed me into bread baking. (All the breads at the in-store bakeries seemed to be the same basic recipe, just in different shapes.) In my attempts at scali at home I used a recipe for Italian bread, made a braided loaf, sprayed it with ‘Quick Shine’ (from you-know-where!) and sprinkled on sesame seeds. It was OK, sure beat anything from the store, but somehow wasn’t quite right. I’ll try your recipe for next week’s loaf (and try to get to Chapel Hill where there is now a Trader Joe’s).

    Reply
  40. Jana

    Help I just grabbed the bread flour instead of the ap flour will this make much difference? I love this bread! I had out the bread flour for the cheese bread and oops! Not thinking, and since I got a big bag to use up can I subsutite it in the olive rolls? Thanks jana

    Reply
  41. PJ Hamel

    Sure, Jana – Just increase the water (probably by 2-3 tablespoons) to make up for the increased protein in the bread flour. Not a problem! Good luck-

    Reply
  42. Joyce

    Hi PJ:
    My seven and three year old grandsons are going to help me make this bread next Friday. They bake with me all the time. This week we made the stuffed baguettes, but I need to let them bake longer, no song.

    Wish me luck,
    Joyce

    Reply
  43. Jana

    Thank you for the advice the batch with the bread flour made me tear up it was so good. It was even better than the first batch I had made. My son says I love it when you bake bread!

    Reply
  44. Sheila

    Well, here goes this Irish girl from Philly, trying to make her favorite Italian bread. My starter was not real wet eiher and being a novice bread baker, I just added more water. Hope it works. I also used KA organic wheat flour for some of the flour. It’s rising now. I’ll keep you posted. I also love to see the posting of just regular bakers. I have a couple of great Irish bread recipies that I will dig out for anyone who wants. I think buttermilk is the secret to soda bread.
    p.s. this is my first posting to a blog, too!

    Reply
  45. PJ Hamel , post author

    Sheila, congrats on your first blog post! I think you’re going to like it here… I’m sure your starter will be fine. Using whole wheat flour will make a denser, somewhat drier bread, just so you understand if it doesn’t come out as pictured, but I’m sure it’ll be delish.
    We’re launching our new recipe site later this summer, and at some point will have a feature where bakers can share recipes. In the meantime, it’s easy to share on our forum: bakingcircle.com. Cheers!

    Reply
  46. June

    Woohoo! I jsut finished making the scali bread- thank you so much for the clear instructions! I doubled the recipe, which worked out okay. I would post a pic of the brown beauties if someone would tell me where and how :-)

    June- the Happy Baker!

    Reply
  47. June

    Another thing- I purchased a huge bag of sesame seeds at one of our little Oriental markets today for this bread- the price in the regular grocery store was prohibitive!

    Reply
  48. PJ

    Hi Bill— Put your thumb and first finger into the yeast, and grab a pinch… But if you want to measure, go with 1/16 of a teaspoon.

    Reply
  49. jami

    If I don’t have dry milk, could I use buttermilk powder without changing the taste too much? Since it’s only 2 T, I thought that might work…

    Jami, dried buttermilk powder has a different acidity level than just milk powder. You can substitute 1/2 cup of scalded and cooled milk for 1/2 cup of the liquid in the recipe, or just leave out the milk powder altogether.

    Happy Baking!
    ~MaryJane @The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  50. Michelle

    I just made this bread but it sort of came out flat…I think it spread out instead of up…but it sure does smell good!

    Reply
  51. Joyce

    PJ, I made this bread last Sunday and it was so delicious. So light. We loved it. My Mom made homemade pasta (with King Arthur Pasta Blend Flour) that was also delicious. Who needs to spend money at a fancy restaurant when you can have the best meals at home. I am anxious to make this again. One question. I am thinking of ordering the SAF Red Instant yeast from the catalogue. A comment in the description says the yeast can be frozen. Any idea how long it can be kept frozen without losing it’s power? Just wondering. I plan to make this often and the strip yeast can get expensive. Thanks PJ for such wonderful recipes. The pictures are great too.

    Joyce

    HI Joyce,

    You can freeze yeast for about a year. It will lose potency over time, so if it gets to be on the older side, you will want to proof it, even if it is instant yeast, to be sure it is still active.

    Happy Baking!

    MaryJane @ The Baker’s Hotline

    Reply
  52. Nancy

    Rose, I enjoyed your comments on Scala bread. I agree the stores today do not sell real Scala bread. The bread we used to purchase at Clyde’s in Plymouth, MA, and the same bread my mother bought when she was a child growing up in the north end of Mansfield was different. They called it Scala or horn bread, because of the shape it was made in. It was very crusty and very white with a very fine texture. There were no air bubbles.
    The crust had a faint salty taste, and it was fun to break off the four “horns” for snacking. Someone else in Plymouth is making the bread now, but it is not the same. It has big bubbles, and tastes like regular Italian bread. The real Scala or horn bread recipe seems to be kept secret, and passed on within families.

    Reply
  53. heylids

    Hello, I would like your pepperridge farm style bread recipe.
    The link on your blog doesn’t work.

    Thank you, I will also be trying your Scala bread, I’m Italian from Toronto
    Canada and have never heard of Scala…

    Thanks

    Link for our white sandwich bread should work now – we were having “tecnical difficulties” earlier today- PJH

    Reply
  54. Mary

    I made this bread over the weekend. It matched my memories of eating Scali bread from the italian bakery where I worked in high school in MA. Excellent bread for all kinds of meals: sopping up ‘gravy’, sandwiches, bruschetta, or just hot from the oven. Thank you!

    Reply
  55. Eleanor

    Thanks Nancy for your post.

    I was 12 years old the last time I enjoyed eating horm bread in Plymouth, Ma . I can still remember the light soft fine texture of the of the bread with a crust that could cut the corner of my mouth.

    I ask at the Itaian stores in the chicago area but they never heard of it. Does anyone have any information about this bread?

    Thanks

    Reply
  56. deb

    Eleanor, go to Boston.com then search “Recipe’s Past a Slice of Life” or hornbread. I did a search and found a recipe that came from a 92 year old woman so should be a good one. There’s also a photo of the bread – WOW. Evidenty you are right – they have worked to keep the recipe a secret for a very long time. Anyway – I hope this is what you’ve been looking for and that it’s exactly as you remember it.

    Reply
  57. Susan Smedile Berry

    Dear PJ,
    Thank you so much for posting this recipe, I am going to make the starter tonight and the bread tomorrow to have with lasagna. I have to share my story with you and tell you why I am so thankful to find this recipe and your story. I grew up in MA and my Dad worked for Green Freedman bakery in Boston. When I was young we would have all the bulkie rolls and Jewish rye we wanted and my Dad and G & F obliged. Once in a while Dad would surprise us with a loaf of scali from Quinzani’s bakery. It was absolutely wonderful! I now live in NC and have hoped to find a recipe for scali for a long time. Can’t wait to try this and Thank you again. Susan Smedile-Berry

    You’re welcome, Susan. Glad I could help you relive some nice memories… PJH

    Reply
  58. Carla (Bordonaro) Owens

    Scali bread! I grew up in a very traditional family in Boston and that was the only bread in our home. If you can believe it, I used to long for the lousy white bread my non-Italian friends would bring for sandwiches to school for lunch. I left the east coast at the age of 19 to move to CA and have not been able to find Scali bread anywhere, it is just not available out here. I have satisfied my desire for this wonderful bread by gorging on it on my annual visits to Boston. I am not a baker but this site has lit a fire under me, I have decided to learn to make this long time favorite!

    Carla, hope the reality matches your memories – I’m glad we’ve lit the fire! – PJH

    Reply
  59. maxine

    Thank you so much for the recipe. I live in Arkansas and missed the good breads available in Chicago where I lived as a young married woman. My husband is first generation Italian and I was introduced to good bread by his mother, but never had anything like the scali rolls I find at one of the Wal Mart super stores in the town across the river. Now I can make my own to be sure I have it to make my favorite sandwich.

    I love crusty bread and make a wonderful sandwich with the scali rolls. I slice the roll and butter the outside, then I open the roll and place it crust side out on a hot skillet and put a press on it. After it has developed a really crisp outer layer I remove the press and add munster cheese and thin sliced roast beef and heat until the cheese is melted. I add slices of avacodo and a tiny touch of Honey Royal french dressing. Maybe you will like it too!

    Oh, boy, Maxine – does that ever sound good! Now I have to go make some scali rolls… PJH

    Reply
  60. maxine

    I was so intrigued (sp) that I had to go right in the kitchen and mix the starter. I added a couple of tablespoons of extra water after reading some of the comments. I had nice bubbles in the starter to greet me today when I checked the bowl. It was about 10 hours when I started my dough. I added about a tablespoon of sugar to mine because of habit. I made 6 rolls using the same braiding technique since I wanted as much crust as possible.

    The rolls were magnificent with the best texture in the inside that I have ever made. My dear husband said the rolls were the perfect thickness for sandwiches, not too much dough in the middle. The crust was not quite as crisp as I wished, but still very good. I was very careful not to knead in too much flour, I used my bench scraper to keep kneading by hand before I finished off to a good medium firmness. I normally use a food processor but I was determined to make my best effort and it really paid off. I made a corned beef and sliced it thin to serve on the rolls.

    One thing I did differently, I put a pan of boiling water on the bottom rack hoping to get a better crust, one of the bakers at the Wal Mart said they steamed the rolls before they baked them. Has anyone ever steamed the outside of theirsbefore baking. That is why I used the water in the bottom of the oven. Next time I will try my steam cleaner or clothes steamer to get a better crust texture.

    I have one recipe with smoked sausage wrapped in dough that is dipped in boiling water then in butter before baking. that does a beautiful crust. I made that recipe up to make something similar to the bagle dogs from Schwans frozen foods. I use the cheddar smoked sausage for the meat in the center or good kosher hot dogs. This dough would work well in that recipe.

    I already have another batch of starter mixed for tomorrow.

    Thank you so much for the recipe. It will be with me until I can no longer bake my own bread. I will visit this site often in the future.

    Maxine, thanks so much for connecting here. Steam does indeed make a crisp, somewhat (minimally) shiny crust. When making artisan breads, I often put a shallow pan on the lowest rack of the oven, then add a cup of hot water at the same time I put my bread in the oven. I also usually spray the bread with water before baking. Boiling the dough (like bagels) produces more of a shiny/chewy crust than crisp, I’ve found. I’m interested in what would happen if you steamed bread in your clothes steamer first – report back, please! Glad you found us – PJH

    Reply
  61. maxine

    Hi PJH,

    You are right about the chewy texture, but I like to crisp this up by wetting the outside and reheating in a hot oven until crisp or grilling the outside of the roll in a heavy skillet. This is best done with a day old roll.

    After thinking about the problem I figured out a way to steam the rolls without using an steamer machine. None of my vegetable steaming equipment would allow room for the rolls so I found a round cake cooling rack that just fit in my 12 inch heavy stainless steel skillet. I can fit 4 rolls on it.

    I Made up another recipe of scali dough and wrapped better cheddar dogs with rounds of dough. I glazed them with egg white and put the “bagle dogs” on parchment paper on the rack and lowered it in the skillet and covered it the skillet, they steamed for about 8 minutes. I moved the rack into a 400 degree oven and baked the rolls until they were medium brown. It was so much easier than dipping in the boiling water and worked better, I think, because of the egg wash. My husband likes a softer crust so I will do half of the rolls steamed and the other half of the recipe baked just as the original recipe suggests.

    I also made some caramel nut rolls out of the recipe, they were great as well.

    Maxine, you have some imagination going there – everything sounds wonderful! I’m going to try steaming bagels instead of boiling next time around, see what the difference is. Thanks for the hint- PJH

    Reply
  62. Daniel

    hi PJ, just wanted you to know that i have tried your scali bread and it came out looking just like it should only i didn’t get the rise i was hoping for and the flavor and texture wasn’t the same as i get at the bakery. any ideas why? my starter was dry with a crust on it like others have said but it still mixed fine and made a good dough. what can i di to get it to rise more and be more airy and not so dense? thanks for any advise, i love scali and live in maine and just can’t find it here so i was excited to make it.

    You might want to begin by checking your yeast, if your dough is not rising. There may be several differences between this recipe and you local bakery’s. These would account for a different flavor and texture. Frank from KAF>

    Reply
  63. Carissa

    This bread is fantastic. It is good with everything. I am still working on getting it to stay looking pretty as I move from my work surface to the bread stone. Any hints?

    Parchment. Shape right on parchment, pick up loaf/parchment with a big peel (or slide onto the back of a cookie sheet), and slide right onto the stone. No sticking, no pulling out of shape. Give it a try, Carissa – PJH

    Reply
  64. wendy

    What is the difference between “rapid rising” yeast, and “instant” yeast? I used “rapid rising” in the recipe for Scali as my market does not carry packets/ jars of yeast marked “instant”. I am still waiting out the last rising before baking the bread, but so far the process seems to be going as per instructions, though the starter was dry-ish and not as pictured in the photo. Will post again once bread has been baked. This is my first try at yeast bread, but if I want Scali, I must resort to making my own; it is non existent in upstate NY, and I am a native of suburban Boston who really loves her Scali!! :)
    We don’t recommend Rapid Rise yeast as it uses all its energy good rise and doesn’t leave much for the second, which doesn’t give you that delicious taste. Molly @ KAF

    Reply
  65. Andrea

    I grew up eating Scali bread as our staple bread – used for toast with breakfast, used for sandwiches for lunch and ALWAYS with dinner to clean your plate with. I was excited to see a recipe and try it myself. As an amateur bread maker I was hesitant but I went for it and was so happy I did. The bread came out beautifully! I cut a few slices while it was still warm and brought to my parents to try (and in true Italian fashion – think of the Burrones and Everybody Loves Raymond – I only had to walk across the street).
    They enjoyed it just as much as I did. I love my Italian heritage was happy to be able to pay homage to it by making this myself instead of buying it at the grocery store. Thank you for the great recipe and clear instructions. I enjoyed the experience of making the bread just as much as eating it!

    Wonderful, Andrea – thanks for your report. I’m glad the scali turned out well for you. Next up: Easter Pie. And zeppole! PJH

    Reply
  66. Inez

    I have my first loaf of Scali in the oven now. The proportions of the starter are exactly the same as others I have made. My problem was I did not use instant yeast and forgot to proof it. Problem solved. I proofed a little more in some water and added it along with a little more flour. I adjusted the amounts of flour and water in the recipe – I can’t wait until it comes out. Yum yum

    I’m sure it’ll be just fine, Inez- yeast is VERY forgiving, no matter what kind you use. We prefer instant because it’s just so darned convenient and inexpensive, but active dry was a standby for years. Thanks for connecting here- PJH

    Reply
  67. Mike Cutler

    It is imposible to buy Scali bread in Las Vegas, NV. I found it at Wallmart for a short time, and they haven’t been able to get it any more. It is the best bread I have had, but not sold here. I have tried to find some place on the internet to buy it, but there is just reciepts. Any ideas?
    Thanks, Mike

    Best idea is to make your own, Mike – Scali doesn’t travel well. Try our recipe, I think you’ll like it. I have my starter resting right now, so I can make it tomorrow morning. PJH

    Reply
  68. Andrew Janjigian

    PJ – Can you explain or provide photos of the roll making steps? It’s not obvious how you cut them. If I cut it crosswise, you get two cut ends per roll, so it’s not clear how you seal them and tuck them under. A single photo of a prepped roll would probably make it much clearer. Thanks! – aj

    AJ, I cut them straight down crosswise, using a baker’s bench knife. You could also use a pair of scissors. 3″ lengths. then, with cuts at either one or both ends, I squeezed those cut ends together (which I didn’t take a photo of, because I would have needed 3 hands); just squeezed them like you would the three ends of a braid, before you start braiding. Then just tucked the raggedy 3/4″ or so underneath, so it didn’t show. The blog for this will be posted January 26; all will become clear then. It was a matter of logistics posting the recipe before the blog photos… thanks for your patience. PJH P.S. Look for an email I sent you…

    Reply
  69. sybil breitwieser

    I live in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and am unable to find all the ingredients here. For instance, dry milk. Also the yeast you suggest.

    A frIend gave me a sour dough starter and I have having fun making bread with it. I find it a little bland for my taste. What do you suggest?

    Sybil, let your prepared bread dough rise, hen stick it in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours. Take it out, shape, let rise till puffy, and bake. That shuld beef up the flavor. A little extra salt wouldn’t hurt, either. Hope this helps – and those of us facing 0°F tonight envy you your locale! PJH

    Reply
  70. Fred Mittelman

    I followed the recipe and had a very wet sticky dough. Could not get it to braid well and the braids sort of melted into each other. Tasted fine and the texture etc were fine but I wonder if I missed something?
    Please call our baker’s hotline for help with this problem. Joan D@bakershotline.

    Reply
  71. annie

    Is it possible to have a whole wheat version? Thanks.

    Annie, try substituting white whole wheat flour for half the all-purpose flour; increase the water by a tablespoon. See how you like it. If you don’t mind the stronger taste and denser texture, then continue to increase the amount of whole wheat to taste in subsequent loaves. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  72. Rose

    I grew up with something called Buttermilk Graham Bread, and have never found a recipe, since that little bakery shop closed decades ago. Does anyone have a recipe for Buttermilk Graham Bread-it was not a yeast bread, but more like a quick bread, but very coarse and grainy. Thanks for the help, and you can email me directly also.
    It doesn’t ring a bell with me, but let’s put it out to the group. Hopefully someone can help out. ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  73. ogoshi

    This bread looks gorgeous! how did you get it to brown so well?
    I’m making it, but i only have active dry yeast, is there anything i should do? Also, how long is overnight?

    Bread should brown just fine if you brush with egg white, as directed; then bake it on a center rack at the time/temperature indicated. Dissolve the active dry yeast in some of the lukewarm water in the recipe before using; and you’ll probably need to increase rising times, as active dry from the supermarket isn’t as vigorous as SAF instant. Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  74. ogoshi

    Ummmmm, sorry to bother, but i made a boo-boo with this recipe.
    I made it, and it was nicely risen, and then … I had to start kneading it again. if i set it to rise again and it doubles, will it still work?

    Yes, just shape it again; it should be fine. PJH

    Reply
  75. W.W.Wise

    For years I’ve searched for a particular bread/roll without knowing the name of the type; sometimes w/sesame seeds, sometimes without. Beautiful crust, very smoth, white and elastic interior, sort of a bread version of pulled taffey in consistency.

    Mosca’s Restaurant in Weswego, LA used to serve rolls like this.

    The closest I’ve come – close but no cigar – was King Arthur’s Italian Sesame breaded loaf, which I’ve made for years. But, still no cigar.

    I’m hoping this Scale loaf will be the answer. I’ll post later if it is.

    Thanks, all.

    W.W.W. at idafernwildwood@yahoo.com

    This sounds very much like challah – have you tried our Classic Challah recipe? PJH

    Reply
  76. W.W.Wise

    No, I haven’t tried the challah recipe, as the bread I’m trying to find has no holes in the inside, but is a smooth and elastic consistency. I believe it to be of Italian origin, as I’ve always found it in Italian restaurants. But, it’s been many years now since I’ve been fortunate enough to find it.

    I’m letting the dough for this Scali bread rise now, having started it last evening. And, so far so good, as the starter today looked just like the photo here.

    Thanks for the reply, and I’ll post my results.

    W.W.Wise

    Hope the Scali Bread is what you’ve been looking for; if not, try the challah. It doesn’t have holes, it’s very similar to Scali, but a big “eggier.” Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  77. W.W.Wise

    Thanks for your suggestions, but this loaf turned out to be sinfully delicious, and I a’m munching on it as i type.

    No, it is not the loaf for which I am searching, but I love it.

    I, too, had the problem with dough too soft and sticky, but it turned out perfectly. When the initial 90 minute rising was complete I had no need to gently deflate, as the whole blob simply turned limp upon first touch, so I dumped it onto a parchment paper on my King Arthur bread kneading board, slightly oiled with olive oil, divided it into three rough logs, very difficult to handle, let rest, then formed into very sticky and almost sloppy logs, did the egg white and seed bit, made a bit of a botch transferirng to a dry parchment – should have just left it on and baked it on the oiled parchment. I was sure this was going to be a disaster at this point, but, voila, out it came, a perfect loaf.

    Thanks very much. I always use only King Arthur products, by the way.

    W. W. Wise

    Reply
  78. JC

    Finally I have searched the web on and off for a scala receipt hard to find and outside the BeanTown area it is impossible to find. But the receipt link is broken?

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      Sorry about that, JC – all fixed. Enjoy that Scali bread – just like the North End! PJH

  79. Rachel Graham

    Your story made me laugh. 18 Years ago I married “Mr. White Bread”, well that’s how I refer to my husband. In his 35 years, he had never seen Scali. I grew up in an Italian home in Rever, Mass (a predominant Italian area) just a short 7 miles North over the bridge from Boston. Scali was all we knew. I had never had Wonder or Pepperidge Farms or any other commercial loaf of bread. Our bread came from the local Italian bakery. Any type of sandwich, even French Toast was made with this wonderful delicacy. Just as your story progressed so has ours, My husband tasted Scali and never went back. It wasn’t til my local Grocery store (now that we have moved to western Mass) which made a wonderful Scali went on strike this summer, did I venture to find your recipe. Now that I have found it, I will continue to practice until I get it perfect. Thank you for a wonderful story and recipe.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      So, Market Basket is responsible for your new-found skill as a scali baker, eh? Well, that’s a happy result. Thanks for sharing your story – and remember, practice makes perfect! :) PJH

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