Making your own delicious muffaletta bread from scratch is surprisingly simple, and the final loaf tastes fantastic. Even beginning bakers can do this recipe. Follow along with the instructional photos, and have fun baking!
Why This Recipe Works
- It's the right shape. Most store-bought loaves aren't even close to the right shape for muffaletta, but making your own ensures that it's flat and round like what you need.
- It has the right texture. This bread is light enough to absorb the flavorsome oils from the olive salad, and strong enough to support the heavy fillings without getting soggy or falling apart.
- The dough passes the windowpane test to ensure that it's properly kneaded. This means you can stretch a piece of the dough thin enough for it to be translucent without tearing.
- Spritzing the loaf with water ensures that the sesame seeds stick to the bread rather than falling off.
Curious what ingredients you need to make a delicious loaf of muffaletta bread? Fortunately, this bread takes only simple ingredients you can easily find at your local grocery store. Let's talk about the most important ingredients!
- Bread Flour: It's critical that you use bread flour, and not all-purpose, for making bread. The higher protein content in this type of flour creates more gluten in the dough, giving you a higher rising bread with a fluffier, chewier texture. We recommend using King Arthur.
- Yeast: Either instant (fast-action) or active dry yeast work well. If you're using active dry, be sure to bloom it first by dissolving it in the warm water used in the dough. Add the sugar and let it stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Olive Oil: This softens the dough, making it more moist, and adds a subtle flavor if you use extra virgin. Use a good quality oil for the health benefits and best flavor.
- Sesame Seeds: It's traditional to top the muffaletta bread with white sesame seeds, which makes it resemble a giant hamburger bun. If you can't eat these, feel free to omit them.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make
Start by measuring out the ingredients: bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar, olive oil, and water.
- Add the salt and yeast to the flour on opposite sides of the bowl (the salt can kill the yeast if it touches it), then stir them in with your finger.
- Pour in the sugar, oil, and half of the water, and mix until all the flour is picked up and a sticky dough forms.
- Knead with the dough hook for 4-6 minutes. The kneaded dough should pass the windowpane test. If you can stretch a piece until it's translucent without breaking, then it's kneaded enough. If not, knead a little longer and test again.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let it prove until at least doubled in size (about 1 ½ hours).
- Punch down the dough, then shape it into a flat disc about 9 inches in diameter. The loaf will increase in diameter to about 10 inches as it proves and bakes.
- Lightly spray the load with water, and sprinkle 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds on top. (This gives the muffaletta its signature look.) Prove until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Bake at 400°F for 20-25 minutes.
- Let it cool for at least an hour before slicing to give it time to finish cooking and to release the steam inside naturally.
A muffaletta sandwich is traditionally made with a flat-topped, round loaf of white Italian bread topped with sesame seeds. The crust is fairly crisp, and the center is soft and fluffy with a somewhat open texture, but still strong enough to support the heavy filling of meat, cheese, and olive salad in the sandwich.
Muffaletta is a famous sandwich that originated in New Orleans at Central Grocery. It was invented in 1906 by Salvatore Lupo, the owner of Central Grocery. A muffaletta sandwich is made from a kind of Italian bread split in half and filled with olive salad, cold cuts, and cheese.
It's important to use the right bread, since it's the base for the entire sandwich. Making your own loaf with this recipe ensures you have the right shape of loaf along with the crisp crust and soft interior that makes this sandwich so great. Of course, once you have a solid foundation for your sandwich, add a good olive salad and layer it with the meat and cheese to create an epic muffaletta sandwich.
If you're making this bread, chances are you will be making a muffaletta sandwich soon. Learn how to make your own Central Grocery olive salad with homemade giardiniera, and get the instructions for assembling your own authentic muffaletta sandwich.
If you're looking for other New Orleans favorites to serve with your muffaletta, try our recipes for roux for gumbo, chicken, sausage, and shrimp gumbo, chicken and sausage jambalaya, and bread pudding with bourbon sauce.
Make Ahead: The dough for the muffaletta bread can be made the day in advance and left to rise overnight in the fridge. Let it come to room temperature the following day, then knock it back, shape it, rise again, and bake.
Leftovers: You can keep it at room temperature for a day or two, but it will stay much fresher if it's frozen.
Freezing: Freeze the muffaletta loaf before adding the sandwich meat and cheese. Wrap the loaf in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil; then freeze for up to 1 month.
- Sticky dough? Simply add more flour to the dough as it's kneaded; just be careful not to add too much.
- Let the dough rise in a warm place to encourage the yeast's growth.
- Want to make this ahead? Mix and knead the dough, then let it prove in the fridge overnight. Shape it into the loaf, prove, and bake the next day.
- Want to freeze this? Freeze the baked and cooled loaf for up to 1 month if desired.
Other New Orleans Recipes You'll Love
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Perfect Muffaletta Bread
Making the Dough
- Place the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer, then add the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl. Stir each one in with your finger. Be careful not to let the salt touch the yeast directly, as it can kill or stunt the yeast.
- Add the sugar, oil, and half of the water. Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until the mixture begins to come together. Gradually add more water until all the flour is picked up and a sticky dough forms.
- Switch attachments to the dough hook and knead on low speed for 4-6 minutes, until it's no longer sticky and passes the windowpane test. Check it by stretching a lump of dough between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. If it's translucent in places without breaking, it's been kneaded enough. If it breaks, knead a minute longer and check again.
- Pour about 2 teaspoons of olive oil into a large mixing bowl. Shape the dough into a ball and turn it in the oil to coat, then cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it prove at room temperature until at least doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours.
Shaping the Loaf
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down with your fists to get rid of the air pockets.
- Place it on a large, lightly floured baking stone or cookie sheet. Shape it into a flat disc about 9 inches in diameter.
- Spritz the top of the loaf with a little water, then sprinkle generously with sesame seeds and gently press them into the dough.
- Loosely cover the loaf with a piece of plastic wrap, and let it prove at room temperature until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour. Once it's proved, it should spring back quickly when gently prodded with a fingertip.
- About 10 minutes before the loaf is done proving, preheat the oven to 400°F.
Baking the Bread
- Remove the plastic wrap and bake the proved loaf at 400°F for 20-25 minutes. The loaf should be a rich golden brown and have an internal temperature of 200°F.
- Let the loaf cool for about an hour on a wire rack before slicing to allow it to release the steam inside naturally. Then, the bread can be sliced in half lengthwise and used to make a muffaletta sandwich.
- If the dough is really sticky when you're kneading, simply add a little more flour; just be careful not to add too much.
- Prove the dough in a warm place to speed up the rise.
- If you're in a hurry, make the dough the night before and let it prove in the fridge overnight. Let it come to room temperature, then shape it into a loaf, prove, and bake the next day.
- Freeze the baked and cooled loaf for up to 1 month if desired.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.