For decades I’ve sought this holy grail of bread recipes. Star bread, the American cousin of what I consider the finest bread in Italy, is the stuff of legends. Italian bakers introduced it to Springfield, Massachusetts, and a few other places in the state about a hundred years ago. Specialty Italian bakeries hooked customers on the twisty-shaped loaves, also called “horn bread” or “bolognese bread.” Those bakeries have dwindled to a handful, and star bread always sells out—often before it reaches the shelves.
What makes it so special? The hard, golden brown, impossibly smooth crust has the crunch of a dry breadstick. In contrast, the soft crumb inside is fine, compact, and as bright as a Hollywood smile. Once you bite in, you can’t stop. The flavor and textures are pure delight. And who can resist the shape that offers not two, but four crunchy ends?
My husband Dan grew up in Springfield, and his family celebrated holidays and special occasions with star bread. They would cut small rounds from the horns and make little sandwiches of thinly sliced Italian cheeses and cold meats for appetizers. But why shouldn’t we have it year-round for sopping olive oil, mopping up pasta sauce, and for everything a good Italian bread is designed to do?
Star bread is getting harder to find. Around here, nobody has ever heard of it. So what choice do I have but to bake it myself?
There’s one serious catch. No recipe. Not in any cookbooks. Nowhere. Even Google comes up short. In 2008, The Boston Globe ran a feature on “horn bread” and included a recipe that apparently nobody tested. An owner of one of the bakeries in the story wrote back, “The recipe given in your paper is missing an ingredient and an important processing step—but my lips are sealed!”
So yes, there’s a secret. And nobody’s talking. Omerta.
Over the years, I’ve cornered commercial bakers for advice. One told me it’s just Vienna bread dough (false), but I simply couldn’t make it at home because I needed “special equipment” (misleading).
The owner of a family-run bakery in Agawam recently responded with a look so steely cold I was afraid the loaves around her would flash freeze. “Sure you can have our recipe,” she said as if I held her at gunpoint, “but only if you pay big money for it.”
I thank her, though, because had she spilled her family secret I would not be sharing it with you now. I would be in on the code of silence. No Recipephany. But in the face of this stonewalling, Dan and I set out to find the secret recipe on our own.
Dan tracked down star bread’s illustrious ancestor, Coppia Ferrarese. It comes from the Emilia-Romagna region in Northern Italy and dates back to the 13th Century. The name means “Ferrara couple” because bakers form the bread by joining two rolls of dough at their centers—“coupling” them. This regional treasure, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, has earned PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status and must meet strict regulations set by the EU to carry the name Coppia Ferrarese.
This is the bread brought to Springfield by the Italian bakers. What started out as an elegantly slim, sculpted bread, evolved into a plump “H”-shaped loaf in Springfield. (Oddly, it has never had a star shape.)
Then Dan found the Coppia Ferrarese PGI official document. This is the master recipe that reveals all. After a bit of deciphering, I can now tell you what I see as the two key secrets to star bread.
First, the dough is hard and somewhat dry, the opposite of what I had expected to make such a soft crumb. Imagine stiff playdough with a silky finish. Once you’ve mixed the dough, put away the flour. There will be none on your hands, counters, floor…you get the picture. The small amount of oil and shortening (Italians use lard) makes the dough downright fun to handle and the process incredibly tidy. The thirsty flour does crave sprinkles of water as you work the dough, though. So while it must not get sticky, it shouldn’t get too dry either.
Second—and here’s the revelation—you need to roll this non-sticky, pliable dough many times through a “special metal cylinder” to compress it and make the surface smooth. How does a home baker manage that? We dragged out our trusty pasta machine. It did the trick—a fine substitute for the massive rolling machines at bakeries. This was the Big Breakthrough.
I cobbled together this Coppia Ferrarese-star bread hybrid using primarily the PGI guidelines. I tried to simplify the recipe for home bakers like me (although it’s no Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia). For instance, Coppia Ferrarese is a sourdough bread, but since I don’t have a 45 percent hydrated sourdough starter lying around (do you?), I fudged it. While this bread is shaped like Coppia Ferrarese, it produces a loftier loaf more like Springfield’s star bread. Thanks to the pasta machine, it captures the signature textures of both.
I hope you try it and come away a Star Baker. If you don’t have a pasta machine, well, sorry. Hand rolling may work, but I haven’t tried. I’m still experimenting, so please let me know how it goes and if you’ve got any suggestions. Let’s see if together we can preserve this distinctive special-occasion bread. It’s so fun and rewarding to make, you might find that baking it creates its own joyful occasion.
(Modified Coppia Ferrarese)
Mix the night before baking:
- 3/4 teaspoon instant yeast (SAF-instant red label, or Fleishmann’s RapidRise)
- 1 1/2 ounces warm water (45 ml, or 45 g)
- 3/4 cup bread flour (100 g)
Stir ingredients in a medium bowl, then knead briefly to combine. If it is so dry it won’t come together into a ball, add a few drops of water. It should look and feel like pliable bread dough. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let sit overnight. It will rise, but will stay fairly compact.
NOTE: This makes about 50 percent more than you need for this recipe. If you want to make enough starter for next time you make the bread, double this and freeze what’s leftover and use within a few weeks.
2. Star Bread Recipe and Process
Special equipment: Pasta machine.
Suggested: Heavy-duty stand mixer; kitchen scale.
I derived this recipe from a formula that specified weight, not volume. For accurate dough hydration, I recommend using a scale.
Makes 2 loaves, each about 15 ounces before baking, and about 13 1/2 ounces after baking. Recipe easily halves.
- ½ cup starter (100 g, or about about 3.5 ounces) Use recipe above.
- 4 cups bread flour (500 g) (Weighing works best.)
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast (SAF-instant red label, or Fleishmann’s RapidRise)
- 6 ounces cold water* (180 ml, or 180 g), plus up to 3 tablespoons more
- 3 tablespoons shortening (38 g)
- 5 teaspoons (yes teaspoons—it’s more exact) olive oil (20 ml, or 20 g)
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon diastatic malt powder (available from King Arthur Flour)
*Use cold water in the stand mixer so the dough won’t heat up. If kneading by hand, use tepid water.
- Tear starter into a few pieces and combine with all other ingredients in a large bowl. Knead by hand for about 25 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Or, knead in a heavy-duty stand mixer using the dough hook for about 20 minutes. This is a hard dough, so it will be dry at first and will take a long time to cohere. Add drops of water near the end as you knead to keep it pliable, up to 3 tablespoons. You may even want to wet your hands a bit to keep the surface from breaking. Be careful it doesn’t get too dry or it won’t rise as well and the rolled dough may de-laminate. Different brands of flour and changes in room humidity could affect how much water you need. Sprinkle in just enough water so that the dough has a smooth surface and gets slightly elastic, although it won’t be as stretchy as other bread doughs. And if you do it right, it will never get sticky. It will feel more like soft pasta dough than bread dough.
- Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and proof dough in a warm place for 45 minutes. It will relax and get easier to handle.
- Cut dough into quarters, and form each quarter roughly into a strip. Run through the pasta machine at the thickest setting. Fold and repeat for a total of 15-20 passes. (We shoot for 15, but average about 17 passes because sometimes the dough tears and needs extra smoothing.) The dough strips should get very smooth and each will measure around 2 1/2 inches wide by 24 inches long when done.
- For each loaf, roll up two strips by hand and join them in the center. Follow this video explaining the steps.
- Repeat for the second loaf.
- Place each on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet. Cover loaves with plastic wrap and proof for 70-90 minutes (or a half hour longer if your room is cool). They will grow, but not quite double.
- Meanwhile, preheat oven to 435 degrees convection bake, or 450 degrees regular bake.
- Bake one at a time in the center rack of the oven 18-20 minutes. Rotate sheet midway. Lower heat to 425 convection after 10 minutes if it is getting too dark too fast. The loaf is done when it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Also, a cake tester should come out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Both dough and baked bread freeze well.
I looked up horn bread and came across this recipe! Just an FYI- I live in Olymouth and we get our horn bread (star bread) from 3A Cafe in North Plymouth! We get the gnocc bread from the general store in Plymouth across from Bradford liquors!! So good!
Thanks so much for writing in! Glad to hear of a place to get star (horn) bread and gnocc bread in Plymouth! Do they actually make it? I will have to check it out. Of course, it’s so fun to make star bread yourself. Please spread the word about Recipephany’s recipe!
No kidding! That’s amazing. I’m so happy to hear from you, star-bread royalty! My husband says that the Venetian was his family’s go-to bakery for star bread, and he thinks they also got donuts there.
In fact, I think we may have met your father when my husband and I went on a little tour of the bakery maybe 15 (?) years ago in search of the recipe for star bread. At the time the bakery was just making Vienna bread and grinder rolls for commercial distribution. He was kind enough to let us in and show us the rollers. He also told us we couldn’t make it at home!
Please tell us what you find out. We would love to hear any of your dad’s recipes.
Thank you tons!
My family owned one of the bakeries that made this bread! Venetian Bakery on Baldwin St. In west springfield. My dad always told me it could not be made at home so I never tried. But I have a big box of his old recipes I never really went through so now I am going to scour them! I will let you know what I find.
I can’t believe there is an actuall recipe. I am beyond excited. I grew up in Springfield too and had this bread every Sunday. Now I’ve moved to New Zealand and I miss my “star bread” like crazy, been 16 years since I’ve had my little slice of heaven.
So, thanks again!!
Hi Diane (with correct spelling, one “n”),
You don’t have to move all the way to New Zealand to miss Star Bread. Nobody outside Springfield can find it. So please give this recipe a try and let me know how it goes. And please “like” this on Facebook or spread the word! I’m so excited you found it and it has made its way to the land of Flight of the Conchords. We hope to visit some day.
Tina Iellamo Cote
I have made four loaves of the star bread so far. The first was the best and I think it’s because I kept adding a little moisture because I couldn’t get it through the pasta attachment on my mixer.
I’m still not getting the rise out of the dough my breads have the texture right, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside so the flavor is there but I don’t seem to be able to get a nice big loaf. It might be in the rolling process ? Can you point me to that video please I found it once and couldn’t find it again
Thanks for following up! Yes, I think the extra moisture is the key.
Here’s the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH50wMtQ2TI
which is in the instructions. It is for the Coppia Ferrarese, which are very small and not too high.
I think adding extra water could add to the height, but it could also change the texture and make it sticky, so be careful. You could also try letting it rise longer or letting it rise on a proofing setting in the oven. Or, even try adding a little more yeast.
Please let me know what you try, if you try something different, and if anything works. We would welcome you as a volunteer tester for the Recipephany Test Kitchens!
Thanks again for your comments and report!
First – thanks so much for all the work you have put into this recipe. I grew up in the Springfield area and we always had Star Bread during the holidays. When we moved away we always stocked up when we visited Springfield and it became a favorite of our children.
I was so happy to find your recipe since we don’t visit Springfield very often anymore.
My wife and I tried making the bread over the past few days. I must say I was a bit skeptical that it would work, especially after the dough looking after kneading.
However the results were fantastic! Looked like Star Bread, spelled like Star Bread, and tasted like Star Bread!!
My only issue is that the insides of the bread were not the “tight” crumb that I remember. When we cut open the loaf you could see the “layers” of dough that were the result of the rolling of the dough.
I hope that was clear – any suggestions?
Thank you so much for trying the recipe and reporting back! I couldn’t be happier that it worked for you and your wife. Isn’t it the strangest dough you’ve ever worked with? That must be why it’s unique in the bread world.
I know what you’re talking about when you describe the layers. In fact, the loaves we made for Christmas had this issue. We had rolled them very tight, and the ends were like breadsticks and there was some de-lamination, although not a lot. As you got toward the middle it was more homogeneous. So it might be from the tight rolling, which may keep the layers from joining up as they rise. However, I have another theory that I want to run past you.
I developed this recipe using the recipe for Coppia Ferrarese, which is a much smaller, tighter rolled loaf. The dryness of the dough keeps the gluten from developing more, and keeps the loaf tight. It may be that for Star Bread we can afford adding a little more water so it will rise more. It just has to be dry enough to go through the rollers well. I’m petrified about making it too wet, though, as you can tell.
A couple of times I have brushed a teeny bit of water onto the dough strips that come out of the pasta machine and before rolling them up into the loaf. I think it might have helped prevent de-lamination, but I didn’t do a real test. It’s worth a try…and if you try it before I do, please let me know.
I also wonder if using regular flour rather than bread flour might work. Regular flour naturally has less gluten and needs less water to cohere, so it might work better with the small amount of water in the recipe. However, the flour used in Italy is high-gluten, so I’m reluctant to do it. Again, I should try it some time.
So in general I think it is more a hydration issue than rolling issue. It may be that a dry winter kitchen will require your adding more water during kneading. I find that, to keep the dough soft and not break, I keep dripping a little water on it as I work. It just can’t get sticky.
Please let me know what you think. It looks like you’re on the Recipephany Test Kitchen volunteer staff, like it or not!
Thanks again for trying it and writing in. Please spread the word if you can about Recipephany.
Tina Iellamo Cote
I wondered if you could help me before I get into this project. I made the starter dough last night and I was expecting a rise out of the dough and it didn’t rise. I used a yeast that I had on hand and it was still in date but I didn’t want to go through this whole process with bad yeast. Should I have expected the starter dough to rise (usually double in size?) I have never used bread flour before.
I did a starter experiment last night to try to help.
I made the usual starter with the little amount of water it calls for plus a little more (it always seems to need a tiny bit more) to bring it together into a pliable dough. I did another with a bit more water, and even got it sticky (a bad idea for this recipe).
The sticky starter rose a lot and even got a little bubbly, but the usual starter did not. It rose a little and got lighter, but stayed pretty much a ball. It would indent a bit when I poked it, as rising dough likes to do, but it didn’t rise like you’d expect a usual dough to do.
Star bread calls for a 45 percent hydrated sourdough starter. I looked that up and that’s below what bakers consider minimum hydration (50 percent)! This really dry dough makes a soft, small crumb. Since water activates gluten, I think the minimal water content is why the it stays relatively small. I doubt your yeast was the issue, although I do recommend instant yeast (or rapid rise) because it works so well.
Once you combine the starter (in bits) with the rest of the dough, you’ll find it rises a bit better. Even then, it might do most of its rising in the oven.
This low-moisture dough makes kneading a challenge. I’m always afraid I’ll add too much water, but this recipe always seems to need a little extra, probably because of the thirsty high-gluten flour. I think the rule of thumb is to add tiny amounts of water just to make the dough come together, then add drops so that the dough gets pliable and doesn’t break. It should never be sticky, and should easily go through the pasta machine rollers.
Yeast these days doesn’t need to be proofed in warm water like they used to do in the old days. In my experience it just always works. Instant yeast is designed to go in with the dry ingredients, and I use it right out of the freezer, where I keep it for at least a year.
Hope this helps. Sorry if you ran into problems, and please keep me posted!
Thanks for the help
I ended up doing three starters and finally got it right
I made one loaf yesterday with my new pasta roller. It looked so similar I couldn’t wait to taste it! My husband and I ate the whole loaf while we were trying to decide if it was in fact just like the star bread that we always had. Conclusion: YES!!! Going to make another starter tonight for a couple of loaves for Christmas. Won’t my family be surprised! Thank You
Tina Iellamo Cote
I am so excited to find this recipe. My Dad’s Italian family grew up in the south end of Springfield and like many on this blog it’s one of our favorite childhood memories. We live in NH now but have always had family bring Star bread when they visited.
There were a couple of places besides Balbonis that you could get it.
La Florentina’s in both Springfield and East Longmeadow and also Italian Bake Shop on Orange street in Springfield. I’m going to invest in the bread machine and give this a try. Thank you !
I didn’t grow up in the area, so these names are unfamiliar, but I bet others will remember! Thanks for sharing.
The pasta machine is the key, not a bread machine. And you’ll love making pasta, too, I bet. Good luck in trying this, and please let me know how it goes. I knead this by hand, since I use my Kitchenaid mixer mostly for wet doughs. It takes a long time to knead it, but it’s fine.
Happy Holidays, and stay well,
I truly love star bread!
I moved to Florida 3 years ago, but before that I used to buy the Balboni star bread at that fruit, vegetable stand on the road to Southwick.
i’m going to bring this recipe to an ITALIAN BAKER and see if he will make it.
Let me know if you have luck in getting local bakers to make it. You might find you can make a better loaf yourself…it’s easy and fun!
Thanks for sharing this! I am lucky enough to live in Agawam (my in-laws actually lived a few streets away from Balbonis).
I was wondering if I could make this and bake it as an “Italian bread” shaped loaf instead of the star.
I guess you can make it in lots of shapes. The important part is rolling it out thin, so you’ll have to roll it up into a loaf.
Let me know how it works!
I followed your recipe and spent the whole weekend practicing in the end I think I made a couple decent loaves.
Thank you for sharing your recipe!! After doing it by hand the KitchenAid made a world of difference! Happy Holidays.
That’s great news! Thanks for letting me know. I’m impressed with your dedication. It’s worth it, though, to get that texture and crust you just can’t find anywhere. A great reason to have a KitchenAid.
Happy baking, and thanks again,
P.S. Happy Holidays to you, too! Star Bread is our holiday favorite.
Cathy Hanzel Kohlun
I lived on Main Street in West Springfield in the 1950s. I remember this bread being sold at a bakery or pizza place around 1000 Main Street close to Memorial Avenue. It’s just a childhood memory. I remember the smell and the soft inside fluff. Anyone know about this location?
I’ve asked my husband’s siblings if they could help solve this mystery. One said that Mercolino’s made the best star bread, but it was in Springfield on Columbus Avenue. It supplied loaves to many other bakeries, so it could have been the source. On Main Street, there was the Italian Baking Company, but nobody remembers getting star bread from them.
If you find out any more, please let me know. And thanks for your comment. And please spread the word about Recipephany and the star bread recipe.
Does Venetian Bakery sound familiar? It was on a side street (?Baldwin St.?) off Memorial Ave., W. Spfld., closed years ago I believe, but sign is still on the building.
Yes! My husband recognized the name and location. It used to be retail, and that’s where my husband’s family used to get their star bread. He thinks they may have also gotten donuts there. But then the bakery just went wholesale.
My husband and I visited the bakery a long time ago to try to pry the recipe out of the owner. He was very kind, but discouraging. He told us it was just Vienna bread dough (he must have made a special version of it), and showed us a moving canvas belt used in the production. He said that we needed special rolling equipment that only a bakery would have. At the time, it never occurred to us that a pasta machine could do the trick, and it was before the Internet, where we got the recipe for Coppia Ferrarese.
Thanks so much for helping to unravel this mystery! I hope you try the recipe and see what you think.
Happy New Year,
Grew up on this bread from Springfield, MA. Now in Ohio and no one has heard of it. I’d like to try making the bread but do not have a bread machine. I believe the bread machine is used for the rollers only? I do have a heavy KitchenAid Pro 500 stand mixer. Wes thinking the pasta roller attachment might do the trick?
Does anyone have any suggestions for the bread machine or rollers?
This recipe does not call for a bread machine. You can use your KitchenAid to do the initial kneading. The pasta roller attachment should work for the last stage of kneading, as long as it’s pretty powerful. It takes some strong hand cranking to get the dough through the rollers in our pasta machine, but then again, that happens with pasta dough, too.
An attachment for your KitchenAid, though, may cost a lot more than a pasta machine, so you may want to consider that.
Good luck, and I hope this works for you!
P.S. How did you find this recipe? Please spread the word about Recipephany!
I’m certainty leaning towards a KitchenAid attachment. High price but worth it for “Star Bread.” My brother once drove out here for a visit and brought 20 loaves!
Twenty loaves! I hope you have a big freezer, since they go stale so quickly. 🙂 I freeze our star bread so it stays fresh.
I hope that the opening between the rollers on the KitchenAid attachment is wide enough to take this dough. With manual pasta machines, you knead the pasta dough on a wide setting, then dial narrower settings to get to the thinness you want for the pasta. For this dough, you just knead on the thickest possible setting. Please double-check this before you buy. It may be better (and no more expensive) to get a pasta machine with several width settings.
I hope you have good luck with this recipe. If you have any issues or questions, please let me know at email@example.com. And I’d love to hear how it all works out.
I live in San Jose, CA now, but I am from Springfield, and searched for “Italian star bread” on a whim after watching an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives with some good looking Italian bread. Was surprised to see Springfield mentioned in the second sentence. I had no idea the bread was so regional. Star bread was just one of the breads mom might pick up if we were having Italian food – not sure where she got it from – but I always loved it with butter and dipping into sauce. Yum! I don’t know if I’ll make it – I’ve never made bread before. I had recently seen something online or on TV about Detroit-style Pizza, another regional food. Kind of a Sicilian pan pizza, and I have made that about 3 times in the last month – after picking up the special pan and Cheese on Amazon. Yeast was impossible to get, so I got a one pound brick of SAF. With all that yeast, I may bake more dough foods, although I have been trying to go low-carb. Check out the pizza on SeriousEats.
It’s amazing how star bread gets imprinted on Springfield natives. Its regionality must be matched in Italy, where Coppia Ferrarese gets special status. The only bread my husband and I have ever had that came close to star bread was in a restaurant in Bologna decades ago. It was shaped like an octopus, with bread-stick-like tentacles, and it must have been made out of dough like this.
Good for you in getting SAF yeast and making pizza! You can freeze the yeast, you know, and it will keep well over a year. Try Raegan’s No-Knead Focaccia (http://recipephany.com/?p=3751) if you really want easy, great results.
Actually, this recipe is not hard. It just requires a pasta machine and some heavy-duty kneading (I prefer doing it by hand). But the result is so magical, it might take you back to your youth.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write, and please spread the word about Recipephany’s star bread recipe to family and friends. Maybe one of them will bake it for you!
Diane, Is there anywhere that I can purchase star bread?
I grew up in Bridgewater Ma and have relatives in Plymouth and Kingston. Sundays, after mass, we would go visit and always came home with star bread and some great Italian cold cuts. If I could get some, I think I would feel 16 again.
The only place I know of right now is Balboni’s, 25 King Street in Agawam, Massachusetts. There may be others, but I only know of the Springfield area.
If you can make this recipe, or find someone who would try, you might be surprised at how deliciously authentic it tastes. I’d appreciate if you’d spread the word about Recipephany and this recipe!
Please let me know if you find any other bakeries.
And thanks for writing!
Diane, thank you so much for posting this. I, too, have been looking for this recipe for many years. We enjoyed star bread while growing up in Westfield, when our dad brought it home from Springfield. I made two loaves today, and followed the recipe exactly. The only difference was that I had to use a rolling pin. The taste was spot on!! Brought back so many good memories. Thank you! My shaping needs a lot of practice…
Thanks for your feedback–I haven’t heard from anyone using a rolling pin, so I admire your perseverance! I know what you mean about shaping. I rely on my husband, an architect whose father was born in Italy, to make the loaves, but I’m getting better with practice. If you look at images of bakery star bread online, you’ll see some that aren’t very pretty. Anyway, thank you so much for commenting and please spread the word about Recipephany. Happy baking!
My husband was talking about how much he missed Star Bread. With all the baking I’m doing I thought it deserved a “Google”. I ran across this!! I couldn’t believe it! His family is from Agawam and he grew up in Southwick. I read the part about the local bakery and he said, “Ooo I wonder if it was Balboni’s!!?? So now I have to make this…Thanks!!! ~Val, Denver, CO
I’m so glad you landed on the recipe, and I really hope it comes through for you. Let me know if you have any questions or issues, and it would be great to compare notes on how yours comes out. It really isn’t that difficult, it’s just different from any other bread recipe I’ve run into.
And yes, it was Balboni’s.
Thanks for writing, and good luck!
Plymouth also had another type of bread called gnocch bread. I’m not sure of the spelling. This was a round very crusty bread that was only about an inch thick. It had bits of meat and spice on top. Clyde’s in Plymouth sold it in these white bags that the oil from the bread would bleed through pretty quickly. Best when eaten warm and would go stale within a couple of days. But it was so good it never lasted that long. Does anyone ever heard of this bread and know a recipe?
I looked around and wonder if you mean gnocco Fritto, or crescentina, which according to Wikipedia comes from the same general area of Italy as Coppia Ferrarese. Check it out at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gnocco_fritto Good luck!
here is blog link that is talking about this bread.
Clyde’s in Plymouth called the bread “gnocch”
A little more image hunting in Google I found this page.
The image looks the closest to what the Balboni family were baking in Plymouth.
Thanks for the links to the gnocch. I just saw your comment, sorry for the delay in answering. According to the recipe, gnocch takes a lot of kneading, and I wonder if that’s because it’s a rather dry dough, like star bread. Since it’s crusty and goes stale quickly–like star bread–the bakery may use the same basic recipe, with meats kneaded in. The meats add flavor and fat, which probably change the texture. What do you think?
Gnoccc was actually made with the same dough run through the roller. From there they spread butter over the entire surface. Then they spread ground Italian deli meat ends they got from Perry’s every Saturday. They rolled it like a jelly roll and spun together in the grommer (big food processor. Brushed oil on parchment paper and formed the gnoch. Then it went in the proofed for a while. They baked the gnoch and the horn bread in the same ovens which is why I say Balbonis horn bread was always better and can never be replicated. The family were the only ones to mix the dough no outsiders. I know this because I worked at Balbonis bakery in Plymouth as a kid. I do remember seeing Clyde adding malt to the dough. I have made this recipe and it is good but it will never be the same as much as I try.
Can’t believe we got a comment from someone who actually worked at a star bread bakery! Woah. Thanks for explaining Gnocc, it sounds great. I’ve been making Stromboli with our pizza dough, and see how Gnocc could just be more unbelievably wonderful.
Maybe we can’t exactly replicate the real legendary Star Bread, but I think we’re on to something. Maybe some tweaking will get us there. Also, maybe Balboni’s in Plymouth used lard, which we don’t. I know that the Balboni’s in Agawam (they aren’t related) doesn’t use lard because it isn’t on their label.
Thanks for your insights and best wishes!
I visited every deli and bakery in the LA area and nobody knows about this bread out here that I also grew up with in Plymouth Massachusetts. Clyde’s and Balboni’s I had the best bread that we picked up every weekend.
I’m going to try this recipe myself though I’ve never baked any kind of bread except for banana bread.
Yes, Star Bread is incredibly regional. Good luck on trying to make it. Even though it’s relatively easy, it does take lots of kneading and patience with a very dry dough. Would you want to try a really easy yeast bread first? Raegan’s Focaccia is the gateway drug to breadmaking http://recipephany.com/?p=3751. No work, and the result is so satisfying. Anyway, let me know if you need any help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll try to see what I can do! Best, Diane
I have been looking for a recipe for this for nearly 20 years! My own research lead me to the Coppia Ferrarese as the most likely ancestor but the method seemed an out of reach mystical secret. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. You are going to make so many people with Western MA roots SO HAPPY. I’m trying this as soon as possible.
Thank you, David! It might a fun project to do while you’re sheltered in place. Believe it or not, it isn’t hard to do. But getting the amount of water right is a little tricky. If the strips seem really dry when I’m rolling them up, I sometimes just sprinkle a little water on them to keep them from de-laminating. Could you please let me know how it goes? Again, thanks, and I hope it goes well! Best, Diane
It took me forever to get bread flower and diastatic malt powder with COVID wreaking havoc on super market supply chains, but I finally tried this out and there is no question that you’ve cracked the recipe for Star Bread!
It turned out looking and smelling like I remember, with the hard exterior crust and soft internal crumb I remember. So, as far as I’m concerned, you’ve unlocked one of the secrets of the baking universe – thank you.
I didn’t get the rise I was hoping for and my shaping needs practice. I also ended up having to use butter instead of shortening and I’m sure that had an impact. I think there’s probably room to experiment with how you feed it through the pasta maker vs. how many times too. I think I ended up with something closer to the Coppia Ferrarese than the shape I remember (which is what you have pictured).
Did you ever try using all of the starter and increasing the rest of the ingredients accordingly but still only making two loaves? I was thinking that might get to the size I recall.
I’m so glad to hear you made it and that it worked!
Are you using SAF instant yeast? If you’re using regular active dry yeast, try using a little more than called for in the recipe. SAF is a rapid rise yeast, and may give you more height than active dry during the proofing.
It may also be that your dough is too dry. Adding a little more water might activate more gluten and it might help it rise more. I always err on the dry side because I’m afraid the dough will be too soft or (heaven forbid) too sticky to go through the pasta machine. But maybe just a LITTLE more water might do the trick.
I have not tried butter, so I don’t know how it would differ. Coppia Ferrarese calls for lard, but the last star bread I bought had liquid soybean oil and shortening as ingredients. Shortening makes for higher cookies than butter does, so maybe there’s something about how it works with the flour that increases height. Butter has some water in it, but I don’t know if that would make a difference.
As for using more of the starter, that sounds like a good idea. As long as you have a sense of what the dough should feel like, you can definitely experiment. And I’d love to know what you discover!
Thanks so much for letting me know how it came out. Stay well!
Thank you. Your recipe nailed it. I grew up with this bread, we got it in Plymouth, MA and it was the only way for us to eat salami and our bean soup.
The starter dough smells wonderful the next day.
I am beyond happy that it worked for you! Thank you for your comment, it means a lot to get such good feedback from a fellow star-bread lover. Do you have any improvements you’d make, or issues? When I told my 97-year-old and 100-year-old aunts we made it they were thrilled. YAY!
We bought it in Plymouth too! That little Italian Deli and Bakery on Court Street! It’s the only thing My mom would serve with tortellini en broto. The Star Diner used to serve it too. Wow! So many great memories!
Clyde’s! That was the name of the place! Anyone know if it’s still around?