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Bread to make a muffuletta-where to find

I'm making muffulettas for a Super Bowl party. A friend brought me jars of olive salad from Central Grocery in New Orleans, I'm getting the meats & cheeses from Litteri, but now my problem is the bread. I don't know of any place in the Metro area that makes a close approximation to the bread you find in NoLa. I'm familiar with the bread at Firehook, Marvelous Market, and Best Buns, but it isn't quite right. Anyone know of anything? I know I'm not going to find anything that's exactly right, but a firm, 10" round loaf, with thick soft crust would do.

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  1. I'd suggest going to the Dupont Market at see what you like at Atwater's. They offer an array of loaves AND you know it'll be fresh and delicious!

    1. I know the bread and it doesn't exist in or around DC. The closest approximation is the round foccacia that some Whole Foods have, but it's far too oily. Muffaletta bread at Napoleons and Central Grocer has no oil.

      The closest approximation to the taste/texture of that bread is the rectangular lavash bread that some middle eastern grocers carry. It's thicker than the lavash at Whole Foods; you bake it in a hot oven for 5-7 minutes to get it crispy. It's not round like muffaletta bread or as thick or dense, but I've used it to make party sandwiches before and it has a good "bite" to it. Muffaletta bread, like bread for Cuban sandwiches, is impossible to find around DC.

      1. Good luck. I've not had any luck in the past. Any chance that you're a decent cook? In the past, I have had decent success making my own (see the recipe below). I don't think Atwaters is what you're looking for, my experience with their bread is that it's quite crusty/hard and would likely make for an extremely chewy sandwich.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Jason1

          I was thinking about making it myself, but I don't have enough confidence in my skills as a baker to try to make 4 loaves. I think monkeyrotica's suggestions are good ones. I know of a bakery in Del Ray (can't remember the name) that makes really good foccacia that isn't too oily. I think that's the closest thing I'm going to find. Although, it's rectangular and that just doesn't seem right.

          1. re: LGLnDC

            Caboose Cafe does ciabatta. Make sure they are making it on the day you want it, since they rotate what breads they make.

          2. In a pinch you could try a loaf of ciabatta.

            4 Replies
            1. re: MrsWheatie

              I found the name of the bakery in Del Ray--Gold Crust Baking Co. Anyone familiar with them? I've only been there once, but got foccacia that made very good paninis. I've heard they also have good ciabatta. I think I'll get a couple of both. I'll try to let go of my need for them to be round.

              1. re: LGLnDC

                They also supply the rolls for Al's Steaks in Del Ray.

                1. re: LGLnDC

                  Since you need 4 big loaves, you could maybe call them and ask if they can at least shape the loaves of ciabatta (or just regular Italian bread) into the 10" rounds for you? Not sure if they do custom loaves like that, but it's worth a shot. Or maybe you'll have more luck walking in and asking if they could bake those loaves while you wait? There is a Giant (albeit a small one) nearby if it would take a while and you want to kill two birds with one stone.

                2. re: MrsWheatie

                  MrsWheatie is on the right track. Ciabatta is as close as I've found in DC.
                  The problem is that it's never round, but c'est las vie. You're going to cut it anyway.

                  I use ciabatta rolls that I get from Fine Sweet Shop at Eastern Market. They're about 7 or 8 inches long X 3 inches wide. I cut them in half. The texture is closer to anything I've found including the crumb.
                  I noticed that Costco has ciabatta rolls, about the size of hamburger buns. Most of their baked goods are of good quality and I've been meaning to try them. You could make sort of muffaletta sliders? Small individual muffalettas.

                  The cold cuts are great at Litteri's for muffalettas. The capicola is wonderful and they've got the best mortadella in town.

                  1. re: ktmoomau

                    that's what came to my mind, too -- since they sell a muffaletta sandwich.

                    btw, trader joe's ciabatta rolls ain't bad at all. (and i'm not usually a fan of their bread).

                    1. re: alkapal


                      what is the origin of the word, anyone; and how did the sandwich come about and become so popular?

                      1. re: alkapal

                        No, but I hate when places have the full name and fail to deliver on anything close. I mean - at least call it a "muffie" or a "muffulikea" or a "muffanotta" or ....

                        1. re: Dennis S

                          i knew a muffie in college. she went on to grace the pages of town and country magazine. if only they knew! HA!

                        2. re: alkapal

                          Alka: according to Merriam Webster

                          Main Entry: muf·fu·let·ta
                          Variant(s): also muf·fa·let·ta \ˌmə-fə-ˈle-tə\
                          Function: noun
                          Etymology: probably from Italian dial., from Italian muffoletta little muff, diminutive of muffola muff, from French moufle, from Middle French

                          1. re: hill food

                            Wow - that a real Muffuletta was intended to be a small version of something else.

                            1. re: hill food

                              a little muff? as in, furry handwarmer typically worn by fashionable ladies riding in open air carriages in urban parks or the countryside during inclement or simply chilly weather?

                              1. re: alkapal

                                umm I'm not going to speculate further (whoops)

                                some also attribute a Germanic root, which sounds less likely, but there's a lot of linguistic back and forth between those languages.

                                1. re: hill food

                                  muffire is the italian infinitive for "to go moldy." the 1st, 2d, and 3rd person subjunctive conjugation is "muffa."

                                  the round, thin, dense loaf of sicilian origin is prone to go moldy quickly because of its unusually soft crust (as opposed to other sicilian breads) -- hence the name: muffoletta (spelling variation)! http://www.muffoletta.com/bread/

                                  the sandwich name derives from the name of the bread. here's a history of muffoletta bread: http://www.muffoletta.com/history/ ( and how it got to new orleans and made into a famous sandwich).

                                  >>>One day, the owner of the Central Grocery, Lupo Salvatore – himself a Sicilian immigrant -- made an agreement for the Sicilian baker to supply bread to the Central Grocery, which then re-sold the bread to its customers. With that agreement, the Sicilian baker became a wholesaler, and the workers no longer bought their bread from the Sicilian baker but from the Central Grocery, where the workers bought all their lunch ingredients: bread, meats, cheese and salad.

                                  In 1906, Lupo Salvatore decided to combine these ingredients into a sandwich. He decided to use the muffoletta bread, because of its ability to hold the filling without leaking. To make each sandwich, Lupo filled a muffoletta loaf with olive salad, meats and cheeses; then he wrapped the sandwich in paper; and then he sold it as a muffoletta sandwich, except that he misspelled the name as muffuletta. <<<<

                      2. Hi,
                        I made muffalettas recently for a group and found 2 round loaves at Safeway in the artisan bread section that worked perfectly. They might not have been exactly what you would find in New Orleans but they worked perfectly and the muffalettas were great.

                        1. "olive salad from Central Grocery"

                          you've crossed the biggest hurdle right there. I've got a friend's pity jar in the fridge right now. wish they shipped.

                          short of bribing someone on the NOLA board to overnight some loaves, as a guest I wouldn't care if I were served an approximation.

                          got curious and googled this up 2 local (sort of) distributors of NOLA bread


                          might give them a ring

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: hill food

                            Oh, I tried that. I e-mailed Sysco and asked them where they distribute Leidenheimer bread in the Baltimore area. I got no reply. I get pretty fixated on stuff like this. Luckily I had a friend that went to NoLa this week. He picked up the olive salad at Central. I might have had a stroke otherwise.

                            I agree with everyone else. I think ciabatta is the closest I'm going to get. It'll be delicious, even if not exactly the same. I work close to Eastern Market. Considering the weather forecast for this weekend, that might be the most logical source.

                            1. re: LGLnDC

                              it's too easy to ignore an e-mail. esp. an op the size of Sysco.

                              ciabatta, or a light foccacia, sliced up in squares - I'd be happy as long as the contents were right. and as a guest I'd happily eat anything even sort of close. so don't stress.

                              while I love a lot of what the EM bakery has I always feel I need to toast or steam the bread offerings just a tweak.

                              1. re: LGLnDC

                                I've been thinking about this because I was planning on making muffulettas this weekend as well....

                                I think i'm going to use the frozen foccacia from costco. It's about a 12" round and and comes in packages of three I think. It's not oily like the ones from Whole Foods or the teeter. It comes par-baked, and then you finish it in the oven for 20 minutes or so.

                              2. re: hill food

                                > "olive salad from Central Grocery"

                                > you've crossed the biggest hurdle right there. I've got a friend's pity jar in the fridge right now.
                                > wish they shipped.

                                They do! Call them at 866-620-0174. $75 (including shipping) for four jars. Not cheap but hey.

                                1. re: dashford

                                  Wow. That's steep. I've saved hundreds of dollars by making the stuff myself, and it goes on ANYTHING.


                                  1. re: dashford

                                    good to know if I ever have discretionary income again.

                                    1. re: hill food

                                      Hey, try the recipe that Monkey links to. It's close to the one I've used for years. Got sick of paying the prices for over-the-counter stuff, not to mention having it leak in my luggage on the trip back from NOLA.
                                      The only thing you might change (for authenticity) in that recipe is to use plain old canned black olives from the supermarket instead of calamatas. Yeah, I know that sounds low rent, but the delis in NOLA were basically grocery stores and trying to make a buck. That's what they had and they were economical. When I was playing with the recipe, I could never get it to pass muster with my ex-pat NOLA friends until I used the canned olives. Bingo!
                                      I make vats of the stuff and keep it on hand in the fridge, Not just for Muffs but great in salads and other things.

                                      1. re: MakingSense

                                        oh yes and the ratios look good I will be trying it one day, just probably not entertaining anytime soon. and I'll buy your plain old canned olive thought.

                                2. Try Blooms, SuperFresh or Safeway. They have artisan french breads.

                                  1. It may be a little late, but Gambino's (1-800-487-6292) is at least one NOLA bakery that says it does mail order of the bread. But you will pay big bucks, especially if you want it by Fed-Ex. They also do their own olive salad and other LA specialties. Disclaimer: While they say they have been in business over 60 years and have five stores, I have never had their products.

                                    The Cajun Grocer also offers a Poupart Muffeletta Kit, with all ingredients, including the bread. Again, pricey, particularly for next day delivery.

                                    There are also many web sites with recipes for it.

                                    1. This response comes too late for the Super Bowl, but hope it might help for your next gathering. I have had good luck order muffuletta bread from NOLAcajun.com. I freeze the bread immediately, or serve it immediately, it doesn't have a long shelf life. They are the closest thing to the bread from Central Grocery that I've found. In a pinch, I've used ciabatta bread, its close in terms of bread height and somewhat close in texture. Ciabatta holds up really well in terms of soaking in the olive salad and withstands the pressing (I wrap the sandwich and press it under a cast iron skillet). Good luck!!