I tried an excellent prosciutto parmesan Italian loaf from a local bakery in Boston and I'd like to try making it myself. I have a great bread recipe (flour, water, yeast, salt) that has to sit at room temperature for 24 hours before baking. It's a no-knead bread, so you just pop the dough in a Dutch oven once it's risen. My question is, would it be okay to add the chunks of prosciutto and parm to the mixture before letting it rise overnight? I'm afraid if I add it in right before baking, the dough will get overworked and the bread will end up tough.
This is a very interesting question. Each of your 3 primary ingrediants, the dough, prosciuotto, and parmessian, can obviously be kept at room temperature for 24 hours. But I think combining them could create some problems.
The cheese and ham can sit outside of the fridge because they are very dry and are loaded with salt. This prevents bacteria from growing. But once you add them to the bread dough, they will absorb moisture, which may allow bacteria to grow. Fortunately, I believe there is a way around this.
You say that your bread recipe calls for the dough to sit for 24 hours. My guess is that this allows the dough to both rise and develope flavor. If you are going to include proscuitto and parmessan in the dough, allowing it to sit for 24 hours will further improve the flavor. (For example, I have seen some excellent chocolate chip cookie recipes call for letting the dough sit in the fridge overnight to allow the chocolate flavor to permeate the dough.)
Thus my answer is to let the dough sit in the fridge for 20 hours, and then raise it for 4 hours before baking. While in the fridge, your don't have to worry about bacteria growing on the ham or cheese, but your yeast cultures will survive. Pulling the bread out of the fridge 4 hours before you plan on baking it will allow the yeast to reactivate, and raise your bread dough.
Note: If your bread has not risen enough 1 hour before you plan on baking, put the dough and a bowl of boiling water in the oven (don't turn the oven on, obviously). The sauna you create will make the dough rise faster.