Crescia ~ Umbrian Easter Cheese Bread

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Crescia is a traditional Umbrian bread loaded with cheese that is typically made every Easter although I have found this bread sold year round though in many bread shops and even some of our local grocery stores. Although I have bought it often,  I decided it was finally time to make it myself as I thoroughly enjoy creating Umbrian specialties in my kitchen. This bread is very impressive to look at as it rises to a tall golden dome and is flecked with pieces of cheese. Although I love the bread simply sliced and eaten as is, it is great toasted for breakfast with eggs, and goes really well with cured meats and salami. I tried a few different variations of recipes for this bread and didn’t love any of them, until I tried this recipe I adapted from Mary Ann Esposito.

Pecorino Romano, rather than Parmisiano Reggiano is the typical cheese used here in Umbria and is the cheese of choice used in this bread. Pecorino is a hard, salty cheese that is often used for grating. Pecorino is made out of sheep’s milk, and pecora is the Italian name for sheep.  For this traditional Umbrian bread,  I combined both aged, grated pecorino, as well as some softer (younger) pecorino that I diced. I have made this recipe many times now, and found I preferred the diced cheese to be a little larger in size which creates nice little cheesy pockets that bake into the bread. Our eggs here in Italy have very dark yolks which creates a very golden yellow colored bread, but when I make this bread in the US, I found it turned out quite a bit lighter in color than what is shown in these photos. I have used both two small souffle dishes, or one large souffle dish with good results. Obviously, if you are using he smaller baking dishes, you will need to educe the baking time by about ten minutes.

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Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2015

Crescia ~ Umbrian Easter Cheese Bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 Cup Warm Water
  • 1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
  • 7 Large Eggs
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Coarse Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Sea Salt
  • 2 Cups Grated Pecorino Cheese
  • 8 Cups All-purpose Flour (Or Tipo 0)
  • 8 Ounces Young Pecorino Cheese Cut Into 1/2 Inch Dice

Directions:

  1. Spray one large, or two small soufflé dishes with oil, and using a strip of parchment paper, line the top of the dish adding an additional 2 to 3 inches of height.
  2. Add the yeast to the water in a bowl and mix, and let sit 5 minutes until bubbly.
  3. In another bowl, beat first the 7 eggs, then add the olive oil, salt, pepper, and grated cheese.
  4. Add the yeast mixture to the egg mixture and stir until combined.
  5. Add half the flour and stir.
  6. Continue to add flour one cup at a time until you create a firm dough that is not too sticky.
  7. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead by hand, folding in the diced cheese as you work the dough.
  8. Knead for about 5 minutes or until the cheese has been incorporated into the dough, and the dough is smooth.
  9. Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil and let the dough rise until doubled, covered, in a warm spot.
  10. Punch down the dough and form it into a ball and place it into the prepared soufflé dish.
  11. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cover the bread with a kitchen towel and let it rise for about 30 minutes.
  12. Bake the bread for about 45 to 50 minutes (for large souffle dish), or until it reaches an internal temperature of 180 degrees F.
  13. Let the bread cool for 10 minutes, remove it from the baking dish and let cool to room temperature before cutting into it.

Adapted From Mary Ann Esposito