Italian Easter Cheese Bread(Makes 1 loaf)
Crescia al Formaggio
1/4 cup warm water, 105 -115 degrees F.
1-1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, white reserved
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese, or a combination of both
1/2 cup diced Fontina or Asiago cheese
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water.
Let it rest until foamy, 5-10 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the remaining ingredients except the reserved egg white and the grated and diced cheese. Add the yeast mixture. Using the paddle attachment or dough hook, mix on medium speed until the ingredients come together into a ball, about 3-4 minutes. Stop the mixer once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl before continuing. Add the grated and diced cheese; beat until just combined. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead just enough to form a smooth dough ball. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl, turning the dough over to coat the dough with oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and set it aside to rise for 1 hour. The dough should be noticeably puffy although it won't have doubled in size.
Butter a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-inch log and braid the logs together. Place the braid into the prepared loaf pan. Cover and set aside to rise for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Lightly beat the reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon of water; brush the mixture over the top of the loaf. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown (the internal temperature should be 190 - 200 degrees F).
Remove the bread from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 10 minutes. If necessary, use a knife to loosen the edges and turn the bread out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store at room temperature in an airtight container for several days or freeze for longer storage.
Crescia al Formaggio - Italian Easter Cheese Bread
This golden egg bread filled with grated and diced cheese is a savory Easter bread from the Marche and Umbria regions of central Italy. The crescia is also called Pizza di Pasqua or Crescia Brusca. It can be found either baked as thin as a focaccia, as tall as a panettone, or made into a loaf, as in our recipe. It is often served with salami, cheese, olives and sometimes hard-boiled eggs, particularly for Pasquetta (Easter Monday). On this day, Italians head out of the cities to enjoy picnics with family and friends, bringing along a fritatta, this bread, some cheese or even a casatiello. It also is a nice accompaniment to an Easter ham and is delicious made into grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. In Umbria, the crescia is often baked a few days before Easter and the local women bring their breads in baskets to their churches to have them blessed by the priest.
GREAT PASTRY BOARD
This reversible board functions in such a way that one side can be used for work with dough to keep it smooth all the time and the other side as a cutting board. It also has lips on the sides to keep the board in place and ensure it will not slip around while you are working.
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