In Central Italy, at Easter time, we make a typical cheese bread called Crescia or Pizza di Pasqua. The origin of “Crescia al Formaggio” dates back to Middle Ages. It was made by the nuns of the monastery of Santa Maria Maddalena in Serra de ’Conti, in the Marche region. It was made on Holy Thursday or Good Friday evening and baked in communal wood-burning ovens where each family took their own bread. According to the tradition, it should not be tasted until the bells “melted”, that is at the end of the penance period of Lent.
I had never made it because it has to rise a lot and I am always afraid to make a mistake along the process. Possibly I was also intimidated by its name: “CRESCIA” (as it is known throughout the Marche region) comes from the verb “crescere” which means “to grow”. When you bake it in the oven – it literally “grows” into a beautiful and TALL cake! Despite my doubts, I love cheese food and this year I have decided to give it a go!
There are a few different versions of this recipe, as each region (and each family!) has its own variation, their own recipe that is passed down from generation to generation. I have used the simplest one, with only one rise step, and…surprise….surprise… the result was really good! A soft, delicious cheese bread! The recipe was very simple to make, even if you are on your first attempt!
- 250 g strong bread flour
- 250 g plain flour
- 5 eggs
- 2 and 1/4 dry active yeast
- 100 g pecorino grated cheese
- 100 g grated parmesan cheese
- 1/2 glass of milk
- 100 g extra virgin olive oil
- black pepper
Prepare all the ingredients, which must be at room temperature. Since Crescia is a very tall bread, you need to make sure your baking pan is wide and deep enough to get a good result. Mine was about 20 cm wide and about 14 cm deep and I lined it with baking paper, using some butter “as a glue” to stick the paper to the pan.
Break the five eggs into a bowl and beat them. Add the two types of grated cheese and mix well. In this order add: the milk, which must be warm, the yeast, the two types of flour, the oil, salt and pepper. Continue to mix until the dough becomes compact and very elastic.
In the meantime, pre-heat the oven to 50 ° C. When the dough is ready, switch off the oven, put the dough in the pan and then straight into the oven.
Let it rise for about 4 hours without opening the oven door, as the sudden change of the temperature could stop the rising.
At the end of the leavening, when the dough has doubled its volume, always without opening the oven, turn it on at 180 ° C and cook for 45 minutes. Then lower the temperature to 150 ° C and cook the Crescia for another 15 minutes. Inserted a skewer into the centre of the Crescia, if it comes out clean it means that it is ready. Let it cool in the oven with the door open.
I was very pleased with the result! I served the Crescia for dinner with crumbled eggs and a salad, delicious!
I suggest to pairing the cheese bread with a White Pinot, often confused with Chardonnay even if produced using different grapes.
This is an international grape variety that originated from a genetic mutation of Pinot Noir, used also in the blends for the production of Italian sparkling wines. Mostly, it is produced in cold areas in Italy and the biggest production is in Trentino alto Adige and Friuli Venezia Giulia regions, in the further North of the country. In these two regions, there a few winemakers who can offer a good wine at a very reasonable price. I suggest going for a not aged bottle ( 2017 is the limit), to have the right level of acidity. The White Pinot has elegant aromas of fruit and flowers, it’s fresh, has reasonable minerality and it’s a perfect pair to balance the cheese taste.