Bread & BakeryItalian Holiday Traditions

Italian Easter Cheese Bread {Crescia or Pizza Di Pasqua}

This Italian Easter Cheese Bread is called Crescia, Pizza Di Formaggio or Pizza Di Pasqua.

But it has nothing to do with a classic Neapolitan pizza you might be thinking of.

It looks more like a cake, a savory “panettone” if you will.

What is Crescia Al Formaggio?

A brioche-like savory bread, enriched with grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheese and even stuffed with large piece of hard cheese that melt inside the bread when its baked.

Crescia Al Formaggio with Melted Cheese

It’s a typical Easter bread from Central regions of Italy like Marche, Abruzzo, Umbria, Lazio and Molisse.

Each region and each family in fact (!) has its own variation, their own recipe that is passed down from generations to genrations.

Some add a pinch of nutmeg, some use young Pecorino cheese instead of Emental or Swiss cheese and some omit the third cheese all at once.

A Little Bit Of Curiosity

The name Crescia (by which it is known throughout the Marche region) comes from the verb “crescere”  which means “to grow”. When bake it in the oven – it literally “grows” into a declious, beautiful and tall cake.

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 Ancona area.

Original recipe of this Easter Pizza, called for 40 eggs, the number that symbolized forty days of Lent. It was prepared on Holy Thursday or Good Friday evening and baked in communal wood burning ovens where each family took their bread to bake taking turns with others.

According to the tradition, it should not be tasted until the bells “melted”, that is, at the end of the penance period of Lent.

Today, even though Crescia Al Formaggio is a traditional bread on Easter Day, like with most Italian typical holiday recipes, no big festivity goes without it.

In some regions of Central Italy you can even find it in bread shops and bakeries all year round.

If you have not heard of Crescia Al Formaggio yet, is because despite its popularity in some regions, for some reason it’s not really well known in other parts of Italy, not to mention in the rest world. So, let’s see if we can fix that 😀

If you’re a true cheese lover, this is the only bread you’ll want. All day. Everyday.

Crescia Al Formaggio Inside Cut

Helpful Tools

Since Crescia is a very tall leavended bread you need to make sure your baking dish is narrow and deep enough to get this kind of result.

Ideally, it should be 1.5-2 quart, 7 to 8 inches in diameter and at least 3.5 tall.

Here are some of the options:

  • Panettone Paper Mold (probably my favorite)  – so easy to use and super nice to give as a gift.
  • Suffle Dish – don’t forget to line with parchment paper.
  • Aluminium Cake Pan also know as Cheesecake Pan
  • As an alternative you can also use a classic Loaf Pan that you’re likely already have at home. Your Crescia will have a different shape but will still taste delicious.

It’s also super handy to have Barbecue Skewers. You’ll see in the recipe why.

Happy Baking & Happy Easter!

Crescia Al Formaggio with Melted Cheese
Italian Easter Cheese Bread

Italian Easter Cheese Bread {Crescia or Pizza Di Pasqua}

Delicious Italian Easter Cheese Bread loaded with grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheese and stuffed with melted Swiss cheese inside.
Print Pin Rate / Comment
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Resting Time (approximate)5 hrs
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 1 crescia

Ingredients

  • 150 ml lukewarm milk , approx ½ cup + 2 tbsp
  • 1 tsp dry yeast
  • 4 eggs
  • 500 g flour , 17.5 oz
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 65 g Extra virgin olive oil , approx ¼ cup
  • 100 g Pecorino cheese , grated approx 1 cup
  • 100 g Parmesan cheese , grated approx 1 ½ cup
  • 100 g Emental cheese or Gruyère or Swiss cheese , cut in large cubes
  • Paper Mold (recommended)

Instructions

  • In lukewarm milk add dry yeast. Let sit for a few minutes until dissolved.
  • In a large mixer bowl beat eggs. Add extra virgin olive oil and about ⅓ of all flour, sifted.
    Mix well with a fork.
  • Add milk and yeast mix. Continue mixing add another third of flour. At this point the dough will start to become thicker but will be still very soft and easily managable with a fork.
  • Add grated Pecorino and Parmesan cheese. Mix everything well with a fork.
  • Once cheese has been well incorporated in the dough add salt, pepper and the remaining flour.
  • Start kneading the dough using your hands. Once it start to come together in a soft but compact ball trasnfer it to well floured work surface and using rotaing motion knead for another minute.
  • Give your dough a nice round shape, dust lightly with flour and cover with linen towel.
  • Let rise at room temperture (about 75F/ 24C) for 2-3 hours or until it doubles in zise.
  • Traditionally crescia is baked in a tall round tin, the same you use to make panettone. But you can make it in a rectangular loaf pan as well.
  • You can also easily use paper molds like these ones.
  • Using your fingers press lightly down the dough without tearning or puling forming a rectangular shape.
  • Insert Emental cheese cut in large cubes throughout all the rectangular shape of your pizza. Fold all sides inside, pinch all seals and give the dough a round shape.
  • Line your mold with parchment paper and place the dough ball inside for last proofing.
  • Cover with a linen towel and let rise in lukewarm place until almost double in size. It’ll take about 1.5 – 2 hours.
  • Once your bread has risen, preheat the oven to 325F / 160C
  • Bake for 50-70 minutes, depending on the oven. At 50 minute mark do a “toothpick test” with a wooden skewer (super important!) so that you can reach the bottom of the pan and prick the bread all the way through. If you do it with a toothpick you will just check the upper half of the bread which might be baked through before the lower part. Also make sure to insert the skewer in the center as it also tends to bake through last.
  • If the skewer came out dry and the bread is nicely browned at the top it’s ready. If not, keep in the oven for another 10-20 minutes.
    If the top starts to brown ahead of time, cover it with a piece of foil or parchment paper.
  • Serve warm or cold with cured meat and eggs.

Video

Buon Appetito!

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