Holiday Food, Laugh

Italian Easter Cheese Bread (Crescia al Formaggio) – Recipe!

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Egg breads are quite popular on Easter Sunday.  Most of the time in America they tend to be in the form of sweetened brioche, hot cross buns or some sort of poppy seed egg bread.  Italian Easter Cheese Bread or Crescia al Formaggio is often served in the Umbria region of Italy at Easter time and it is similar in style to our American egg bread, but with a few Italian additions.

What makes this bread so fun is the added Italian cheeses like parmesan, pecorino or romano. Black pepper is usually mixed into the bread as well, for a unique Cacio e Pepe flavor.  Italian Easter Cheese Bread goes with any holiday meal, whether you are serving brunch, lunch or dinner and it is fairly simple to prepare.

I just love the braided loaf presentation and I thought it would be fun to slice and serve, buffet style  for brunch.  I bet it would make a great sandwich bread too, that is…if there is any left??  Maybe I should have made two – Happy Easter.

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

3 extra large eggs + 1 yolk

1/8 cup warm water

4 tablespoons softened butter

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup ground pecorino cheese

egg white, to brush on top

olive oil for bowl

(Makes 1 Loaf)

To Prepare:

1.  Combine all the ingredients in a stand mixer, except the water and cheese.

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2.  Using the dough hook, turn the mixer on medium speed and add the water slowly.  Let the dough mix for 8 minutes, it will be very sticky.  Then, add the cheese and continue to mix for 4 minutes.  If you need to add a tablespoon or two of flour to the dough, you can, but be careful not to make the dough too stiff and dry.

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3.  Remove the dough from the mixer and place on a lightly floured surface.  Knead the dough several times until it is smooth.  Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap and a dry warm towel.  Let the dough proof for 2 hours, it will not double in size, but rise.

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4.  Remove the plastic wrap and cut the dough into 3 equal pieces.  Then, using your hands, roll each piece into a 9 inch rope.  Gather the pieces at the top and braid one over the other.  Pinch the sides together and form into a loaf.  Place the dough in a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap.  Let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until it barely reaches the top of the pan.

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5.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Remove the plastic wrap and brush with egg white, mixed with a splash of water.

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6.  Bake the bread for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove the bread from the oven and let cool in the pan for 15 minutes.  Using a table knife, loosen around the perimeter and invert.  Let the bread cool on a rack until ready to serve.

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7.  Slice, serve and enjoy!

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