My Family came to Canada in 1913 from the town of Pesaro in the Province of Le Marche, Italy. Over the years, traditions were lost or no longer practiced as my ancestors blended more into the Canadian fabric. But, Crescia has always survive the test of time and it has now been alive and well for 4 generations in our Canadian family. I’m sure it’s not the same as the one my great-grandmother (Bisnonna Laura) made, but I hope it’s a close resemblance.
Crescia is a vastly different bread, depending on the region of its origins. It can be as thin as focaccia or as high as the crescia that originated in Pesaro. The later is the one that my Family has made for generations, though it was denser and did not rise as high as the one that I make. But, it is similar in its signature ingredients of eggs, pepper and cheese.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Easter breads are so laden with eggs. As you backyard chicken owners know, heritage breed hens take a break from laying eggs during the Winter and resume their production in the Spring which happens to coincide with Easter. As well, eggs, cheese, meat and olive oil were historically omitted from the diet in Italy during the period of Lent so everyone must have been “chompin’ at the bit” to return to these foods after those 40 bland days!
1 3/4 Cup Warm Water
1 Tablespoon Active Dry Yeast
1 Teaspoon Sugar
6 Large Eggs (Thank you ladies!)
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Coarse Black Pepper (Decrease to your palate)
1 Tablespoon Salt
2 Cups Grated Romano Cheese (Parmesan or Pecorino substitute)
8 Cups All Purpose Flour
Add the yeast and sugar to warm water and mix. Let it sit for 5 minutes until bubbly.
In another bowl, beat the 6 eggs and add olive oil, salt, pepper and grated cheese.
Add the yeast mixture to the egg mixture and gently stir until it is all combined.
Add half of the flour mixture and stir until it is thoroughly combined. Continue adding the flour, about 1 cup at a time, until completely mixed. I find that by the addition of the 4th cup of flour, the mixture must be mixed by hand.
Once the dough is completely mixed, take it out of the bowl and begin kneading on a floured surface. If the dough is too sticky, just add a bit of flour to the countertop until it no longer sticks. Continue kneading for 10 minutes.
At this point, the dough should be smooth and have an “elastic” feel. Wash out your mixing bowl, dry, and lightly coat the bottom and sides of the bowl with some olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn it over a few times in order to coat the dough. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. This will prevent the top of the dough from drying out.
Now it’s time to let the dough rise in a warm place. I set a table up near my wood stove and leave it there for around 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until the dough as doubled in size. In order to obtain a fairly even heat, I turn the bowl a 1/4 turn every 15 minutes or so. You can use your oven or bread proofer if you have one. I simply use the wood stove because I generally have it on during the weekends and it creates a nice heat for the dough, providing that you don’t have it too close (80-90 F is a good target).
Once the dough has doubled in size, it is time to “punch” it down and knead for a second time. The dough should have a spongy feel and easily fold into itself when kneaded. Continue kneading for 5 minutes.
Once the dough has been kneaded, place it in a greased pan. Make sure to coat the entire interior of the pan. I use a panettone pan because it is deep and this bread is going to rise really high!
Once again, it is down to the wood stove for a second rise. Make sure to cover the pan with a damp tea towel so that the top of the dough does not dry out. Continue the second rise for around 1 – 1 1/2hrs or until it has doubled in size again.
Pre-heat oven to 375 F, lightly oil the top of the bread with olive oil and place in the oven for 50-60 minutes. Once done, the top should be golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let it rest in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Carefully take the crescia out of the pan and let it cool on the rack.
Buona Pasqua to all! Bisnonna…I hope I made you proud!
Feel free to drop me a line and let me know how you made out in making your Crescia!