Makes 1 large and 1 small bread
Crescia is that cheese bread made in Umbria and particularly in Gubbio for the la corsa dei Ceri, the candle race in honor of Gubbio's patron, Sant'Ubaldo. The domed loaf with its sunny yellow crumb rises high above its rim, and this is where it gets the name, "crescia", meaning to grow or rise. Flavored with flecks of coarse black pepper, and several kinds of cheese, including grated Pecorino, chunks of mozzarella, and Provolone, this impressive bread is best eaten warm.
1 3/4 cups warm water (110 F)
1 tablespoon active dried yeast
7 large eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon coarse black pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup grated Pecorino cheese
7 to 8 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups (8 ounces) diced mozzarella cheese
1 cup (5 ounces) diced Provolone cheese
Spray a 6 1/2 X 6 1/2-inch high-sided pan and a 4 X 6 1/2-inch high sided pan with olive oil and set aside. The insert to a crock pot works well for the larger loaf and brown paper lunch bags or panettone papers work well for the smaller loaf.
Pour the water into a large bowl or into the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in the yeast and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes; it will get chalky looking and bubbles should appear on the surface.
Beat the eggs with a whisk in a separate bowl to break them up; whisk in the olive oil, black pepper, salt, and grated Pecorino cheese. Add this mixture to the yeast mixture and blend well. Begin adding the flour 1 cup at a time until a dough is created that is not sticking to your hands. Use the paddle attachment if using a stand mixer to make the dough; the dough should wind itself around the paddle attachment when enough flour has been added. If doing this by hand, the job will be a little harder since this is a fairly heavy dough; add just enough flour to allow the dough to come away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface; knead it a few times with your hands, then stretch the dough out, and sprinkle the diced cheeses over the top. Fold the dough over the cheeses and knead them into the dough.
Brush a large bowl with olive oil, and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled. This should take about 2 hours.
Punch down the dough with your hands, and transfer it once again to a lightly floured surface. Knead it for a few minutes. Cut 2/3 of the dough and knead it into a round; place it in the large pan; round the remaining 1/3 portion of dough and place it in the smaller pan. Cover the doughs with clean towels and allow them to rise for 30-35 minutes or until they have risen 2/3 of the way up the sides of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Remove the top rack in the oven and set aside. Place the pans on the lowest position in the oven and bake the breads for 35-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of the loaves comes out clean. The breads will rise to impressive heights, and if the tops brown too much before the breads are done, loosely cover them with a piece of aluminum foil.
Transfer the breads to a cooling rack. Allow to cool until warm. Run a butter knife inside the pan to loosen the bread from the sides; then invert the pan and remove the bread. If using paper bags or panettone papers, there is no need to remove the bread from the papers.
Tip: Use the water drained off of boiling potatoes in the recipe since potato water has so much starch that yeast loves to feed on it.
This recipe is from CIAO ITALIA IN UMBRIA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by St. Martin's Press in 2002.
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