Italian Easter Cheese Bread

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Yield: 1 large loaf

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Crescia al Formaggio, Italian Easter cheese bread, is still mostly unknown in this country, and that's a pity. This light-textured, golden egg bread, loaded with Parmesan cheese, perfumes the kitchen with its wonderful savory aroma as it bakes. A nice change from the usual Easter sweet breads, it goes wonderfully well with the Easter ham — both at dinner, and later, when you're making ham sandwiches.

Be aware that this isn't a soft, moist loaf. It's very light, crusty, and quite dry inside. We suggest serving it in thin slices; toasted and buttered; or made into grilled sandwiches (grilled ham and cheese, anyone?)

Italian Easter Cheese Bread

star rating (22) rate this recipe »
Hands-on time:
Baking time:
Total time:
Yield: 1 large loaf
Published: 01/16/2012

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, white reserved
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper (black if you don't mind the specks, white if you do)
  • 1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese, or a combination

Glaze

  • reserved egg white (from above)
  • 2 teaspoons cold water

Tips from our bakers

  • Want to make the dough in a bread machine? Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your machine, program the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. Check the dough about 10 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle, and adjust its consistency as necessary with additional flour or water; it should be shiny and elastic. Allow the machine to complete its cycle, then shape and bake as directed at right.

Directions

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1) Combine all of the dough ingredients except the cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It'll be very sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process.

2) Add the cheese, and beat until well combined.

3) Scrape the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and set it aside to rest/rise for 1 hour; it won't do much. Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl, and allow it to rest/rise for an additional hour; again, it may not seem to rise much — that's OK.

4) Oil or flour your hands. To make a traditional round loaf, form the dough into a ball, and place it in a greased pandoro (star) or panettone pan; a large souffle dish; or another round, deep pan. The pan should be about 6" to 7" wide, and 3" to 4" deep.

5) To make a pretty loaf, divide the dough into three pieces; roll each piece into a 12" log; and braid the logs. Nestle the braid into a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.

6) Cover the loaf lightly, and allow it to rise for 2 hours (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should have become noticeably puffy, though it won't have doubled in size.

7) To bake the bread: Put your oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle, and preheat the oven to 425°F.

8) Whisk the reserved egg white with the water and brush the top of the loaf.

9) Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.

10) Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 30 to 35 minutes, until it's a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. The braided loaf will require less time than the round loaf.

11) Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Use a knife to loosen the edges, if necessary, and turn the loaf out onto a rack to cool completely before slicing.

12) Store airtight, at room temperature, for several days. Freeze, tightly wrapped, for longer storage.

Yield: 1 loaf.

Reviews

1 23  All  
  • star rating 04/04/2015
  • Mosey from Portland Maine
  • This is very good and easy. Could this be made with any gluten free flour?
    You may want to adapt a GF bread recipe to the cheeses instead of the other way around. MJR @ KAF
  • star rating 07/19/2014
  • gosz from KAF Community
  • This has great flavor and slices easily. I made the braid in the loaf pan. I mixed the dough in my Zo Mini. very good!
  • star rating 07/19/2014
  • Lonnie from Iowa
  • What a wonderful loaf of bread! I made it exactly as directed. As for the cheese, I used two ounces each of Parmesan, Asiago, Pecerino Romano. I used flour instead of oil after the first two hour-long rises, which seems to make it rise a bit more than using oil. My mother-in-law calls it "Saturday bread," because it takes a day to get through all the rising times. I've never had an unsuccessful loaf using KA flour and recipes, but this one is a special favorite!
  • star rating 04/22/2014
  • Fiorella from Brooklyn
  • I made only two changes: I added the cheese at the beginning, mixing it in with the flour (because trying to incorporate it into the end dough was insane and impossible -- putting it in with the flour made mixing a snap), and doubling the warm water to 1/2 cup. This was a huge massive hit with my Sicilian family this past Easter. Nonna loved it! My sister was so impressed she went out of her way to make BBQ pulled pork the next day just to have it with the bread. It is excellent for grilled ham and cheese. This will become a holiday staple.
  • star rating 04/09/2014
  • gilliedog@aol.com from KAF Community
  • Very nice bread BUT there was too much pepper for my liking. After eating it there is a definite pepper taste in my mouth. I would make it again but not use as much pepper. I also didn't have exactly those cheeses but a bag of shredded 5 Italian cheese blend. It worked OK but it needed more asiago cheese in it I think. I will have to find a deli and buy the cheeses and then shred them I guess.
  • star rating 04/09/2014
  • Patty from Corona del Mar, CA
  • Initially, I was a bit taken back by the four hour rise time, but the outcome was well worth it! Just the right amount of cheese and pepper bite. I actually made this for the second-day toast. Delicious! I used the Emile Henry Artisan Bread Baking Crock for final rise and baking, and it was a perfect round loaf. This recipe is a keeper!
  • 04/02/2014
  • Angela from RI
  • I would love to make this, but one of my guest has an egg intollerance. How few eggs do you think I can make this with? Can I use olive oil to replace some of the yolk fat?
    If your guest has an egg allergy, it would be safer to make a bread with no eggs, rather than with reduced eggs. You might enjoy our Savory Cheddar Cheese Bread.~Jaydl@KAF
  • star rating 10/18/2013
  • boobooceconley from KAF Community
  • I just fixed this bread today, we almost eat the entire loaf for supper. It is delicious! The whole family loves it. Great alone or made into a sandwich.
  • star rating 08/28/2013
  • Karin from St. Augustine, FL
  • Just made this bread to accompany a tray of baked ziti - like the recipe said it was a drier loaf of bread, very crusty....and you can definitely taste the salt and pepper in it! We LOVE bread at my house and this loaf was delicious. And it looked very impressive! Like other reviewers commented, my dough was also not sticky at all. I mixed my dough by hand and had no problems with it sticking to anything....and I didn't even have to add any more flour! Can't wait to make a sandwich later tonight...we just happen to have ham and cheese in the fridge so grilled ham and cheese it is!
  • star rating 04/02/2013
  • cynthia20932 from KAF Community
  • I measured the ingredients accurately, and it was very wet! I had to stir it for 10 minutes or so, and got a blister. But it was very good. Everyone loved it. It didn't seem dry to me.
1 23  All  
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