Have you ever seen a recipe on a favorite site and knew immediately that you wanted to make it?
And then it promptly left your overfilled brain.
But then another favorite site decided to make it, too… and then it was burned into your memory, taunting you with visuals of crusty, cheese-y goodness?
(Or maybe that’s just me.)
Well, several weeks ago, John from the Bartolini Kitchens made this amazing bread for Easter. And you all know how I am about bread – so I immediately was pumped to make it. But life got busy…and I forgot.
But the bread gods must’ve been looking out for me because soon after, Smidge, at Just a Smidgen, made it, too!
So, here I am, take three on this (obviously) wonderful bread.
Crescia al Formaggio, adapted from King Arthur Flour
2 1/2 c bread flour
1 1/4 t instant yeast
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk, (white reserved for glaze)
1/4 c warm water
1/4 c (4 T) softened butter
1 t salt
1 t ground pepper (black if you don’t mind the specks, white if you do)
1 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago cheese, or a combination
Beat on medium speed for 10 minutes, until the dough becomes shiny and satiny. It’ll be sticky; stop the mixer to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times during the mixing process if necessary. Add cheese. Beat until well combined.
Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with a damp cloth, and set it aside to rest/rise for 45 minutes in a warm place; it may not much, so don’t be worried.
Gently deflate the dough, turn it over, return it to the bowl, and allow it to rest/rise for an additional 45 minutes; again, it may not seem to rise much — again, that’s OK.
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. Cover the loaf lightly, and allow it to rise for 90 minutes (or longer, depending on the warmth of your kitchen); the dough should have become noticeably puffy, though it won’t have doubled in size.
While the loaf is rising, put your oven rack in a lower position, just below the middle, and preheat the oven to 425°F.
Whisk the reserved egg white with 2 teaspoons cold water, and brush the top of the loaf. Place the bread in the oven and bake it for 15 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F, tent the bread lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 30 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F.
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.
So, I kind of forgot to check the total amount of time needed to make this bread. I realized, as the bread was doing the first rise, that I would not have enough time to finish it before leaving for an appointment…so I had to change the rise times from the original – I made up for it by making sure the bread rose in a warm place with a slightly damp cloth. Just these small changes seemed to make the yeast super happy and ready to grow.
My other downfall for this recipe was a problem with separating my eggs. This, honestly, was the very first (and second!) time I’ve ever not been able to do this. Normally, I am an egg separating savant. Seriously. Hubs always gives me a hard time when I separate eggs, because I do it right over the batter, etc., full of confidence, and have never messed up. While making this bread, though, I not only broke the yolk, but the second time I tried, the shell collapsed and my yolk fell into the white. I was not a happy camper let me tell you (though I was glad that Hubs was not home to gloat).
Other than those little snafus, the bread worked like a dream.
And that cheesy bread smell filled the house for hours – bonus!
The bread actually had a really strong cheese flavor, since I mostly used Asiago, and the pepper added fun spice throughout. The texture was all that you want in a bread: crusty on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside. All in all, just as good as I expected with the recommendations from the blogs above.
We had it with a salad, but I think it would be just heavenly dipped in a homemade marinara sauce. Or even toasted with some butter.