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~ Italian Easter: Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia ~

6a0120a8551282970b0168e9b2a4c8970cAt Easter, Italian cooks bake a very unique egg and cheese bread called crescia (kray-shah), which means "to grow".  As with almost all ethnic recipes, there are as many versions as there are cooks.  My husband Joe and his brother Tom grew up loving this bread, and I must admit to being very intimidated when faced with developing a recipe for the two of them, based upon how they recalled it from their youth in Jessup, Pennsylvania.  After researching many recipes, and talking to a few Italian relatives from Jessup, who actually make the bread (who, I must report, in true Italian "don't reveal any secrets" tradition, have never, not even once, in my thirty-plus years of marriage to Joe, EVER shared a recipe with me that worked perfectly from the get-go), I became crazed.  In my foodie world, I strive to pass on delicious recipes that work, period.  Once I caught onto their "you'll get it right next time dear" attitudes, I no longer allowed the differences between their respective recipe tales affect my ability to cook "their" food, I sneakily started using the similarities in them to develop spot-on Mel-versions that rival the best of theirs.  Similarities:

LocatelliIn Jessup, PA, crescia is made exclusively with Locatelli cheese, period.  Not Parmesan, period. Do not substitute, period.

In Jessup, PA, crescia is made with copious amounts of Locatelli cheese and lots of black pepper, period. Crescia is not cheese- and pepper-flavored bread, it is peppery cheese bread, period.

In Jessup, PA, crescia is made with eggs and butter.  Eggs are used in place of any milk, water or other liquid that typically get added to a bread dough.  They prefer big eggs too.  When it comes to making crescia, bigger is better, period.

A bit about Locatelli cheese:  Made in Lazio, Tuscany, and Sardinia, it is the most famous brand of Pecorino Romano cheese sold in the United States.  These three regions of Italy have ideal pastures and specific breeds of sheep that insure consistent flavor.  Dating back to Roman times, Locatelli is one of the world's oldest cheeses.  In Italian, "Pecorino" means "made from sheep's milk" and "Romano" means "of Roman descent".  Locatelli cheese is made from November thru June and it is aged for a minimum of nine months.  It is pale yellow in color, hard and dense in texture (similar to parmigiano-reggiano) and strong and sharp in flavor with a salty edge.

PICT2713The best crescia dough is very soft and gooey, yet workable:

PICT2718The best advice I received regarding the making of the dough came from my husband's ex-mother-in-law Albina (a lovely Italian woman and wonderful cook):  The consistency of the mixture is best described as "somewhere between a batter and a dough", "very soft and gooey, yet workable".  Adding too much flour, in an attempt to mimic the texture and feel of traditional bread dough, is a mistake, and, the less you work this dough, the better your bread will be.  It will take this dough quite a while to rise or "grow" (sometimes 2-3 hours), and, the doubling in size is more important than the actual time it takes.

PICT2718The following surprisingly-simple recipe produces a very-flavorful, moist, heavy-textured loaf.  Crescia is traditionally grilled or toasted and served with paper-thin slices of Italian specialty meats and cheeses on top of it.  While it is delicious just as it is, grilling or toasting it takes it to decadent.  That being said, in the Preschutti households, we adore it sliced, toasted and slathered with butter for breakfast too.

To make Italian crescia a la Melanie:














1  pound Locatelli cheese

6 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose four, plus 1/2 cup additional flour for kneading, plus 1/4 cup bench flour

6  packets granulated dry yeast, NOT rapid rise

2  tablespoons sugar

1  teaspoon salt

1  tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1  tablespoon white pepper

1/2  pound salted butter (2 sticks)

1  dozen jumbo eggs, at room temperature

no-stick cooking spray, or butter and flour, for preparing pans

PICT2721~ Step 1.  Using a large chef's knife, chop the Locatelli cheese into 1"-1 1/2" pieces, adding them to the work bowl of a large-capacity food processor that has been fitted with a steel blade.  Using a series of deliberate on-off pulses, grate the cheese to a coarse, yet slightly chunky consistency, about 25.  Add the flour, yeast, sugar, salt, black and white pepper to the cheese. Turn on and process, just until combined, about 10-12 seconds.

PICT2719~ Step 2.  In a 2-cup measuring container, melt the butter in the microwave.  Set aside.

~ Step 3.  In a 1-quart measuring container, whisk the eggs together.

PICT2716~ Step 4. With motor running, in a thin stream, through the feed tube, add the butter, then the eggs.  A large, wet, sticky, ugly ball/mass will begin to form.

PICT2725~ Step 5.  Using the aid of a large spoon and your hands, carefully remove the sticky dough from the processor and place it on a generously floured pastry board.

PICT2728Using the heel of your hand, briefly knead the dough, adding about 1/2 cup of additional flour in small amounts, until dough is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands, about 1 minute.

PICT2736Step 6.  You will have 80 ounces of dough.  Using a large chef's knife and a kitchen scale as a measure, divide the dough into 8 equal parts.

PICT2733Note:  I like to quickly cut the dough into 8 parts and then use my kitchen scale to weigh and adjust each piece accordingly.

PICT2737~ Step 7.  You have two choices: Form each piece of dough into a smooth oval-shaped loaf or a round-shaped loaf.  Place each one in a mini, nonstick loaf pan that has been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray, or a conventional mini-loaf pan that has been buttered and floured. Rectangular or round? This is a choice you'll just have to make for yourself (I make some of each).

PICT2714 PICT2743~ Step 8. Completely cover the loaves with a kitchen towel (not a damp one) and set aside to let rise, in a warm kitchen, until they are nicely risen and have domed tops, about 2-3 hours (give it all the time it needs).

PICT2723~ Step 9.  Bake loaves, all at once, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, 18-20 minutes. Loaves will be honey-colored and have a hollow sound when tapped with the knuckle of your index finger. Remove from oven and cool in pans 5-10 minutes prior to removing from pans to cool completely on a cooling rack, about 2 hours.

Cool completely prior to serving or freezing:

PICT2717Italian Easter:  Peppery Egg & Cheese Crescia:  Recipe yields 8 mini-loaves, 6-8 slices per loaf, 3-4 servings per loaf.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; large 20-cup capacity food processor; 2-cup measuring container; 1-quart measuring container; whisk; large spoon; large pastry board; sharp paring knife; kitchen scale (optional but very helpful); 8, 5"L x 2 1/2"W x 2"D, rectangular mini-loaf pans, or 8, 2-cup round mini-loaf pans; large white flour sack-type towel; 17 1/2" x 2 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; wire cooling rack

PICT2721Cook's Note:  The traditional shape for crescia is round, probably because a round-shaped loaf pan encourages a higher rise, or "grow". That being said, when it comes time to slice and toast or grill the bread, rectangular-shaped loaves, in my kitchen, are much more practical.  I make mini-loaves because crescia freezes beautifully, which allows me to have it on-hand all year for wonderful individual-sized grilled cheese sandwiches and appetizers.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2012)


Hi Melanie,
I from Scranton PA and grew up loving crescia. Our family recipe uses a table spoon of orange rind and 8 crushed cloves. We used fresh yeast which is getting hard to find anymore. I get it from an Italian bakery in NE Ohio. Duke Silavanti's bakery in Jessup used to make it but that is long gone. Thanks for keeping these family traditions going in the USA.
Tony Pusateri

Thank you Melanie, you are always receptive to my questions.

Herman -- When preparing the bread using the food processor method do NOT proof the yeast first. It is not necessary. I misspoke about the water -- Warm-to-hot water is added to food processor pizza dough (Crecia uses warm-to-hot melted butter in place of water that is warm-to-hot). The food processor method works perfectly without proofing the yeast.

Melanie, as far as I can tell I haven't seen where hot water is added.

Hello again Herman. Hope this finds you and yours safe and well. If you are preparing the dough in the food processor, do NOT proof your yeast first. When the hot water gets added to the processor, it will activate it for you. If you are preparing the dough in the traditional manner, by hand-kneading the dough, then yes, proof the yeast. Happy Easter! ~ Melanie

Melanie, can tell me about "activating the yeast" should we or not, it is Fleishmens granulated dry yeast

Herman -- How lovely! Thanks for sharing this with me!!!

Melanie , Herman here , my daughter has been making Easter Bread for me for a few years now , but this year she used " KERRYGOLD IRISH BUTTER" which gave the bread a yellow look , and it is very delicious .

Herman -- How nice to hear from you again, and, Happy New Year to you and yours. If the ooey-gooey cake you speak of is an ooey-gooey butter cake, I do have a recipe that my mom made occasionally. It is a vintage recipe that was very popular in the 1960's (?) I believe, and, after I locate the recipe, I'll try to get a blog post written about it. Thank-you for the inspiration! ~ Melanie

Hello again Melanie , i just remembered , my grand daughters husbands family talk about "OOIE GOOIE CAKE / OR PIE " that they say their mother used to buy somewhere and was something they enjoyed as children but cannot find a really good one anywhere, have you heard of it ?

Happy New Year Melanie , I often talk to my Children and grandchildren about your website , and still enjoy the fruits of your Easter Bread Recipe .

thank you Herman Goetter

Herman -- Happy Easter. Your kind message along with your daughter's effort made my day. ~ Melanie.

Easter 2018 once again I am enjoying your Easter Bread recipe , my daughter made a 1/2 batch just for me .

Herman Goetter

Karen -- Pleased to "meet you" and thank-you for the nice comment. Crescia makes great croutons for salads too: melt 1 1/2-2 sticks of butter in a 10"-12" nonstick skillet and stir in 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, black pepper & salt. Add 6-8 cups 3/4" crescia cubes. Cook over medium- medium-high heat stirring constantly, like you would a stir-fry, for about 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature in the skillet. (Left uncovered in a bowl on the kitchen counter, they keep well for 3-4 days -- if they last that long.) I adore them in grilled chicken Caesar salad. ~ Mel.

Great recipe. Jessup was my stomping ground when I grew up, next door in Peckville and I will actually be there with my family this year for Easter.
I wanted to mention that one October I found frozen loaf in the back of the freezer that I had forgotten about and thawed it and turned it into breadcrumbs. My oh my, it was great to use in place of plain breadcrumbs and of course, it was perfect for meatballs.

Gardiner -- Crescia means "to grow", so, having a competition to see who's rises the highest is spot-on fun -- and Joe's family all bake theirs in large round pans like your family does. That said, I find the smaller loaves (which, relatively speaking rise high too), to be more manageable (user friendly). I triple wrap each small loaf in plastic, then place them in a zip lock bag. I take them out, one at a time, as I want them, and allow them to thaw at room temperature. Happy Easter to you and yours, and, try the toast!!! ~ Mel.

You mentioned this can be frozen. Easter is at my house this year and I am making the bread. How do you recommend you freeze this? How long can it last. I know my son freezes it after Easter because we never use the whole bread. We call it Pizza bread which confused a very young grandson looking for sauce and cheese.

Our version is "high and dry" with no cracks on top. We have a competition going and the prettiest is the best so we strive to make it look good as well as taste delicious. Of course much depends on the weather, the amounts of cheese etc.etc. etc. We barely measure the cheese using the hand method. I will try Locatelli but this recipe originated from a relative's spouse who came from northern Italy. We are Sicilian and never made this bread. The recipe calls for parm and romano and it is baked in a large soup pot or some such shape that produces a large, fairly tall loaf. We like it dry and do serve with all sorts of cheeses, salami, prosciutto and ham to nibble on before dinner. I will try it toasted. I never did that.

I am so delighted I found your website.
A Blessed Easter to you and all your followers.

Herman -- you made my day! Happy Easter to you and yours!!!

Kitchen Encounters, thank you for the PERFECT RECIPE
for Easter Bread, to my surprise another of my daughters made it for me following your recipe exactly and it was PERFECT , and delicious i just had a half loaf for breakfast. THANK YOU HERMAN GOETTER

Karen -- Great to hear from you. I'm meeting lots of folks from Jessup on here! "Torture" -- you made me chuckle. Happy Easter!!!

Thank you for posting this,my family wasnfrom Jessup too! Getting a recipe for this was torture!!

Brian -- I'm so glad you liked the recipe, and, I responded ASAP after I read your comment. Thanks for your feedback and the specifics with regard to the longer rise time and longer bake time when using standard pans (which I eluded to in my response). Next time through, if you do make the changes that you wrote about, I'd love it if you'd let me know how our two versions compare in taste and texture. That said, I carefully photographed my Cuisinart DLC-X Plus food processor, and, in the Special Equipment List (found at the end of all of my recipes), it lists a large-capacity food processor (20 cup). Happy Crescia eating and Happy Easter to you and yours!

Being impatient, and not getting a reply I made this exactly as stated but into 4 standard loafs.
I used regular loaf pans, allowed them to rise 21/2 hours after placing into well greased with butter and dusted with a bit of flour pans.
Baked them all at once for 30 minutes and they came out perfect.
The white pepper adds a certain additional layer of flavor that raises the bar.
Next time I will use large not jumbo eggs and try one or two table spoons of extra virgin olive oil for a deeper flavor.
My family recipe has milk,Crisco and water. This appealed to me as it was simpler and a bit lighter.
Readers should know that all the ingredients will not fit into your standard size food processor at once, you will need to divide the recipe ingredients in half and process in two batches.
Thanks Melanie, by the way I have many relatives from Jessup,and know the recipe sharing drill all too well!

Brian -- Happy Easter! Making it in standard loaf pans is not much different. If you can, weigh the dough and divide it equally amongst whatever size pans you decide to use. Allow it all the time it needs to rise (it will take a bit longer in a larger pan), then, bake it at the same temperature, until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (it will take a bit longer in a larger pan).

Herman. Thank-you so much for conjuring up this fond childhood memory for me. I had a Great Aunt who owned a farm. I was just a sprig of a small kid at the time. She too made Goldenrod Eggs (like your mom to feed a semi-large family) to use up her extra eggs (she raised chickens too). It's great to hear from you again, keep in touch, and, Happy Easter!

Sounds much like my family recipe.
Can you provide suggestions on how to make in traditional bread loaf pans?

Hello Kitchen Encounters , I'm Herman, (the Easter Bread
with logatelli cheese one) my dear mother used to make
what she called "Egg Log Golden Rod"it was a very simple
breakfast food for us, using hard boiled eggs and a simple milk and flower gravy, she would mix eggs whites
in the gravy , pouring it over toast bread and adding sifted egg yokes and paprika on top. She also I may add raised "many children". She worked miracles in her kitchen.

Herman Goetter

Herman -- a few in my husbands family do not add pepper. Some make a sweeter version, adding some extra sugar and anise seed instead. If you daughter made my recipe and it wasn't "the same", there is little I can to do to change that. This is how my husband's family has made it for generations. At present, I know of no one who sells this bread on-line, but, if I come across anyone, you will be the first to know. Happy Easter!

I would love to have some of the Italian Easter Bread
that my father-in-law used to make when he lived,ever since I saw this recipe I have been trying to find a bakery or someone who would make it for my wife and I.
The recipe you have here is exactly the same (except for the pepper)as he used to make.My daughter tried to make it but it wasn't the same.If youi can put me in touch with someone I would appreciate it.
thank you Herman Goetter [email protected]

Karen! I'm so happy this helped you out -- I love people who keep the traditions alive! Happy Easter to you and yours!!! ~ Melanie

Thanks Melanie.....I grew up in Jessup/Peckville, PA. I am about to make my cheese crescia, using my mother's recipe, which she got from my dad's sister. They used cake yeast and I was looking for a recipe using dry yeast for convenience. They also used margarine and "spry". I'm going to try your recipe this year and see how they compare :)

Karen (Cicilioni) Hitchcock

Hi Melanie,

Sorry, you are not Melina - that is my niece. :)

Hi Melina,

We had a local bakery way back in the day that made this bread. They closed their doors back in the 90’s. Very sad day.

I have searched the web for a very long time and cannot find the round bread pan you are showing in the photo. Please advise the name of this pan and were I may be able to buy one. I many have to purchase on line.

Thank you and Buona Pascqua!

Teresa! Only you, my dearest foodie friend would "pick up" on what went into developing and writing this recipe! Once again, you are a dear!!! ~ Mel.

Mel, this is truly a work of art, and a labor of love my friend!

Herman! How lovely to hear from you! Here are the answers to your questions:

1) Unlike "regular" bread dough, which gets lighter and airier as it rises, crescia, is very thick, pasty and dense -- and that does not change as it rises. For this reason, I do not recommend using a bread machine!
2) Because crescia is so dense, it takes a very long time to rise. As I said in my recipe, 2 hours!
3) Feel free to use as much or as little pepper as you want to. None, if you're not a pepper lover! Ok... maybe just a little bit!!!
4) I can say with certainty that there are bakeries in and around Jessup that sell crescia made with locatellli cheese!

You made my day today Herman! Happy Easter to you and yours!!!

hello, thank you for this wonderfull recipe, my Italian father-in-law used to make Easter Bread every year and that is where i(a hungarian boy) learned to love the taste of Locatelli cheese, since he passed away many years ago i have begged my wife to make it but she didn't know the recipe, until i found your recipe on-line, now I was able to convince 2 of my daughters to try it and it came out somewhat like I knew it to be.i have a few questions though, #1 wonder if you recomend using a bread machine, #2 my daughter left the dow raise just 1/2 hour which my wife and I think was not long enough and #3 my wife doesn't remember her dad using black pepper and if he did it wasn't very much. #4 how many loaves of the batch is to be put in the oven at a time. One more question in the town of Jessup is there a bakery that makes this Easter Bread like your recipe calls for with the locatelli cheese? thanks very much Herman Goetter
(learned to eat Italian)

Maria! Thank you for your lovely comment... high praise indeed coming from a fellow food blogger that I admire! It really would be a LOT of fun for majaskitchen and kitchenencounters to meet in person! ~ Mel.

Melanie...this is a most wonderful blog.....I love your preciseness in describing how you make not only this recipe, but all the ones you post....It is easy to understand, and is full of your little humor, and experiences that come along with your testing new recipes....I really love reading your blogs...I have a lot to learn from you.
You are a person I look up to when it comes to culinary expertise....
I wish that one day we will meet in person....
Hugs and love....

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