Crescia Bread


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Flavored with sharp cheese, this versatile Italian Easter bread can complement almost any meal: Serve it toasted with scrambled eggs and ham for breakfast, alongside soup and a salad at lunch, or dip it in the gravy of a hearty meat dish at suppertime.

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  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 C. milk, warmed to 110 degrees F
  • 1 package dry active yeast
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 2 1/4 C. all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 C. plus 1 Tbs. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh-ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs

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Make the dough: Coat a large bowl with 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and set aside. Stir together the warmed milk, yeast and sugar in a small bowl and let stand until bubbly. Combine the flour, 2/3 C. of cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the eggs, yeast mixture and remaining oil. Process until the dough forms into a ball and rides the blade. Or, by hand, stir with a wooden spoon until a slightly sticky but firm dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball and place in the oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with a clean, damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in volume -- about 1 hour. Shape the loaf: Lightly oil an 8-inch round pan and set aside. Punch down the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half, then divide one dough half into three equal-sized pieces and, using your palms, roll each piece into an 18- inch-long strand. Braid the strands, attach the ends to form a circle, and place in the prepared pan. Form the remaining dough into a ball and place it in the center of the braided circle. At this point the two pieces might not touch each other or the sides of the pan. Cover the pan with a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft- free place until it doubles in volume and the braid and ball touch each other -- 50 to 60 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the bread: Sprinkle the top of the risen loaf with the remaining cheese. Bake the bread in the lower third of the oven until the crust is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped -- about 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

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