This Italian Easter Cheese Bread recipe is the only savory bread you need during your Easter holiday. A yellowy rich super soft and peppery dough with a crispy crust and a cheesy heart inside. A true pleasure!
Why you'll love it
- Easy and great make-ahead recipe.
- Irresistible cheese aroma.
- Perfects for the Easter breakfast or as an appetizer.
What is the Italian Easter cheese bread recipe?
This Easter savory bread called “Crescia di Pasqua” can be found between the Italian Regions of Umbria and Marche and it can have many different names. To make things more complicated, every region, and every area within each region, has a different version of it. In fact, can be sweet or savory. Either way, it is served sliced on Easter breakfast, along with a cured meat platter, cheeses, and blessed boiled eggs. If you are looking for more recipes to serve on Easter lunch, try this easy-baked shell pasta with sautéed mushrooms with peas, bechamel sauce, and smoked scamorza cheese. A true festive dish!
What makes this dough stand out from the ordinary bread is the presence of 3 types of cheeses: Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, and a hard cheese like Gruyere cheese. The latter of the 3 melts in the oven creating cheesy holes inside the Italian Easter bread making this recipe even more tempting.
The dough has a kind of brioche structure, thanks to the use of the fats. The overall mixture results soft, but not sticky and it is simple and fast to mix together in no time. In just a few hours you will have a freshly baked Italian Easter Cheese Bread recipe. Not to mention the aroma of cheese that will spread into your kitchen.
The ingredients needed to make this easter bread recipe may be already in your kitchen or they can be easily found in a store. Here is what you need:
- Flour- use flour bread with 13% of protein.
- Water- use room temperature water to dissolve the yeast.
- Milk- whole milk, gives moisture to the bread.
- Egg- use fresh medium size and room temperature eggs.
- Lard- take it out from the fridge 5 minutes before starting to mix the liquids. Do not worry if the lard doesn’t get dissolved at first, it will eventually.
- Olive oil- use extra virgin olive oil, to provide that soft but crumbly texture to it.
- Cheeses- Gruyère cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, and Pecorino Romano.
- Yeast- use fresh yeast from the fridge. It is mixed with water and part of flour to create the biga. Biga is the Italian pre-fermented starter used to make bread.
- Seasoning- use Maldon salt, nutmeg, and ground peppercorn.
STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTION*
*Note: this is just a quick introduction. Please read the recipe card for the full instructions.
The steps that follow are very simple and the dough can be either way made by hand or by using a stand food mixer. The overall process is completed in one day, but the actual work takes about 15 minutes or even less. The rest is merely rising time and baking time. For this reason I recommend for you to start to make this Italian Easter cheese bread in the morning, so it will be ready in the evening to be baked.
MAKE THE BIGA
Dissolve the yeast into the water in a small bowl. Add the flour and mix until you have a smooth dough*. Cover the bowl and leave it to rise for two hours in the oven at 26°c.
*Note: it should be slightly sticky, don’t add more flour to it. The biga will helps the dough to rise has it is quite heavy.
PREPARE THE BATTER
Add the Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, eggs, olive oil, lard, milk, and the seasonings into a medium bowl. Mix until combined*, cover it and set aside.
*Note: the batter has a dense consistency, and it should not be liquid.
MAKE THE DOUGH
Add part of the flour, part of the batter, and the biga into the bowl of the stand food mixture. Knead for a few seconds and then add the rest of the batter and flour at intervals. Knead until you have a smooth dough.
Tip the dough onto a worktop and knead for a few minutes. Widen the dough, helping with your hands, and add the Gruyere cheese in 3 times. Knead the dough every time you add the cheese and knead until the cheese is combined.
Shape the dough into a ball shape using your hands. Place the dough inside the paper baking mould. Cover it and leave it to rise in the oven*, turned off, for 6 hours at 26°c.
*Tip: to achieve the right temperature use a cooking thermometer. I have the one from Ikea, and it works great. Leave the metal probe inside and turn the oven at 100°c for 8 seconds until it reaches 23°c, then turn it off. Check every now and then the temperature and adjust it accordingly, however, don’t let the temperature be over 30°c. Alternately leave the light of the oven on.
Bake it for 50/60 minutes in a preheated oven to 180°c; 160°c fans; 350°c or 4 gas mark.
Serve- you have a variety of ways to serve this rich bread, here are some ideas: on Easter Day serve it with charcuterie, blessed boiled eggs, and cheeses. As a sandwich, stuffed with charcuterie, or smoked salmon, cheese, and arugula salad for a picnic. Or eat it by itself.
Lard- you can replace the lard with the butter in the same amount. I recommend using softened unsalted butter as the dough is already enough salty.
Cheese- if you are not a fan of the Gruyere cheese, use instead Emmenthal cheese, Fontina Cheese, Comté cheese, or Cheddar cheese. Also, the Gruyere cheese can be left out from the recipe if you want a lighter version of it. But believe me, it is so delicious with it.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I don’t have fresh yeast; can I use dry active yeast instead?
Yes, of course. However, I didn’t try it myself but I would use around 5 gr of the dry active yeast. To active the yeast follows the basic guide of the label, however, use the same amount of the water that the recipe says.
I don’t own a stand food mixer, can be done by hand?
Yes, of course. Add the biga and the flour into a big bowl, then add half a dose of the batter into it and mix with a fork. Then add the rest of the batter and mix again until you have a compact dough. Tip the dough onto a worktop and knead the dough until will become smooth. From here follow the recipe above.
How to store Italian Easter bread?
Once cooled off, store it in a paper bag for 3 days. Otherwise, you could freeze it. Cut it into slices and store them individually inside the freezer bags. Store them for up to 2 months.
I don’t have a paper baking mould for panettone, what can I use instead?
You could use a cake tin with Ø18 x h 12 cm, just remember to spread some butter inside the tin cake before laying the dough. Or use any Panettone cake tins for 1 kg of dough.
More Italian recipes you'll love
- Amatriciana bucatini sause;
- Italian Meatballs filled with cheese and ham;
- Roast stuffed chicken;
- Italian flatbread;
Italian Easter cheese bread recipe
- Medium oven tray
- Stand Mixer
- 1 paper baking mould of Panettone for 1kg
- 1 Medium Bowl
- 1 Small bowl
- 1 Fork and spoon
- Stand Mixer
- dough hook
- 100 gr strong bread flour 13% protein
- 70 gr water room temperature
- 8 gr fresh yeast cold from the fridge
Easter cheese bread
- 400 gr strong bread flour 13% protein
- 100 gr whole milk cold from the fridge
- 100 gr Parmigiano Reggiano grated
- 130 gr Pecorino Romano grated
- 60 gr olive oil extra virgin
- 60 gr lard take it out from the fridge 5 minutes before starting
- 4 medium eggs room temperature
- 10 gr Maldon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black peppercorn
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg grated
- 100 gr Gruyere cheese cut it into small cubes
Make the biga
- Dissolve the yeast into the water in a small bowl. Add the flour and mix until you have a smooth dough. It should be slightly sticky, don’t add more flour to it. The biga will helps the dough to rise as it is quite heavy.
- Cover the bowl and leave it to rise for two hours in the oven at 26°c. The biga should more than double in size.
Make the batter
- Add the Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, eggs, olive oil, lard, milk, salt, nutmeg and black pepercorn into a medium bowl. Mix with a fork until combined, cover it and set aside.
Make the dough
- Add 5 spoons of the flour, 5 spoons of the batter, and the biga in pieces into the bowl of the stand food mixture. Knead for a few minutes at low speed using a dough hook.
- In two stages add the rest of the batter and flour at intervals. Knead until you have a smooth dough at speed 1.
- Tip the dough onto a worktop and knead for a few minutes. No need to add any flour as the dough is not sticky. Widen the dough, helping with your hands, and add the Gruyere cheese in 3 stages. Knead the dough every time you add the cheese. Knead until the cheese is combined.
- Shape the dough into a ball shape using your hands. Place the dough inside the paper baking mould. Cover it and leave it to rise in the oven, turned off*, for 6/7 hours at 26°c. The dough should rise until it reaches 2 cm from the edges. In case it has not risen for the given time just give it some more time to rise.
Bake the dough
- Preheat the oven to 180°c; 160°c fans; 350°c or 4 gas mark once the dough has risen.
- Place your paper baking mould with your dough in a baking tray and bake it for 50/60 minutes, always check as every oven is differents. The Easter bread will be ready once each will have a nice brown colour. To double-check, place a toothpick inside the bread, if ready it should come out dry.
- Let it cool down before serve.