Since a very young age, I can remember eating Crescia at Easter time. It’s one of my earliest food memories. The aroma of this cheese bread with a good dose of black pepper would fill my Aunt Mary’s house. My aunt, who is about to turn 90, made this every year. And I remember my father using this bread to make “scarpetta” with the leftover tomato sauce on his plate. In recent years, I’ve been making Crescia at from a recipe in one of Mary Ann Esposito’s cookbooks, which also refers to this as an Easter tradition.
I always knew Crescia had its origins in the Marche region of Italy, where my grandfather was born and raised. Immigrants from Marche to the United States in the early part of the 20th century were vastly outnumbered by those from southern Italy and Sicily, but our hometown of Phillipsburg, NJ had a small-but-mighty group of Marchigiani.
Fast forward to last October, when my sister and I and our significant others traveled to Marche for a small family reunion. Like so many other Italian immigrants who left family behind, my grandfather and one of his brothers came to the USA while their brother Francesco stayed in Italy. (Their sister Giuseppina immigrated to South America.) We have stayed in contact with the descendants of my grandfather’s brother Francesco, and in the nineties I had visited them in the tiny hilltop village, Scapezzano, where they still live, so I really looked forward to this new visit.
My second cousin Massimo Becci and his wife Maria welcomed us with open arms and big family dinners. Their three children traveled home from as far away as Denmark to meet up with us. To my surprise, during one of these dinners, Maria served us homemade Crescia with the meal (in October). I told her that I thought this was an Easter-only tradition and she said that in fact they serve Crescia year round for special meals. I realized I too could have this comforting bread year-round!
Maria was kind enough to give me her recipe (via Facebook – welcome to 2015!). She uses fresh yeast, which I found at Surfas in Culver City, CA, or you can substitute dry active yeast. I tried this recipe with both and the fresh yeast is really terrific!
Enjoy your Crescia!! Year-round!
See this newer post about Crescia for an improved version of this recipe.