Pizza al formaggio (Italian cheese bread)
There is no greater joy than spending your time with those who openly share their hearts, homes, and passions with you. Even greater is this joy when it coincides with a celebration, religious or otherwise.
This Easter, I traveled to Marche (near Ascoli Piceno), where my extended family lives. Over the course of three feasts, prominent were the common elements, those ingrained in the tradition of the region. Olive ascolane, cremini, timballo, torta rustica, pizza al formaggio, agnello... the list continues. These time-honoured delicacies were gracefully interwoven, of course, with a good pinch of each cook's particularity.
The pizza al formaggio marchigiana is an enriched bread (similar to the French brioche) with plenty of cheese. Parmigiano reggiano, pecorino, and provolone piccante elevate this bread to the highest level, turning each bite into an explosion of sharp, nutty flavour. Perfectly accompanied by cured meat and wine, it can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or as an appetizer. A classic to both the regions of Marche and Umbria, it is typically made for the celebration of Easter but also enjoyed on Easter Monday (Pasquetta), when all of Italy swarms outdoors to enjoy a fresh, spring picnic.
Pizza al formaggio marchigiana
- 150 g + 75 g 00 flour
- 1 g + 2 g instant yeast
- 125 g whole milk
- 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
- 65 g butter, soft
- 10 g sunflower oil
- 3 g salt
- 2 g pepper
- 4 g honey
- 50 g pecorino, grated
- 100 g parmigiano reggiano, grated
- 75 g provolone piccante, cubed
Mix 150 g flour, 1 g yeast, and milk for about 15 minutes in a mixer with the dough hook.
This is the poolish. Let it rest for 2 hours at room temperature, and then 8 to 12 hours in the fridge.
Add 75 g flour, 2 g yeast, and beaten eggs to the poolish, beating until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Add the remaining ingredients (except the cheese), one at a time, continuing to beat after each addition until the dough is smooth and elastic. Add the cheese and mix very slowly until just combined into the dough.
Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough into a ball. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
Delicately roll it into a ball again, and place the dough into an oiled round pan or a panettone mold.
Brush the top lightly with egg yolk, then cover and let rest until it just reaches the top of the form, about 2 hours.
Brush the top again with egg yolk, and place a cube of cheese in the centre for decoration.
Bake for 40 minutes at 200°C. Let cool slightly, remove from the pan, and transfer to a wire rack to cool fully.
Don't cut into it right away! A good dose of patience is worthwhile.