The first time I had cresce sfogliata was in Urbino. It was like eating a very rich yet very thin puff pastry quesadilla. These, however, take on a style all their own with savory fillings sandwiched between 2 flaky-textured discs. On via Veneto 34 in Urbino, Piccolo Bar offered four varieties that would please both vegetarians and meat n’ cheese chowhounds alike. I had the prosciutto and formaggio (3.40€) – yum! Typically sold in half-rounds and heated to a warm crisp, it was all I could do to contain myself from tearing off the wrapping before finding a spot to sit down. A package of plain crescia rounds (also known as crostolo in Urbania) purchased before we headed back home disappeared soon enough, and I figured that I’d just have make my own.
Lard is what makes the rounds so flaky and tasty. If you’re familiar with danish and croissant doughs then this shouldn’t come across as too difficult. I made several attempts at devising a satisfactory recipe, but none turned out exactly like what I had in Marche. I believe the trick is not skimping on the lard – after all that’s what gives the rounds a soft, pliable texture. If pork fat doesn’t scare you, try this recipe for four 8-inch discs.
Recipe for crescia sfogliata
2 cups all-purpose flour or grano tenero “00”
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
About 8-10 tablespoons lard
Combine the flour, salt, pepper, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and add the eggs and water. Using your hands, work the ingredients until it comes together. Turn out on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Add more flour (sparingly) to the work surface only if it is absolutely necessary. Shape the dough into a ball; cover and let rest on the work surface for one hour.
Roll the dough out into a rectangle approximately 18 x 14 inches in size. Spread the lard evenly over the entire surface, and beginning from the wide end, proceed in jellyroll fashion to form a log. Stretch this out to the length of 22 inches. Cut into 4 even sections.
Forming the discs: The photo above illustrates how to coil the sections of dough into a bun. On a lightly floured surface, flatten buns and use a rolling pin to form 8 to 8 ½-inch rounds. Cook on a heated cast-iron skillet or piastra with a ridged-bottom surface until golden on each side.
To serve: Cut in half circles and make a sandwich with a combination of grated or crumbled cheese, coldcuts, salame, or grilled vegetables. Reheat on a nonstick surface at medium to low heat, turning once until cheese melts. Serve hot!