Friday, March 27, 2009

Torta Umbra al Formaggio (Cheese Bread from Umbria)

Although torta means cake in Italian, Torta Umbra al Formaggio is actually a savory fragrant cheese bread from Umbria. It is traditionaly enjoyed on Pasqua (Easter) morning with boiled eggs, prosciutto and other cold cuts but it can also be served as an accompaniment to any meal. It is especially good during spring, as cows eat the best products that the land has to offer during this time of the year, and the cheeses made from their milk are the most flavorful. This is probably why most of the Italian pastries and breads to celebrate Easter are made with ricotta and other cheeses.

This is my interpretation of a recipe found in an Italian forum (
Makes one loaf
- 2 tablespoons dried yeast (2 packages)
- 1/3 cup water
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 cups flour
- 5 eggs
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons lard (I used butter)
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 6 ounces pecorino Romano
- 5 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano
To make the bread nice and tall, grease a 9-inches cake pan with olive oil. Line the sides of the pan with parchment paper so that it extends 15 inches from the top.
Sprinkle yeast over warm water (110°F) in a large stand mixer bowl; let stand until foamy (about 5 minutes).

Add sugar and 1/3 cup of the flour without stirring. Let it rest (covered with plastic wrap) for 20 minutes. Add the rest of the flour, the eggs and oil.

Mix in stand mixer until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl (around 10 minutes). Add the salt and continue mixing at medium speed until the dough is soft, shiny and elastic (7-10 minutes).

Add the pepper and cheeses. Knead the dough until thoroughly combined.

Let it rest, covered, until it doubles in size (about 2 to 3 hours).

Punch down the dough.

Form the dough into a round loaf. Place into the prepared mold.

Cover with plastic wrap and let it proof until it doubles in size (around 2 or 3 hour).

Bake for 45 minutes at 400° F. Let it sit for 20 minutes before cutting and serving. It is better eaten 4 days after you make it.

Serve it with cold cuts. Enjoy!