Crescenza with Golden Raisin Toast
Crescenza has a pronounced yeasty flavor and an unctuous, creamy texture. I think it is the perfect breakfast cheese, especially on raisin toast. This recipe, from my book The Cheese Course, was adapted from the raisin bread in Carol Field’s The Italian Baker.
- 2 cups golden raisins
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 3-1/2 cups plus 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- Coarse cornmeal (polenta) for dusting
- 1 pound Bellwether Farm’s Crescenza, ricotta or other soft cheese
Put the raisins in a bowl and cover with 2 cups warm water. Let stand 1 hour to soften, then drain in a sieve, reserving the raisin water. Measure the raisin water and add additional water if necessary to make 1-1/3 cups.
Heat the raisin water gently until warm, about 110°F. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let stand 2 minutes to soften, then whisk with a fork to dissolve the yeast and let stand 10 minutes.
Stir together the 3-1/2 cups flour and the salt.
Add the butter to the yeast mixture, then begin adding flour 1 cup at a time. When the mixture becomes too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a floured work surface and knead until the dough is firm, smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes, working in as much additional flour as needed.
Shape into a ball and transfer to an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the dough with oil, then cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Without punching the dough down, transfer it to a floured work surface and pat it firmly into a 14-inch circle.
Pat the raisins dry, then toss with 3 tablespoons flour.
Sprinkle the surface of the dough evenly with one-third of the raisins. Fold two “sides” of the circle toward the center, then roll the dough into a cylinder. Again, flatten the dough as much as you can and sprinkle the surface with half of the remaining raisins, then fold in the sides and roll as before. Cover with a towel and let rest 15 minutes. Flatten the dough a third time and top with the remaining raisins, spreading them evenly. Fold in the sides and roll as before. Cut the dough in half and shape each half into a tapered loaf about 12 inches long. Try to keep the raisins tucked inside the dough as any exposed raisins will burn.
Line a baking sheet or work surface with two pieces of parchment paper. Put a loaf on each piece, cover with a towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
Put a baking or pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 400°F for 30 minutes. Just before baking, dust the stone with coarse cornmeal. Carefully pick up a loaf from underneath the parchment paper. Gently invert the loaf onto your hand, remove the paper, then invert the loaf again onto the hot stone. Repeat with the second loaf. Bake 5 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375°F and continue baking until the bread is well browned and firm, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely before slicing.
Save one of the loaves for the next day or freeze for longer keeping. Slice the other loaf and toast on both sides. Serve the hot toast with Crescenza.