While Crescia Marchigiana refers to the typical focaccia produced in Marche and the neighbouring areas, the name identifies a number of traditional specialties, each one very different from the next. Some of them are plain; others have a rich filling.
Crescia Marchigiana refers to different types of focaccia produced in Marche and the neighbouring Umbria and Romagna. With a history tracking back to time immemorial, these extremely nutritious buns would be a most delightful way for peasants and farmers to take a break and perk up before resuming the toil. Crescia, along with piadina romagnola, is thought to be a descendant of the type of bread consumed by the Byzantine army stationed in Northern Marche, Romagna, and Umbria along Via Flaminia, between the 6th and 7th century. The Papal States, ruling over the region until 1860, regarded Marche as their own precious barn, because of the great availability in the region of wheat, barley, spelt and buckwheat, still grown to this day, and still used for all sorts of preparations, including cresce (plural for “crescia”).
The word “cresce” is declined into a number of local variations. In the Province of Pesaro Urbino, crescia sfogliata (“layered”) is made with flour, eggs, lard and milk. The crescia brusca of Pesaro and Fano is a thicker version of the former. In the Province of Ancona, cresce are made with bread dough and usually baked on grill or, more traditionally, in embers. Between the towns of Jesi and Osimo, polenta left-overs are the main ingredients of cresciola.
In the Province of Macerata, crescia contains maize flour, lard and pig scraps. In the province of Ascoli-Piceno, crescia is thicker and has a richer stuffing. Also known as “cacciannanzi”, from the vernacular cacciare (“to put”, “to shove”) plus annanzi (“beforehand”), this type of crescia used to be put in the oven to check the temperature before baking the bread. The distinct flavour of the crescia di Pasqua is given by adding some pecorino to the dough. The crescia di Pasqua is traditionally an Easter specialty in and around the cities of Ancona and Macerata. A sweet version of the crescia di Pasqua is made raisin and candied. Other types of sweet cresce contain walnuts or hazelnuts, cocoa, vanilla and cinnamon.