TORTA AL TESTO, also named crescia, is one of the most traditional Umbrian peasant foods, probably of Roman origin. This savory flat bread is not dissimilar to the piadina from Romagna and not far away from a Mexican wheat tortilla. In the past the torta was unleavened and cooked on a stone, the testo, placed over hot coals in the fireplace. This was a practical way to prepare bread on a daily basis as leavened bread required the use of a work intensive wood oven.
The torta al testo is still prepared in many Umbrian homes using a cast iron plate on the stove top. I make it with yeast to make it lighter and more digestible and sometimes I add one egg and a little cheese. You can omit cheese and eggs if you wish. It is often served alongside a platter of antipasto or with chicken alla cacciatora or stuffed with our delicious prosciutto from Norcia.
- 300 gr (2 cups) all-purpose flour
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 200 ml (3/4 cup) water at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let it stand 1 minute, or until the yeast is creamy. Stir until the yeast dissolves. In a food processor, combine flour, cheese, olive oil, sugar and salt. Mix briefly. Add the egg first and then the yeast mixture.
Mix at maximum speed until a soft ball of dough forms. Add additional warm water if the dough does not form a ball or if you have omitted cheese and eggs. Alternatively mix ingredients by hand in a large bowl, then turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding more flour to prevent sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a warm, draft-free place, cover with a tea towel and let it rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours. You can also apply my slow dough method: make the dough with only 1/4 teaspoon yeast and let it proof overnight and up to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, heat a cast iron skillet – you can also use a Mexican comal – on medium fire. Transfer the dough on a table, and flatten the dough with a rolling pin or with your hands until it is about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Place the flattened dough over the skillet (no need to grease) and cook slowly until dry and golden. Cut into wedges and wrap it in a cotton tea towel to keep it warm until ready to serve. Fill wedges with cured meats -no melted cheese please – or grilled sausages and leaf vegetables sauté in garlic and olive oil.