Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.
(Christmas with family, Easter with whomever you like)
You might have sampled Hot Cross Buns, also known as Good Friday Buns, but have you ever had Italian Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua)?
In the midst of trying to complete a dissertation chapter that is now sprawling out of control, I decided to take a break from contextualizing various separatist movements in the United States and Canada during the 1960s and 1970s and bake an Easter treat. Back in 2014, The Historical Cooking Project tackled the history of some well known Canadian Easter traditions and foods (PÂQUES DANS NOS ASSIETTES ) . This week we return to the topic, trying out Italian Easter Bread.
Italian Easter bread is a typical treat for Easter Monday or La Pasquetta. While the day is technically, Lunedì dell'Angelo (Monday of the Angel), the day to remember Mary and Mary Magdalene visiting the sepulchre and after finding it empty then being comforted by an angel, Easter Monday is a time to spend with friends and family with no expectation to attend mass. On La Pasquetta, city dwelling Italians often drive to the countryside to enjoy picnics.
|my version with natural colored eggs|
Most of Italy’s Easter foods contain the typical symbolic ingredients of lamb, eggs, and bread. Pane di Pasqua can serve as a centerpiece on Easter Sunday, as Easter gifts, or part of the Easter Monday picnic. If you are feeling creative, you are not restricted to the braid or wreath designs. Some mothers create doll shaped breads for girls and form the pastry into ducks, lambs and horses for boys. Both Sicily and Abruzzo claim to have invented the dish.
I expected to find a recipe for a similar bread in Pellegrino Artusi's "La Scienza inCucina e L'Arte di Mangiar Bene manuale Pratico per le Famiglie" (1891), a book that we have discussed at length on this blog. However, the only times Easter dishes are mentioned are his Stiacciata alla livornese (Tuscan Easter bread, flavored with aniseed, vin santo and Marsala), which is a dish that requires four days to prepare (418-420), Panata or bread soup (43), Roast Lamb Arrezzo Style (371), and Anolini Dumplings served Parma Style (70). Despite the lack of Pane di Pasqua in Artusi's work, the significance of this dish is apparent due to its current popularity within Italy and Italian diasporas.
I owe a great deal of my inspiration to make this recipe to Sprinklebakes creator, Heather Baird. However, I mixed the recipe up based on my own preferences and the ingredients in my pantry.
In order to make 3 Italian Easter Breads you'll need:
¾ cup coconut coffee milk
1/6th cup unsalted butter
some instant yeast
Pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten lightly
¼ cup sugar
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon water
Sprinkles or nonpareils
3 raw eggs, room temperature, can be dyed in rainbow colors
Boil the coconut milk and butter together. Let it cool to room temperature. In the meantime, combine the yeast, sugar, salt, and egg. Now combine the wet and dry mixtures and slowly add in the flour. Knead the dough and then let it rest for an hour. After the dough has doubled, divide it into 6 pieces and roll them out into long cords. Wrap two cords around each other and form a wreath. Repeat two more times. Cover again and let rise while you preheat the over to 350 F. Place a raw egg in the center (you can dye it a fun color with food coloring if you wish). Don’t worry the egg will hardboil in the oven when the bread cooks! Coat the dough in an egg wash (beaten egg with water). Bake for 20 minutes. If you wish, you can now make a simple milk glaze by combining some confectioners sugar, a splash of coconut coffee milk, some vanilla extract. Now throw on some sprinkles.
This bread makes an excellent breakfast as it is a sweet pastry and hard-boiled egg. It is best served fresh from the oven. For the first few hours, the bread will have the consistency of a fresh and slightly sweet New York style bagel but if left out in the air for too long, its texture grows tacky.