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Easter Bread- What's Your Type?

We have a long-standing tradition of making Easter bread in my family. For the past 15 years or so, the bread-making has been done by my grandmother and me. Being of Italian descent, we favor a dense (not fluffy or airy by any stretch of the imagination), slightly sweet egg bread made with plenty of anise seeds. We also make the bread into specific shapes, depending on the purpose/recipient:
Little girls (and I, of course) get a doll shape, complete with apron and skirt hem (I've been jazzing them up a bit over the past few years, adding details here and there). Boys get a horseshoe with boiled eggs nestled into both ends. My grandmothers' friends and relatives of her generation get her usual oval loaves, while the rest of the family (adults) receive whatever special fancy shapes (braided, doughnut, etc.) I come up with that year. All loaves get an egg wash and a shake of tiny round sprinkles before baking (ok, every year I put a lot of candy on the kids' breads and every year I get yelled at, but I figure that if it will get them appreciate the tradition, then that's a good thing).
The most popular method of enjoying Easter bread among my relatives is to dunk it in a cup of American coffee.

How about you? Does your family have an Easter bread tradition, and if so, what kind? Or do you buy it? Where?

Buona Pasqua :)

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  1. How about sharing the recipe? Grazie!

    1 Reply
    1. re: mnosyne

      Sorry, mnosyne, I've been sworn to secrecy. Someday, when the recipe is mine, I may decide to share it. But while I am still the apprentice, it just can't be done.
      Do you bake Easter bread? Was there a specific tip you were looking for? Perhaps I can help with that ;)

      1. re: Passadumkeg

        Passadumkeg, do you make babka or do you buy it? I recently read an article on making babka, which taught me that the bread is meant to be high and light, with a texture contrast between the bread and the filling. I must admit that, until now, I have bought babka on several occasions, and it has always been kind of deflated, and heavy, and gooey... I love it this way, but I don't have a family of history of babka-making, and didn't know much about it (aside from the chocolate vs. cinnamon babka issue, as portrayed on Seinfeld). Have I been buying the "wrong" kind?

        1. re: vvvindaloo

          I like to make babka 2 lb coffee cans. When done, it looks like a mushroom. I decorate the top w/ icing, raisin, and candy, slice it off the stem and serve as dessert w/ coffee. The "stem" is plain, sliced into rounds and eaten w/ paska, a sweet cheese, or sour cream.

          1. re: Passadumkeg

            That sounds wonderful, and involves way less clean-up than what we do: each loaf/shape is baked on cut-up sheets of oil-sprayed brown paper bags! My great-grandmother did it this way, and we continue to do it, despite the little round sprinkles that run all over the place...

            1. re: vvvindaloo

              My grandmother and mother baked in the coffee cans. I really like the mushroomed loaf that comes out. We always made a big XB on top out of raisins for the Russian letters for Christ and Risen.

          2. re: vvvindaloo

            I think there are many variations of babka around. I am polish, and the traditional babkas my mother baked and that I can buy at polish bakeries here are far from heavy and gooey. But I have bought a "jewish" babka (actually recommended in the Montreal edition of Gourmet magazine a few years ago) and didn't like it at all. That babka was indeed heavy and goopy.

            The babkas I know are light and airy, with a glaze on top. They either have raisins or candied fruit peel in them. There is also a heavier type of babka - piaskowa which uses no yeast, which gives it a denser crumb.

        2. I make Greek Easter Bread called tsoureki. It is eggy and sweet and is braided with bright red eggs inserted in each end. The bread contains maklepi- the pits of wild cherries that are soaked in hot water to make a perfumed water used in the bread along with some grated lemon and orange peel. Labor intensive but very delicious. I use a recipe that was in a Saveur issue a few years ago which had recipes for an entire Greek Easter.

          5 Replies
          1. re: emilief

            We make tsoureki in our family too...though my mom's family never used egg in their recipe. We make the same recipe at New Year's...it's anise flavored and at easter gets red eggs baked into it. Great toasted.

            Lent just started for Greeks...so we're still six weeks out from bread making.

            1. re: emilief

              I have been attending my best friend's Greek Easter celebration just about every year for 15 years now. We've had cheese and phyllo pastries, lamb meatballs, whole roasted carcasses on spits, and a wide assortment of homemade goods that take them days and days to prepare... but never any tsoureki. Not one piece! This year I am going to have to ask them why.

              1. re: emilief

                How much mahlepi and how much water do you use compared to number of cups of flour? Do you grind the mahlepi or use it whole?
                Thanks

                1. re: mcwv

                  I just saw this. I will have to look it up and get back to you later. No I do not grind the mahlepi- just steep the whole pits in hot water.

                  1. re: mcwv

                    Steep 2 tsp makhlepi in 1/2 cup simmering water for 5 minutes. Strain, discard makhlepi and set aside liquid to cool. this goes into my recipe which is for two loaves of tsoureki.

                2. hot cross buns, fresh from the oven; steamy, doughy, and sweet.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mrsjenpeters

                    I am right there with ya Mrsjen! I love hot cross buns, but of course, I have to drench in frosting, not just the tradional x. I also use dried cranberries sometimes in them too and those have a light pink frosting on them so I know what they are.

                  2. My mom used to make cozonac for Easter but lately we only get it once a year when we go home for X-mas.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Lucia

                      Cozonac is something I would love to try, but I have never once seen it for sale anywhere. I am sure it wouldn't be the same as homemade, but do you know where it can be bought (I am in NYC, too)?

                      1. re: vvvindaloo

                        Unfortunately, no--I've only had the homemade kind. You may want to ask on the Outer Buroughs board--there are some Romania restaurants and shops in Queens.