This article is written by ISDA Contributing Editor Tony Traficante.
The Easter Table
Three primary food items enriched the traditional Italian Easter table. Two were lamb and eggs, both having religious or life associations: the lamb symbolizing Christ, and the egg symbolizing birth or the renewal of life.
A third fundamental dish on that Italian table held the simple but delicious “Pane di Pasqua,” the Easter bread.
The “Colomba,” usually fashioned in the shape of a dove, is the most familiar of the Easter cakes. Another common form is the braided ring, or loaf, topped with colored raw eggs that cook as the bread bakes. Mothers also created these cakes in the form of doll figures called “Le Pupazze” and gave them to children as Easter treats.
My wife, Monica Traficante, offers a version of a tasty braided ring cake recipe, not overly sweet or calorific. It also goes well as a breakfast delight (instead of donuts) when dipped in coffee (or milk). And, if by chance the cake gets a little dry, ‘zap’ it in the microwave for a couple of seconds. It will taste as though freshly baked.
- 2-3/4 to 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2/3 cups milk
- 3 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 teaspoons of grated lemon peel
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup raisin (or mixed dried fruit morsels)
- 3 to 4 uncooked eggs, dyed (optional)
For the Glaze
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 to 2 teaspoons of water (or milk)
- Candy sprinkles, optional
- Combine 1 cup flour, sugar, yeast, and salt, in a bowl. In a saucepan, add milk and 2 tablespoons butter, heat to lukewarm; add to the dry ingredients; stir well; add eggs and beat entirely. Add in extra flour, as needed, to form a soft dough.
- Put dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, turn dough to oil top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about 1 hour).
- When ready, punch dough down; place on a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into three portions. Shape each piece, equally, into about a 20-inch rope. Braid ropes together, not too tight. Place on baking sheet, and pinch the ends together to form the ring. Brush the dough with melted butter. Using the dyed eggs is optional, and if you do, gently insert them between, and around the dough ropes. Cover the cake, to let it rise until doubled (about 40 minutes).
- Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown. After the cake is cool, prepare the glaze: Combine confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and enough water (or milk), in a bowl, mix to the desired consistency; brush over the bread. (Sprinkle with decorative candies, if desired).
Makes a beautiful centerpiece with the dyed eggs! Don’t you think?
*Some bakers also add anise for flavor. **Makes one ring or loaf.
“Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi.”
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