Saturday, April 7, 2012

Pane de Pasqua

This year's batch
For years, dare I say decades, I have associated Easter treats  with a sweet  bread more than a basketful of candy. As a newlywed – in the early Eighties, I came across a recipe for Pane de Pasqua in an Italian cookbook: Easter bread.  The half dozen pastel-colored  eggs braided through a wreath of golden-baked dough was what caught my eye.

I gave it a try.

The recipe listed a cup of sugar in the ingredients but never instructed when to add the sweetener, a misprint I guess.  I figured it should go  with the creamed butter, eggs, and juice from a squeezed lemon. The bread turned out pretty and light. Tasted like a bready  version  of  yellow  jellybeans  manufactured by Sweet Tarts, thanks to a glaze of confectionary sugar, fresh lemon juice, and milk drizzled on top.

This recipe has stuck with me through the years – with some alterations. After a few tries I split the wreath with the half-dozen eggs into two smaller braided loaves, three eggs decorating each. Made it easier to share between  two households, my parents’ , and Larry’s parents’. Both sides of the family considered it an Easter breakfast food more than a dessert. Perfect start to the day with a cup of strong black coffee. Morning leftovers reappeared on the mid-afternoon dessert table. Any leftover slices after that got double Saran-wrapped and popped into the freezer, readied for a couple more breakfasts.  

Through the years I’ve learned two lessons. First, bake it, unrushed,  a few days in advance, since it takes five to six hours . Most of that time goes to two dough risings – two hours each – as the initial ball of dough and then the braided ropes double in size. I guess that’s the resurrection part of the Easter bread. I’ve also learned to skip the tradition if Easter week becomes too hectic or my heart isn't committed to the process of beating, kneading, punching down, braiding and baking.I passed on it a number of times when my children were young and I worked full time  Skipped two years ago when my mother died on Palm Sunday. Picked up the tradition again last year and this year. Hope to introduce it to my new grandson  next year when he celebrates his first Easter, along with a mooshed up jelly bean or two.

Here’s the online recipe for the bread – with full instructions on when to add the sugar, plus a little Pane de Pasqua lore.

No comments:

Post a Comment