Ethnic recipes share tradition of Easter breads

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Have you purchased your color kit to color Easter eggs? I always stick to the very simple basics of coloring eggs with our children. I am accustomed to picking up the simple Paas coloring kit with the coloring tablets in it. Upon my arrival to the store, I found there to be about a dozen different types of kits. Sparkle, tie-dye, swirl and some that I was not even sure of. Well, after a long search, I found a small display of the plain-Jane coloring kits, and what was once 99 cents was $2.49. But, it is all worth it when our children color their Easter eggs for the Easter bunny to hide.

Our extended family is preparing for Easter by making out menus and getting some of the details taken care of. In doing so, I came upon these interesting recipes for different breads served at Easter. I hope you venture out and try a new bread or two this Easter holiday.

Italian Easter Bread


1 pound Italian sausage

1 pound Ricotta cheese

2 eggs

2 eggs, hard boiled

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper


1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup shortening

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 eggs

For the filling: Take sausage out of skin, crumble and cook. Drain on paper towel and cool. Combine with remaining filling ingredients (except hard-boiled eggs) and let sit for 1 hour. Set aside hard-boiled eggs.

For the dough: Heat milk until hot. Add shortening; stir until melted. Mix all ingredients together and add to milk mixture. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour on floured board. Roll out half of the dough into large rectangle. Place in lightly greased jelly roll pan. Pinch at corners of pan. Spread filling over dough. Slice the 2 hard-boiled eggs over top of filling. Roll remaining dough into rectangle and place on top. Pinch edges together with dough in pan. Beat 1 egg white and brush on top. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes, until golden brown.

Ukrainian Easter Bread

Yield: 2 (9-inch) round loaves

2 envelopes (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast

12 cups plus 1 tablespoon sifted all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar, plus 2/3 cup

2 to 3 tablespoons warm water

2 cups milk, warm (100 to 110 degrees)

3 large eggs plus 8 large yolks, plus 3 large eggs separated, room temperature

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 lemon, zested

1 orange, zested

3 tablespoons rum or brandy

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans

1/2 cup vegetable or sunflower oil

In a medium bowl, combine yeast, 1 tablespoon flour, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 to 3 tablespoons warm water (100 to 110 degrees). Mix until smooth. Set bowl aside until mixture is bubbly, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 4 cups flour and milk to yeast mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix until well combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until double in size, about 30 minutes. In the bowl of a heavy duty electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat 3 eggs, 8 egg yolks, and 2/3 cup sugar until light and pale yellow, about 5 minutes. Add the mixture to risen dough. Add salt, vanilla extract, lemon zest, orange zest, rum or brandy, melted butter and vegetable oil. Whisk on medium speed until combined. Remove whisk attachment from machine, and fit with the dough hook attachment. With mixer on medium-low speed, gradually add enough of the remaining 8 cups flour until dough comes away from side of bowl. Transfer dough to a clean work surface. Knead dough, adding any remaining flour if necessary, until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer dough to a large bowl and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap. Place in a warm spot away from drafts and let it rise until double in size, 1 to 2 hours. Place rack in lower two-thirds of oven and heat to 350 degrees. Butter 2 (9-inch) round cake pans. Cut 2 pieces of waxed paper about 2 inches longer than the circumference of the cake pans. Fold this in half lengthwise to make a double thickness. Place 1 piece inside each cake pan, patting it to adhere to the butter. The collar should extend 3 to 4 inches above the rim of the cake pan. Seal the 2-inch flap with more butter. When dough has doubled in bulk, punch down and set aside 1/3 of dough in a medium bowl covered with plastic wrap, for decorations. Divide remaining 2/3 dough evenly between cake pans. Place bowl and saucepans of dough in a warm place to rise for about 30 minutes. On a clean work surface shape reserved dough into desired motifs such as cross, rosettes, birds, braid, scrolls, etc. Keeping any dough that is not being used covered with plastic to prevent it from drying out. Brush surface of risen dough in saucepans with 3 lightly beaten egg whites. Attach decorative dough ornaments, using a toothpick if necessary to secure to loaves. Place in a warm place to rise until it reaches almost the top of pans, 20 to 30 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining 3 egg yolks and 1 tablespoon water. Brush egg mixture on surface of loaves. Bake for 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake for an additional 50 minutes. Cool bread in pans 30 minutes. When bread has cooled but is still warm, gently remove from pans and transfer to a rack to cool.

Greek Easter Braided Bread

Yield: 2 large loaves

2 packages active dry yeast

2 cups warm milk

9 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 teaspoons mahlepi (mahlepi is a fruity spice available at Greek markets)

1/2 cup simmering water, plus 1 tablespoon water

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for bowl and baking sheet

6 large eggs

1 tablespoon grated orange zest

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

4 hard-boiled eggs, dyed red

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. Stir in 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup sugar.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour. Meanwhile, steep mahlepi in 1/2 cup simmering water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Strain, and discard mahlepi. Let cool. Add mahlepi infusion, butter and 5 eggs to yeast mixture; combine thoroughly. Add orange and lemon zests. Sift in remaining 8 cups flour, sugar and salt; stir with a wooden spoon until dough forms. Knead dough in bowl until smooth, about 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball, and transfer to a lightly buttered bowl. Cover, and let rise for 2 hours. Punch dough down, and transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a rope, about 15 inches long. Tightly braid three ropes together, beginning in the middle. Repeat with remaining three ropes. Tuck a red-dyed egg into the first and last plaits, using a small piece of coiled dough to hold each egg in place if necessary. Place each loaf on a buttered baking sheet, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat remaining egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush bread with egg wash, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Transfer to oven, and bake until golden, 50 to 60 minutes.

Portuguese 5-Egg Easter Bread

Yield: 5 loaves of bread

4 cups milk

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 pound lard

3 packages dry yeast

5 pounds flour

1/2 cup warm water

12 eggs

4 cups sugar

1 lemon, zested


5 eggs for top of each bread, optional

In a saucepan combine milk, salt and lard and bring to a boil. Set aside. In a small bowl combine yeast, 1 cup of the flour and 1/2 cup warm water and set aside. In a large bowl, with a whisk combine eggs, sugar and lemon zest and mix thoroughly. Add milk mixture, yeast mixture, and remaining flour and thoroughly combine. Set aside to rise, kneading 6 times every half-hour. Bread will take 6 hours to rise. Prepare 5 round loaf pans with butter or lard. Divide dough between pans (pans should be half-full). Knead bread and let it rise again until it reaches the top of the pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush with beaten egg and bake for 1 hour, until golden brown. Note: If you choose to add the 5 eggs for Easter, place eggs on top of bread dough during final rising.

In reading about different foods served at Easter I found each one very intriguing and interesting. Whatever your traditions are, I hope it is a special day for you and your family.

If you have a special food that your family serves at Easter, please send it in and I will share with other readers next week. Until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by the Southeast Missourian staff.

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