One week into April, might make you believe that spring is finally here. For me, it’s not the blooming magnolia trees or sun that shines 4 hours in the afternoon; But it is the carrot cake in Gortz. The first time I tried it, it was just the perfect level of sweet and festive and helped me understand Easter. Apart from the classic carrot cake, there are other marvelous easter treats out and this year we make a journey across Europe to find other Easter cakes and bread.
Starting with the Ukranian Paska. The term paska comes from the Greek word of Easter. It is a tall, braided loaf of bread that the family shares at the table. It is often described as a mix between an Italian Panettone and French Brioche. Another Easter bread with a light crumb and golden crust that you may not have heard of is Croatia’s pinca. Pinca is traditionally served with the Sunday Easter feast of spring onions, dyed red eggs, ham, asparagus, and other rich cakes.
One of the other old easter breads is the hot cross buns from the UK. The first recorded mention of hot cross buns dates to Robin’s Almanac for 1733 with the rhyme, „Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs. With one or two a penny hot cross bun.“
Just when I thought most easter breads were sweet, Italy’s Casatiello Napoletano is a savory pie filled with cheese, eggs, and cold cuts. The origin of this Italian Easter pizza dates to 17th century Naples where this was a delicious way to break the 40-day dairy and egg fast. From one unique easter tradition to another one; mämmi is a Finnish dessert made from rye flour, powdered rye malt, and sugar, and flavored with orange zest, and sometimes raisins are mainly eaten on Good Friday. Since cooking was forbidden on Good Friday, it was the ideal dish, being prepared a few days in advance to be ready on the big day. Although most Finns are used to consuming this dessert every year around Easter time, its unique taste has divided the country into people who adore it and others who don’t.
While most easter treats are baked goodies, in France; The “Fritures de Pâques” are small fish-shaped chocolates that are popular during Easter. Fish-shaped pies are also consumed on the 1st of April as an April’s fool tradition called ‘le poisson d’avril’. The fish is also a symbol of Christianity. In the Roman era, it was used as a signal for persecuted Christians to distinguish friends from foes.
Going through this journey across the loaves of bread I realized that almost every European culture has its version of an Easter sweet bread, from the cylindrical Russian kulichs to braided Greek tsoureki. The similarity, between them, is that almost all of them are made up of ingredients that were prohibited during Lent. Another link is that these soft breads all incorporate the cross symbolizing the crucifixion of Christ in different forms.
Nowadays we also have modern Easter treats such as filled chocolates or cookies shaped like eggs and rabbits alongside these timeless bread on Easter Sunday to enjoy on the family table together.