For a long while we thought that giant chocolate Easter eggs wrapped in bright metallic paper were a Brazilian thing, since that was where we saw them first. Turns out that large, hollow chocolate eggs filled with candy or other treats were an Italian thing all along, likely brought to Brazil by Italian immigrants. In Italy, it turns out the art of the chocolate egg has reached a completely new level, with gigantic, ornate varieties. You can get an astonishing variety of chocolate Easter eggs in Italy, as seen below, from cheap store brands to decadent (and expensive), specialty eggs. Your local Italian grocery store may have a few to choose from, though you won’t find the selection you would in Italy (or online).
Another sweet treat you may find on Italian Easter tables is the Marzipan Lamb or Pecorelle di pasta reale! Fanciful, shaped marzipan is a mainstay for Italian holidays, such a frutta martorana for All Saints’ Day, so it is only appropriate that we find a special Easter-appropriate lamb for this holiday. If you have the almond paste (which you can usually buy ready-made) it is not terribly difficult to make a Marzipan lamb, and you can find them in many Italian bakeries around Easter, though this also has us hankering for the decidedly more American lamb cake! If you are looking for more Italian Easter treats, be sure to try the colomba cake or pastiera.
Easter Lamb in Sicilian Bakery, Chicago, IL
Today is Easter Monday, celebrated in Cleveland as Dyngus Day! We haven’t had much time to post recently, so even though we are a little late to the party, we figure there’s still a little time to share some Easter bread, this time with a local influence. In Cleveland there has historically been a large Czech population, especially in the appropriately-named Slavic Village neighborhood, which also hosted a large Polish population. One of the most traditional Czech Easter foods is Mazanec – an leavened sweet bread with dried fruit and raisins, served primarily at Easter. Mazanec is considered a cousin of the English hot cross bun, and sometimes also has a cross shape on top. You can try making Mazanec for your spring celebrations with a recipe from Honest Cooking.
Happy Dyngus Day! Dyngus Day (Easter Monday – from the Polish Śmigus-dyngus ) is huge celebration in Cleveland (music automatically plays) and throughout Polish American communities, especially in Buffalo, New York . Typical Dyngus Day celebrations include pierogies, polka, free-flowing krupnik, a parade and all things Polish. Similar celebrations occur. Food and drinks are of course a focus, but so are other traditions – like attempting to soak the neighborhood girls with water and swatting them with pussy willows (yikes!). Traditionally, the girls retaliated by doing the same to the boys on Tuesday, but nowadays the retaliation occurs on the same day (how could you wait until the next day anyway?) If you are not in the area of a Dyngus Day celebration, why not celebrate with some pierogies, Bigos (Hunter’s) Stew, Haluski and Polish sausage.
Dyngus Day Parade in Cleveland by lgbeebe2
Hot Cross Buns are a sweet treat traditionally associated with Good Friday, the Friday before Easter. These little doughy goodies are sweet rolls with currants and a signature cross made out of icing on top. Their origin is could possibly go as far back as ancient Greece, but they really came to fame in England, when a law was passed prohibiting the sale of spiced breads at any other time but funerals, Christmas and Good Friday. In the intervening centuries, the laws fell, and hot cross buns have spread across the world, even becoming popular year-round. They are now available all over the English speaking world, and 70 million were sold by British supermarket chain Tesco on Easter weekend alone in 2010. The classic recipe is pretty similar all over the world: check out this recipe for Trinidadian hot cross buns, and another classic take from the UK. Though classic is good, why not try a chocolate-orange variety, too?
Italians are all about festive breads for holidays: Christmas has Panettone, and Columba di Pasqua (“Easter Dove” in English) is brought out for Easter. Like panettone, this Milanese bread is made with yeast, and filled with candied citrus peel, however what sets it apart is its unique dove shape and a generous topping of pearl sugar. Also like panettone, it is a little hard and time-consuming to make, and requires a yeast starter. However, that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth an effort, and King Arthur Flour has a great and detailed recipe. They are typically baked in dove-shaped paper or metal pans (though the King Arthur Flour recipe goes freeform), but if you don’t have those, you can buy your Easter dove at many Italian bakeries, Eataly, and even Trader Joe’s.
Mexico Cooks! has an extremely interesting post about special Lenten foods in Mexico. For those observing Lent (La Cuaresma in Spanish), the 40 days leading up to Easter, meat is typically not eaten on Fridays. It is cool to see these more unique veggie and fish-based dishes popular for Lent in Mexico – certainly an alternative to the Friday fish fry. I think we would especially like to try the Capirotada bread pudding – and Mexico Cooks provides a pretty enticing recipe at the link above.
Capirotada from Mexico Cooks
Happy Easter! Easter really crept up on us this year, though we had the chance to make bunny-shaped chocolate cupcakes (yum!). However, if you are in the mood for something a little different, how about Koulourakia, braided, buttery Greek Easter Cookies. These cookies are traditionally eaten around Easter, and sometimes around Christmas as well, and are often topped with sesame seeds. Kalo Pascha!
Loyal reader José, who previously introduced us to the Portuguese delicacy, Tripa, sent us some great information about typical Portuguese Easter cakes: Bolo da Páscoa and Folar. Bolo da Páscoa (literally translated to English as Easter Cake) is a simple, delicious cake, popular around Easter time in Portugal. However, even an even more unique Portuguese Easter delicacy is the Folar da Páscoa.
Folar (which has no English translation), basically a sweet yeast bread, varies from region to region, and could be classified into a few major varieties. The first kind, from the Algarve in Southern Portugal, is a very sweet cinnamon and anise-flavored bread, typically decorated with whole eggs colored with onion skins. This type of Folar also reminds us of classic Italian Easter Bread with its colorful whole-egg topping. The other type of Folar, from the North of Portugal, is a simpler bread which is less sweet than the Algarve version. Another version of Folar from the very north of Portugal, near Spain, called Folar de Trás-os-Montes, sometimes contains ham or bacon! Piglet in Portugal has a recipe from Central Portugal, and Portuguese Girl Cooks shares her grandparents’ version of the sweet variety of Folar. Tia Maria has a recipe for savory Folar.
Thanks for the tip, José!
In the USA, Easter is associated in pop culture with rabbits and bunnies. However, in Australia, you are also likely to see a bilby alongside the bunnies. Bilbies are native, endagered Australian marsupials that have floppy ears and a long snout. Rabbits are considered an invasive species in Australia, so it makes sense that they might prefer Bilbies at Easter time. The campaign for the Easter Bilbies was popularized by the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia, and the concept has taken off since, with children’s books and chocolate Bilbies galore.
We absolutely love Easter candy, a particular favorite being Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. However, in Brazil we have discovered a new Easter obsession that dwarfs Reese’s Eggs in every sense: giant chocolate eggs! In the US we have seen chocolate rabbits, chicks, and miniature eggs but the chocolate Ovos de Páscoa (Easter Eggs) in Brazil put them all to shame. We saw these big chocolate eggs all around town, including grocery stores, newsstands and chocolate shops (such as the chain Cacau Show).
A large Ovo de Pascoa – filled with Ferrero Rocher truffles
In the grocery store, in preparation for Easter, trellises were set up and were completely covered with wrapped eggs from different brands. Sizes of the Ovos ranged from a few inches to over a foot tall – with some costing as much as US$50. These eggs are not just solid (or hollow) chocolate – they are filled with other chocolates or creams. For example, the egg in the photo above is stuffed with truffles. Check out some of these exotic Chocolate Easter Eggs varieties (in Portuguese, but the pictures say it all).
A trellis of Ovos de Pascoa at Zona Sul Supermarket in Rio de Janeiro
Fanesca is a traditional Ecuadorian soup that is only eaten in the week before Easter. Fanesca is a heavy soup filled with vegetables and grains (lima beans, fava beans, lentils, corn, pumpkin, squash, quinoa, plantains and more), many of which are only regionally available in the Spring. I suspect Brazilian and Portuguese palates would appreciate this dish due to the inclusion of salted cod, which needs to be soaked for 24 hours to make the soup stock. Laylita’s Recipes has a good history and recipe for Fanesca. Calvin Trillian has a longer story for the New Yorker about his experiences sampling Fanesca as a foreigner living in Cuenca, Ecuador
Being able to say anything I wanted to in Spanish before the moment had passed was what I’d been daydreaming about. I was thinking of the day when my response to a particularly good fanesca (the only kind of fanesca I’ve ever experienced) would no longer be limited to “delicious” or “very tasty, thank you.” I could envision myself pushing back from the table and making a statement to the waiter that was as complex as the dish itself—something like “I can’t take leave of this glorious establishment without saying, in utmost sincerity, that the fanesca I’ve just had the honor of consuming made my heart soar, or at least go pitter-patter, and I want to emphasize that each and every bean had a valiant role to play in what was, when all is said and done, a perfectly blended and modulated work of art.” In that daydream, the waiter is so impressed by my eloquence that he offers me seconds. I decline, with a short speech that reminds him of something he once read in a story by Jorge Luis Borges. [The New Yorker]
Typical Fanesca from Ecuador – Via Wikipedia
Though some Southern Italian delicacies have made their ways to the American shores: Rum Baba, Cannoli, among others, we had not encountered Pastiera (also known as Pastiera di Grano) until our trip to Naples. Pastiera is especially associated with Easter (though we also found it in Pasticcerias in November). Pastiera was developed in modern times by a Neapolitan convent, but also has an older history related to pagan Springtime festivals (hence the inclusion of wheat and egg). Pastiera is composed of a pastry shell with a ricotta, wheat and egg filling, which may also be flavored with citrus or spices. Pastiera is unique – and in order to make it you need to prepare a special wheat mixture (unless you have access to prepared soaked wheat – which this recipe includes). While in Naples we saw large Pastiera pies even being sold in tins – perfect for every Easter table.
Ukrainian Easter Eggs by Vanberto
Happy Easter – enjoy these beautiful Pysanky eggs from the Ukraine! These types of eggs are made using a wax-resist method where the designs are drawn on with a wax stylus and then dye is applied. These Pysanky definitely make American-style food-colored eggs jealous. Though it may be a little late, Instructables and Design*Sponge have guides on how to make your own Pysanky.