One year, it wasn’t until July that I found the last Easter egg that should have been part of my Easter hunt. Tucked behind the top of a cushion on my grandmother’s red velvet couch which stood watch over her formal living room, the egg’s colourful foil covering was an immediate reminder in the scorching heat of summer, of the surprises and joys of Easter.
Eggs were hidden two ways at my Nonna’s house: chocolate ones tucked away by my aunts for my sister and I and real ones by my Nonna in her traditional Easter bread. Fresh eggs, woven into handmade bread, coddled to gold-brown perfection was made for just this one event each year. Traditional to Calabria, bread made this way can have many names. In our dialect, it’s called “vavarillu” which refers to something being swaddled.
My Nonno was the primary dinner cook at my grandparent’s house, turning out patate fritte, pasta, soups and slow-cooked chicken and potatoes. But when it came to Easter bread – my Nonna really shined. It was a day-long affair and the eggs and loaves being counted out for which families they had to be taken to. Loaves were packed up for each relative that was to be visited. A family of four or more would get a wreath with four eggs in it, others would get smaller loaves with just one or two eggs. The eggs in the bread did more than represent spring and new beginnings. The shape of the loaf that had one egg twisted into it was said to be made to look like the baby Jesus – the egg being his head, then his body swaddled in cloth and his two feet emerging at the bottom.
To celebrate Easter with all my readers, I’m sharing here my family’s Easter bread recipe. You can find a few variations of this type of woven bread online, though many of them are sweet. In our family, it was made with plain bread to be shared during the Easter meal. My Nonna used chicken eggs originally, but with my husband’s family breeding ducks, we have access to free-range duck eggs that come in off-white, brown and a greenish-blue. The colours are perfect for Easter, without having to dye the eggs.
Happy Easter – I hope you find all the eggs and surprises you are looking for this spring!
1.5kg bread flour (also called hard wheat flour)
1.5 kg all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons salt (Kosher preferred)
5 cups warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil (optional)
whole washed raw eggs