Traditional Easter Bread

Easter Bread Recipe

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!

Easter Bread
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

(more…)

By |27/03/2013|Pane (breads), Recipes|16 Comments

Ciambelle with Fennel

Chiambelle with Fennel Recipe

All Food February continues on An Italian-Canadian Life with one of my favourite breads to have in the house: ciambelle with fennel!

Ciambella (or chiambella) is a word used for pretty much anything round with a hole in the middle really, even cakes appear with this name. However, this is a bread that is a crunchy-on-the-outside, chewy-in-the-middle, great-for-dipping-or-with-cheese kind of bread that I always like to have in the house. My mother started making this bread after getting the recipe from a friend and it’s become one of my family favourites. I believe she’s perfected getting the outside crispy. It freezes very well, so they are easy to keep and then warm up in the oven to have with dinner or appetizers.

Besides just being awesome bread, I now expect it for any family gathering, it’s just part of tradition. But my favourite memory with this bread happened just last year. My husband and I served it for the first time to his grandfather. His Nonno immediately began to tear up. Turns out, his sister (since passed) used to make this bread for him all the time and he hadn’t had it since he was quite young. It brought back all sorts of memories for him. For Christmas, we baked up a double batch and brought him a huge basket full to store in his freezer and have whenever he wanted. He was thrilled and still talks about it. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever. That’s an old recipe come to life.

Ciambelle with Fennel
12 cups of all-purpose flour
4 large eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons salt
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons of dry active yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups warm water

(more…)

By |15/02/2013|Pane (breads), Recipes|34 Comments

Italian Potato Doughnuts (Colluri)

Italian Potato Doughnut Recipe
The holiday season is upon us and I want to give a big thank you to my readers, subscribers and the community I’ve found online. I’ve had a fabulous first year with this blog so I’m gifting to you, my readers, two of my favourite recipes for the holidays. The first is up today: my family’s Italian Potato Doughnuts recipe. The second, a favourite cookie of mine, comes later this week. Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours!

Italian potato doughnuts, also known as Colluri in my family, are a winter/holiday specialty. When the weather started to turn really cold in November, my grandfather would start on a big batch of these and invite over extended family to enjoy them with a glass of wine. These doughnuts are fluffy and easy to scarf down even though they are made from potatoes. The dough is also perfect for making panzerotti – pouches filled with sauce and cheese – or sardine-filled snacks. And if you want to make it Canadian-Italian, spread the dough flat, fry and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar for a Beavertail.

While we call them Colluri, really these doughnuts go by many names. I am tempted to say the name is different for every region in Italy, but I’m afraid the truth is it’s different for every town and, possibly, every family. Whenever I mention these doughnuts to another Italian, they say “oh yeah, but we call them….” Some of the names they also may go by: cullurielli, ciambelle, bomboloni, buffarede, grispelle and zeppoli. For me, zeppoli are much more like Jerry’s version featured on this blog last week. But like I said, each family has their own name for things.

The most important part of this doughnut recipe though is that it makes quite a few dozen. Which means it calls for a lot of people to eat them. Which means a lot of people need to help make them. Which means family is together, the house is loud, the food is plentiful and well, we all end up stuffed and on the couch. A perfect Italian Sunday, particularly in the winter. Best thing is, they are a great treat for Christmas and are amazing warmed up in the toaster oven so the outside gets nice and crispy even two or three days later. You have to try these.

Italian Potato Doughnuts
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar

10-12 medium potatoes, boiled and peeled (use a dry potato like Yukon Gold or Russet, rather than a waxy potato)
3-4 cups cold water
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 ounce hard liqueur (whisky, rum or brandy)
2 tablespoons salt
5 pounds all-purpose flour

(more…)

By |18/12/2012|Pane (breads), Recipes|24 Comments

Pizza Dough (baked on the barbeque!)

Pizza on the Barbeque Recipe

The weather is looking good (20 degrees+ from here on in!) and we have neighbours that cook everything on the barbeque. If you are outside enjoying the weather, you are also smelling their dinner. So we decided to top their hamburgers last weekend with pizza on the barbeque. We went with our standard pizza dough recipe with a few twists.

Besides getting that slightly charred thin crust, I love pizzas off of pizza stones (or ideally from real pizza ovens) for that grainy flour texture on the bottom of the pizza and the sound of the paddle removing it from the stone. It reminds me of my parent’s restaurant, sold years ago now, where pizzas came fast and furious from the ovens. There’s something about the smell and sounds of pizza straight from the pizza oven that is ingrained in my memory and heart. Trying out our new pizza stone on the barbeque brought back memories and brought the neighbours over to ask what we were cooking!

Pizza Dough
40 grams of yeast (or 2 packages of instant yeast)
1 cup of lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 cups flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil (plus extra for rising process)

(more…)

By |19/05/2012|Pane (breads), Recipes|3 Comments

Taralli

One of the best snacks any Italian can have around the house are taralli, a crispy bread stick. At the store you’ll usually find them in small circles flavoured with hot peppers, sun-dried tomatoes or fennel. My Calabrese side makes them much longer, in loops you need to snap in half, and using black anice seeds from Italy. This is a large recipe, if you are going to make taralli, you might as well make a lot, but if you decide to halve the recipe, use 2 eggs instead of 3. A word of warning: these are addictive.

(more…)

By |20/04/2012|Pane (breads), Recipes|12 Comments