Easter Bread

The Easter Bread Basket

Category: Culture

About guest author Lynne Carstarphen: Lynne is a freelance editor and writer who loves bread and eggs at Easter and every other day of the year.

As befits a holiday that marks the end of Lenten fasting, Easter is a day of feasting. There are as many food traditions associated with Easter as there are cultures that celebrate it, but almost all of them feature bread. Easter bread, in many forms and by many names, shows up on tables across Christendom.

PastieraIn Italy, every region has its own (often several) version. The star on the national stage, however, is colomba di pasquale, a sweet, eggy bread shaped like a dove. Enjoy it with a glass of spumante to cap off the Easter feast. Also popular is pastiera, a pie filled with wheat berries. Romans put sweet and savory together in pizza pasquale, a sweet bread topped with salame. Neapolitans have casatiello, an egg bread embedded with chunks of cheese, ham, and salame. Venetians eat fugassa di Pasqua; Genoese dig into torta pasqualina, a 33-layer tart filled with chard. Easter in the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region brings gubana, a heavy bread stuffed with walnuts, raisins, and cocoa with a splash of grappa. In Emilia-Romagna, the town of Cesenatico offers ciambelle, a ring-shaped bread flavored with anise and lemon peel.

Come Easter Sunday in Portugal, they will be eating (among many other things) folar da pascoa, a meat-stuffed bread.

Mexican Easter bread comes in the form of dessert, either as capirotada, a bread pudding with cheese, peanuts, and raisins, soaked in a sweet syrup of brown sugar and cinnamon, or torrejas, a French toast–like treat.

Across Eastern Europe, Easter bread is legion, including Ukrainian paska; Finnish kulitsa; Russian kulich; Polish chalka; Czech hoska and velikonoční bochánek; Bulgarian kozunak; Hungarian cozonac and fonott kolacs; and Lithuanian velykos pyragas. Make sure not to confuse paska with paskha, a Russian Easter cheese often spread on slices of kulich.

To the south, Greeks celebrate the resurrection of Christ with tsoureki or lambropsomo, eggy breads often made by braiding together three strands of dough to represent the Holy Trinity, with red-dyed eggs nestled in among the folds.

The British have their hot cross buns, the Dutch their paasbrod, and the Danes their Påskefestbrød. In Germany, you might have Osterzopf, Osterkranz, Eier im Nest (“eggs in nest” being the literal translation), Osterfladen, Osterkarpfen, Osterbrot, Osterkorbe, Osterhasen, or Eiermännle, though hopefully not all at once.

Syrian Christians like to take their adas warm from the oven, slather it in butter or jam, and then eat it with a hunk of blue cheese, a hard-boiled egg with salt, and maybe some olives.

The Easter breads of Spain spread out along the sweet-savory spectrum, from corona de Pascua, a sweet yeast bread flavored with raisins, nuts, candied fruit peel, and olive oil, to hornazo, a sausage-stuffed country bread.

No matter what you call it — or how you make it — Easter bread makes Easter the best day of the year to fill up on bread.

Photo Credits: Drew Coffman (feature image), Corrado Forino (pastiera)