Easter Treats – a Little More Than Sweet Stuff

Okay, when I say Easter, what is the first thing that comes into your mind? Colored eggs, jelly beans, chocolate bunnies or a new Easter Bonnet to wear in the Easter Parade? I’m sure those images would pop up in everyone’s top ten. For me however, the number one answer would be bread. Now I can understand your questioning this answer, but than again you didn’t grow up in my home.

This practice of baking bread was as traditional to our Easter as the decorating of our tree was to Christmas. Mom would make her breads in advance of Easter, and she would make a ton of it. Much of what she made was a simple, no fancy recipe with no special ingredients. It was just plain bread either round or shaped like a cross, with a hard boiled egg in the center. My mom would start making the bread on Tuesday of Holy Week. Staying up late that evening it wasn’t unusual for her to bake 20 or more loafs. In the morning before we left for the last day of school prior to the break, we would help her deliver the still warm loafs to family and friends that lived nearby. Each of the kids had a loaf to give to our teachers.

On Good Friday mom would switch gears and begin making the traditional Pizzagaina or as some may refer to it as Easter Ham Pie or Pizza Rustica. Although not a bread, my mom would classify all her Easter baking as bread and here things got a little more complicated. The Pizzagaina was made to commemorate the ending of the 40 days of lent. This pie was loaded and there was no holding back. Filled with cubes of Italian meats and salami, eggs, ricotta cheese, head cheese, mozzarella and encased in a pizza dough, this was a heart attack waiting to happen. The combination of flavors was incredible and the unforgettable taste was a like welcomed visit from a long lost friend. Problem was mom would not allow you to dig in till Easter Sunday.

The final piece of baking was the Easter Wheat Pie or Pastiera di Grano. This was my favorite, and I being the keeper of my mom’s recipes, still prepare it to this day. Made with eggs, cooked wheat, ricotta or head cheese, citron, orange and lemon zest and lots of sugar. The Easter Wheat Pie usually ended the week long baking tradition for my mom and was also the last thing we enjoyed for our Easter feast.

Hey, don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the jelly beans and chocolate as much as the next guy, but it is the tradition of baking bread and pies that has stayed with me into my adulthood.

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