This is a treat that’s representative of the Easter story. They make a lovely sweet treat for Easter and can be used as part of a brunch menu or even as your dessert for Easter dinner.
The basis for these rolls are the packaged tubes of refrigerated crescent roll dough such as what Pillsbury makes. Separate out the dough but before you roll them out, place a large marshmallow on each one of the rolls. The marshmallow symbolizes Jesus – being white to signify his pureness. Sprinkle some cinnamon on each marshmallow to represent the burial spices used. Now you can roll up the dough as usual to symbolize the shroud that Jesus was wrapped in and the tomb he was buried in. Bake according to the package directions. When you eat these sweet treats, you’ll find that just as with the tomb cookies above, these rolls will be hollow inside because “the tomb is now empty”.
Italian Easter Egg Bread
This Easter bread is not only tasty but makes for a really pretty centerpiece on your dinner table. It’s formed into a braided wreath and then decorated with coloured eggs.
2 pkg. dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water
1/2 c. butter
3/4 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 tsp. salt
5 c. flour
1 tsp. water
Instructions: In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Melt the butter, add the milk and heat until it’s just barely warm. Pour this into the bowl containing the yeast. Mix in the sugar, eggs, and salt.
Stir in the flour a cup at a time until you have a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle on more flour a bit at a time if the dough is too sticky. Knead well until it’s smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a buttered bowl, cover with a tea towel, and place in a warm area for about an hour until it doubles in size.
Punch down the dough. Split the dough into 3 equal sections and roll each one of them into a snake about 1 1/2 feet long. Put the three strands next to each other and braid them. It’s easiest to start the braiding in the middle and work out to each end to avoid any rips in the dough. Form the braid into a wreath shape and place on a buttered cookie sheet.
Six of the eggs are to be used as the wreath decorations. Some people colour the raw eggs and then place them, still raw, into the wreath allowing them to cook as the bread bakes. I prefer to soft boil them (and dye them) first because I find it gives better results. When my mom used to make this, she would make “wells” in the dough and bake it without any eggs in it at all, adding them after the bread was baked but this was taking a chance because if the bread doesn’t rise or bake up just right, you may lose those wells or they may not be the right size to hold the eggs. Sink the dyed eggs into the dough evenly around the wreath. Cover the bread with a tea towel and let it rise again until it doubles in size once more.
Beat one egg with 1 tsp. water to make a wash and brush that over the bread. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 25 minutes until golden brown.
Kulich (Russian Easter Bread)
This bread is baked in a 2 lb. coffee can so that it comes out tall and once decorated, resembling the traditional onion-domed Russian church. The initials XB, signifying Christ is risen, are put on the top of the bread. In many traditions (we do this in our Catholic church), breads and other special Easter foods are brought to the church on Holy Saturday (the day before Easter) to be blessed. That is the tradition with this bread as well. The priest sprinkles it with holy water and blesses it and then it is served on Easter with Pascha (see the recipe after this one).
1 pkg. dry yeast
¼ c. warm water
¾ c. lukewarm milk
4 T. melted butter
¼ c. sugar
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. grated lemon rind
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. brandy or rum
3 c. flour
¼ c. chopped almonds
¼-1/2 c. golden raisins, plumped in hot water and drained
Optional: ¼ c. candied lemon or orange peel or candied fruits
1 c. icing sugar
1 T. milk
½ tsp. vanilla
Instructions: Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and stir until dissolved. Combine the milk and melted butter. Stir in the sugar, salt, lemon rind, vanilla, and rum/brandy. Add in the water containing the dissolved yeast. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then stir in the flour, a bit at a time. You may not need all the flour – keep adding a bit at a time until it makes a soft dough.
Flour your working surface (I have an enamel topped table that works well – if it’s not handy I also have a large vintage bread board but you can certain work on a cutting board that’s large enough or a clean area of your kitchen counter) and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic – this takes about 10-15 minutes. Put into a buttered bowl and turn it over and over until the dough is coated with butter. Cover with a tea towel and leave this to rise in a warm spot for 1 to 1 ½ hours until it has doubled in size.
Punch the dough down and turn it out onto your floured surface again. Press the dough out flat (it doesn’t have to be really thin – you’re going to form it back into a ball again in a bit – you just want it somewhat flattened down so you can properly add the other ingredients). Add in the almonds, raisins, and optional fruits, working them into the dough.
Break off a piece of dough that’s just a bit bigger than a golf ball to put aside for making the initials that go on top. Form the remaining dough into a ball and press it into the buttered coffee can. (if you have something of a “seam” in the dough, you want to put the dough into the can seam side down.) Note: the dough should only fill the can about halfway.
Roll out the small reserved piece of dough into a snake like shape about 2 to 2 ½ feet long. Cut it into 4 even pieces. Cross two of the pieces into an X shape and use the other 2 to make a B. Press the letters into the top of the ball of dough in the coffee can. Cover the can of dough with waxed paper and allow to rise again – for about 30 to 45 minutes, only until the dough reaches the top of the can. Don’t allow it to rise any higher than that.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 40-45 minutes until it’s golden brown. A toothpick or wooden skewer inserted in the center top of the bread should come out clean. Prepare the icing and frost the bread with this, allowing it to drip down the sides of the loaf to resemble the tops of the onion domed churches in Russia.
This is served in many Slavic countries and is often made to accompany Kulich. It has been likened to being like a cross between ice cream and cheesecake. It’s made in a mould or clean flower pot and then turned out onto a plate and decorated.
1 whole egg
4 egg yolks
2 1/3 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
2 lbs. farmers cheese
1/2 lb. butter, at room temperature
1 T. vanilla
1 1/2 c. dried fruits (raisins or a mixture of dried fruits usually with some candied fruit peel mixed in)
1 c. chopped almonds
2 T. freshly grated orange or lemon rind
Any of the following: candied fruit peel, nuts, fresh berries, or maraschino cherries or a combination of these for the decorations
Instructions: Beat the egg and yolks together until they are creamy and a bright yellow colour. Mix in the sugar and beat until thick and creamy. Put this mixture in a saucepan and add 1/2 cup of cream. Heat this over low to medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens. Do not let this come to a boil. Remove from the heat and continue to stir it until it has cooled down to a lukewarm temperature.
In a bowl, mix together the cheese, butter, the remaining cream, and the vanilla. Blend this until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the egg mixture and then the fruits and rind. Mix thoroughly.
Line the mould or flowerpot with a few layers of cheesecloth. If using a flowerpot, I like to cover the inside with plastic wrap first and then the cheesecloth just because I am not sure if all pots are completely safe when coming into direct contact with food. Also, remember that Pascha moulds and flowerpots have holes in the bottom so you need to place it over a bowl to catch any liquid that will drain out. Pour the Pascha mixture into the mould or pot, cover it with a few layers of cheesecloth, and then place a plate on top of the cheesecloth. The plate needs to come into direct contact with the cheesecloth as it is supposed to push any excess liquid from the Pascha. Put this in the refrigerator to chill for 1-2 days. Take the top layer of cheesecloth off of the Pascha and unmould it onto a serving platter. Remove the rest of the cheesecloth.
Decorate the Pascha with your chosen decorations. It is traditional, as with the Kulich, to place the decorations forming the letters XB on one side of the Pascha while on the other side they generally form a cross. In Russia, Paschas often have decorations shaped like lilies and angels on them as well. The berries are usually placed around the Pascha encircling it as well as using some to decorate the top and sides. This is meant to be served chilled.
Hot Cross Buns
Hot Cross Buns are traditionally served in many countries on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and often even on Easter morning.
1 c. scalded milk
1/3 c. sugar or brown sugar or a blend
1 T. lemon juice
1/2 c. butter or margarine
1 pkg. dry yeast
4- 4 1/2 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon rind
2/3 c. raisins
1 egg, well beaten (this is to glaze the tops of the buns)
Instructions: Stir together the milk sugar, egg, lemon juice, and butter until well blended. Stir in the yeast. Add 2 1/2 c. of the flour, the salt, spices and lemon rind and beat together well. Cover the bowl, place in a warm spot, and leave to rise for an hour. Add the raisins and knead into the bread. As you knead, add as much of the remaining flour as needed to make a smooth elastic dough. Form into a ball and place in a covered buttered bowl in a warm place to rise until it doubles in size. Punch the dough down and form into buns. Place the buns in a greased pan with at least an inch in between each one. Cut a cross in the top of each bun and brush with the beaten egg. Let rise again until double in size. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown. I prefer to eat hot cross buns just as is but some people like to frost them with icing. If desired, here is an icing recipe you can use: Beat 3 egg whites with 1 T. lemon juice. Gradually mix in 1 1/2 c. icing sugar until a stiff icing is formed.
Cornish Saffron Buns
It is tradition to eat these buns instead of Hot Cross Buns with clotted cream on Good Friday and Easter.
Follow the recipe for the Hot Cross Buns with these changes: Instead of the spices listed, use 2 tsp. ground nutmeg; when you combine the yeast mixture with the flour mixture, add 1/4 tsp. saffron that you have steeped in 1 1/2 tsp. of warm water for 10 minutes; mix in 1/2 cup mixed candied fruit peel; use less of the flour in total, making a softer, less firm dough than you would for Hot Cross Buns
Italian Rosemary Buns
These are essentially the Italian version of the English Hot Cross Buns.
1 pkg dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 olive oil
4- 4 1/2 cups flour, sifted
3/4 cup golden raisins
3 T. rosemary leaves
Optional: 1-2 T. sugar
Instructions: Sprinkle yeast over the warm water in a bowl. Stir in the sugar and let it sit until it gets frothy. Mix in the salt and 1/4 cup of the oil. Slowly add in 3 1/2 cups of the flour. Toss the raisins with 1/2 cup of the flour and add this mixture to the dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it until it is smooth and elastic – about 10-15 minutes. Add more flour as needed to create a pretty stiff dough. Put the dough in a greased bowl – turn it over until it is covered with oil on all sides. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size – about an hour and a half to two hours. Saute the rosemary leaves in the rest of the olive oil until they are golden in colour. Once risen, turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Make a well in the dough and pour in the rosemary and oil mixture. Knead for about 5-10 minutes to work the oil and rosemary through the dough. Cut the dough into about 2 dozen buns and then cut a cross into the top of each bun. Place on greased baking sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rise until doubled in size. If you’d like, you can sprinkle with the optional sugar. Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 10 minutes and then reduce the heat to 375 degrees F. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes or until golden.
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