It’s that time of year again when we all reach out for one of those sweet spiced buns. These yeast risen buns with added currants or raisins and a touch of candied citron appear each Easter. With a cross on the top made from icing, pastry, a flour and water mix or simply cut into the dough, representing the crucifixion of Jesus. The hot cross bun is said to have evolved from the Anglo Saxons baking small wheat cakes as an offering for the goddess of Springtime – Eostre.
All around the world, as the fasting for lent ends, Easter traditions have evolved. Recipes using the butter, sugar, eggs and cream that hadn’t been allowed in the previous abstaining weeks now reappear. The Australians have simply removed the fruit from our hot cross buns and added chocolate chips but then if you can’t have chocolate at Easter when can you. In Jamaica they bake an Easter Bun, much the same as we do, but they eat cheese with theirs.
Germans bake a sponge cake filled with mocha butter cream and decorate it with small chocolate eggs – ostertorte. Next door, in the Alsace region of France, Easter Lambs appear. These lamb shaped brioche, sprinkled with sugar with pretty bows tied around their necks pop up in all the bakeries. They have also spread to Germany where they have grown a chocolate coat.
In the UK they bake a simnel cake which is a traditional fruit cake with a marzipan topping, decorated with 11 marzipan balls to represent Jesus’ apostles, minus Judas who betrayed him. Easter cheesecakes are popular with the Polish and the Russians. The Russian version or pashka, is a rich cheesecake with raisins, formed into a pyramid shape with XB inscribed, meaning Christ has risen. The Poles also make a sweet yeast cake with raisins and sometimes rum which they glaze with a fruity frosting or chocolate. They also mould their butter into sweet little lamb shapes for serving with Easter dinner.
Surprisingly, Pretzels are the original Italian Easter food, the shape said to imply the image of folded arms in prayer. But it is the Greeks, who not only bake delicious sounding butter cookies sprinkled with sesame seeds, they also cook up a soup and a stew for Easter. Magiritsa and kokoretsi are not so delicious sounding dishes. Containing the chopped intestines, hearts, lungs and kidneys of lamb or goat marinated in lemon, olive oil and oregano. The Greek menu or traditional route this Easter? It’s ham for me.
Photos courtesy of flickr thanks to lululollylegs, njdminiatures, pirate Johnny, Scandblue