Please enjoy this guest blog entry by my good friend and co-worker, Amanda Codispoti. Amanda has strong Italian roots and a talented cook for a grandmother. This is the story of her grandmother’s special Easter bread. Happy Easter.
Every Easter, my nonna (that’s Italian for grandmother) shows up with an abundance of food. There are rice balls, chicken cutlets, cookies and more. But the real treasure is her Easter bread.
She’s made this sweet yeast bread for at least as long as my father can remember. It’s a recipe that she brought with her to America from Italy more than 54 years ago, and one that my father estimates is a couple of hundred years old.
The centerpiece of her Easter bread is a basket with hardboiled eggs in it. Nonna boils the eggs first, and then weaves strips of dough for the basket and handle. She places the eggs on the basket, laying a strip of dough over them to keep them in place. She also makes dough in the shape of birds. And in another version, she flattens a ball of dough, puts chopped walnuts and pineapple perserves in the center, and then rolls it up.
I’ll list the ingredients below, but having baked with Nonna before, I would consider these measurements to be just a recommendation. Nonna still consults with her notebook of recipes, but after decades of baking, it seems that she mostly relies on the feel of the dough and her intuition. In fact, many of her recipes don’t indicate how much flour is needed.
Read on to see Nonna Codispoti’s bread recipe and a picture of her with the beautiful finished breads.
2 cups water
Yeast (activated in warm water)
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons of saccharin (Nonna’s American adaptation; too much sugar can kill the yeast. Splenda will also probably work)
3 sticks melted butter
Roughly five pounds of flour
Beat the eggs, sugar and saccharin. Add yeast. Add flour and raisins and work into a light dough that is a bit sticky. Let the dough rise in a warm place. Shape as desired. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, depending on the size of loaves, until golden brown.