There is a story in every classic recipe. And just like with books, where stories can transport you to another place and time, a recipe will allow you to peek into the rich history of a country, region, culture and religion without having to leave the comfort and familiarity of your own kitchen.
I love that a recipe can allow discovery and experience of places you may never visit in person – or inspire you to pack your bags and do so. The smells, tastes and textures associated with specific food can strongly connect you to a celebration, a historical moment or simply the day-to-day life of another community far removed.
While doing research for this Easter baking story, I gained a deeper understanding about the strong links between Lent and the enriched breads and pastries served at its conclusion, and I got a real sense of how the foods associated with Easter celebrations developed through history. The biggest bonus, however, was discovering a whole batch of new recipes and, through making and enjoying them, gaining new insight into their country of origin and its culture.
First stop for me was 17th-century Spain where the colourful Easter celebrations delivered ensaïmada de Mallorca – a tantalisingly rich brioche-like creation with flakiness and flavour reminiscient of the French croissant.
Next I imagined myself sitting in a courtyard with grapevines overhead in the southern Italian region of Puglia, snacking on crisp, fennel-scented tarelli. In my mind, I may even have dunked them into a glass of local wine as the sun was sinking lower in the sky.
A slice of still-warm cozonac cu nuca, with its irresistible swirls of nut, rum and cocoa filling, is the kind of Easter fare you would enjoy in a modest home in Romania or Bulgaria.
Meanwhile, in springtime Crete, it’s a full-on Mediterranean experience where you sip on strong, dark Greek coffee and nibble a little patouda filled with honey-sweetened, spice-scented nuts and dates.
This Easter, I encourage you to visit another land and time via your baking. And while your bun’s in the oven, so to speak, why not take the trip. Get out an encyclopaedia or atlas and immerse yourself momentarily in the country and culture that inspire those deliciously evocative warm and spicy aromas developing in the background. Easter Bunny, eat your heart out…
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Sarah O'Brien. Food preparation by Tina McLeish.
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Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.