Easter in Australia is often synonymous with hot cross buns, but there are many other European traditional bread recipes to explore, all as delicious as the next. Food is at the centre of many Christian families’ Easter traditions, with the enriched European yeast breads being among my favourites to make – and eat. It’s fascinating how the related themes of new life, resurrection and celebration of fertility are expressed symbolically in these foods – and how different countries, regions and even towns throughout Europe have created unique versions of these breads with different ingredients and shapes. Because they are part of the celebration that comes at the end of 40 days of abstinence during Lent, these yeast breads often include ‘forbidden’ ingredients such as red meat, eggs, milk and butter. Extras such as dried fruits, nuts, citrus, sugar, honey and oils are also added to make the breads even more special – and not in a subtle way, either. So all up, expect loaves and buns that are decadent and completely addictive.
You only have to look at the Austrian osterkranz (Easter wreath or crown), the proudly tall Russian kulich, the braided Greek tsoureki (with its embedded bright red eggs), the egg-laden Easter babka or baba from Poland and the Netherlands’ paasstol filled with raisin and almond paste to see how yeast breads can be basically similar but at the same time so different. Explore the stories behind these breads and you’ll discover much about that country’s Easter cultural traditions.
Meanwhile, the recipes for the traditional breads I’m sharing with you here will take you all the way to northern Italy, Spain’s hornazo, Great Britain’s hot cross bun (we've updated the classic version with sour cherries and dark chocolate chunks), Ukraine’s babka and Italy’s gubana – bake your pick, and enjoy!
Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. Read our interview with her or 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.
Photography by Alan Benson. Styling by Trish Hegarty. Food preparation by Wendy Quisumbing.
View previous Bakeproof columns and recipes.