As Easter Sunday approaches, bakers throughout the Christian world make eggy, brightly decorated breads to grace their Easter breakfast and dinner tables in celebration of the end of Lent. Here are eight of our favorite loaves, and the traditions behind them:
Tsoureki, a braided easter bread that is probably Byzantine in origin, gets its spicy kick from makhlepi, an essence made from the pits of wild cherries, and black cumin seeds. Red-dyed hard boiled eggs that symbolize the blood of Christ are usually tucked into the bread's folds. See our recipe for Greek Tsoureki »
Russian bakers decorate the dome-shaped tops of their kulich, a golden-brown, yeasty Easter bread, with an egg wash or white glaze, chopped almonds, brightly colored sugar, currants, and candied orange peel.
In the Friuli region of Italy, the practice of preparing Gubana, a strudel-like Easter bread filled with walnuts, pine nuts, raisins, and cocoa, dates back to the 16th century.
Colomba Pasquale, an Italian Easter bread flavored with amaretto and decorated with candied almonds, is made of the same sweet dough as Christmas panettone. The bread's name, which means dove in Italian, comes from the traditional practice of molding the dough into the shape of a dove to symbolize peace. See our recipe for Pandolce Alto »
British Hot Cross Buns
Made with currants and iced with the shape of the cross, hot cross buns are traditionally eaten in England on Good Friday. During the Elizabethan Age, the Protestants in England tried to stop the sale of the buns, saying that they were a Catholic tradition, but Elizabeth I passed a law that allowed the sweets to be sold during Easter, Christmas, and funerals.
This Easter delicacy from the Rhone-Alps region of France is perfumed with orange blossom water and molded into a full doughnut shape. Some bakers decorate the top with pink pralines, giving the bread a bright, festive hue.
This braided, cardamom-spiced bread is a common holiday treat in Finland. It can be baked as both a single braided loaf and individual-size knots. See our recipe for Finnish Pulla »
Armenian cooks decorate Choreg, a braided, eggy Easter bread, with sesame or poppy seeds.