This weekend is Easter, so in addition to coloring eggs and having our annual Easter egg hunt, I wanted to make a nice loaf of Easter bread. I had a problem, however. I couldn't figure out which type of holiday bread to make. Many cultures have breads that are traditionally served during Lent and the Easter holidays. One of the most famous is the Greek Easter Bread (called tsouréki), which is sometimes made with spices -- such as allspice, cinnamon or cloves -- or vanilla and/or citrus zest. Most recipes use mastícha, which is a Greek spice that can be found in specialty or gourmet stores. Hot cross buns are another type of traditional Easter bread and often have currents, raisins or nuts, as well as spices such as cinnamon. They are topped with a cross of icing and are a traditional English holiday bun.
My mother made a Greek-style Easter bread when I was a kid, and I always thought it was the perfect accompaniment to hard boiled eggs, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies. I made this type of bread once or twice, but since having children, have relied on serving the lovely hot cross buns made at La Farine each Easter morning. Now that my daughters are a little older, however, I wanted to revive my mother's tradition of making home-made Easter bread.
After a childhood eating traditional Greek Easter bread during Lent, followed by an adulthood eating hot cross buns, I had a case of culinary confusion once I decided to bake something myself. Luckily, my mom is visiting right now, so we put our heads together and came up with our own creation yesterday. It is reminiscent of the traditional Greek Easter bread in that it uses eggs and is airy and light. For sweetness, I added a sugar glaze similar to that found on hot cross buns. Because I was creating my own recipe, I decided to make just a simple yeasted egg dough, but am open to adding lemon zest and spices in the future. We cut the dough into three pieces and then braided it in a circle and decorated it with red Easter eggs, which is a tradition in Greece. The result was a slightly sweet light bread with a lemony glaze that goes perfect with coffee and eggs. I can't wait to dig in Sunday morning.
Serves 6 - 10