Easter is a time for reflection, thanks and celebration, and what better way to spend the holiday than indulging with good company and great food?
Easter is celebrated around the world, and each country celebrates the occasion with its own traditions. After the sacrifices of Lent, food plays a big part in these traditions, in particular sweets, treats and desserts. We’re all familiar with chocolate eggs and Easter bunnies, but here are some other authentic goodies that give them a run for their money:
Italy: Colomba Pasquale
Similar to the traditional Christmas treat of panettone, colomba pasquale, or ‘Easter dove’ in English, is sweet bread baked into the shape of a dove. Citrus peel and candied fruits are often included, before the cake is finished off with a shiny coat of sugar-nut syrup, almonds and pearl sugar.
Like in Italy, sweet bread plays an important role in most Greek celebrations, with tsoureki particularly popular at Easter time. The brioche-like bread is flavoured with orange and Mahlab, a spice ground from wild cherries. It is then braided into a circle and sprinkled with slivered almonds. Traditionally, it is served with red-dyed eggs to symbolise Christ’s blood.
Spain: Rosquillas de Semana Santa and Torrejas
One of the most delicious Spanish desserts is rosquillas de Semana Santa, delicious doughnuts enjoyed during Holy Week. These doughnuts vary from region to region, but they are always made without yeast and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. They are different to American doughnuts – decidedly firmer and less sweet, which means you can eat more of them!
Another popular Lenten and Holy Week dessert in Spain is torreja, which can best be described as a Spanish version of French toast. It uses stale bread, soaked in flavoured milk or wine, egg, and seasonings of orange rind, honey, cinnamon, and brandy. Once fried, torrejas are served cold and topped with rich syrup.
Cypriots will prepare flaounes, a cheese-filled pastry, on Easter Friday and will then resist temptation until Easter Sunday and thereafter! Cooking flaounes is something of a family affair, with everyone pitching in. The filling is often a combination of local cheeses, or the special flaouna cheese itself, often blended with raisins. The result can be either savoury or sweet but always delicious!
Portugal: Folar de Pascoa
The traditional Portuguese Easter bread is slightly different to the others, as it is baked with a whole egg, or several, inside! Once the dough has been prepared, a boiled egg is folded into the middle, with the dough then braided over it. The egg symbolises rebirth and fertility. Your biggest challenge will be deciding who gets to eat the egg!
Baklava is often found on the table at a Turkish celebration – a layered flaky pastry stuffed with chopped nuts and drizzled with honey. Thought to have been mastered in Istanbul, the Easter-version of this sticky treat uses 40 sheets of filo pastry – 20 on the bottom and 20 on top to represent the 40 days of Lent.
Where will you be heading for your Easter sugar fix?