Focus on Tradition 

This week I will be focusing on not just recipes from my family history but other traditional recipes as well. 

Every country is like a chest of interesting traditions and cuisines. I’m sure many of you have memories of Easter traditions from your homes.

It is Easter time. My Favorite time of the year. 

 For me, it means the time of (nature) awakening, new starts , new possibilities new decisions, positive thinking and beautiful traditional food on our family table. 

An opportunity to gather the family and remember that love keeps us together. And it’s all more fun with great food and decorated eggs.

Since we’re in Lent and Easter isn’t far away my first one is 
Croatian Easter Bread

Preheat oven to 160 C or 325 Fahrenheit 

Pinca, also known as sirnica, is a traditional Croatian Easter sweet bread especially popular in Dalmatia and Istria. Pinca is very similar to a briche and is traditionally shaped into a round loaf. What makes it recognizable is the sign resembling a cross which is cut into the surface of the loaf before baking. 

This symbolically represents the Crucifixion of Christ. Pinca is a very rich bread containing butter and many eggs, usually flavored with rum, raisins and citrus zest, and is eaten to celebrate the end of Lent. Together with Easter eggs, Pinca has remained the centrepiece of the family Easter breakfastand and is usually taken to Easter Mass for blessing.

This sweet bread is usually made on the morning of Holy Saturday; starting bright and early so that, by late afternoon, the cooled loaf can be placed into a basket with other bits like boiled eggs and ham. 

Then off to mass the basket of food is taken, to be blessed and eaten on Easter Sunday for breakfast.

* 25 g yeast = almost 1 oz

* 3 tbsp warm milk

* 4 egg yolks

* 100 g sugar = 1/2 cup sugar

* 1/2 tsp vanilla sugar

* 60g soft unsalted butter 4 tbsp

* 4 tbsp sunflower oil

* pinch of salt

* zest of 1/2 lemon

* zest of 1 orange

* 3 tbsp rum

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup dry cherries

* 400 g sifted all-purpose flour  = 3 1/2 to 4 cups

* 1 1/4 cups milk

* 1 egg lightly beaten

* 3 cubes of sugar

Method: Croatian Easter Bread, Sirnica

1. Place the yeast in a bowl and add the 3 tbsp of warm milk, a tsp of sugar and a tsp of flour.

2. Allow the yeast to do its magic and get foamy.

3. In another bowl add the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla sugar, and butter and beat until it thickens and then add the sunflower oil and gently mix to combine.

4. Now add the foamy yeast mixture, lemon and orange zest, rum, salt and flour and milk and start kneading. You need to get a soft – medium dough.

5. Cover the dough and allow to rise for about an hour.

6. Form 4 smaller round shaped pieces of dough, place them on a baking tray and allow to rise again until they double in size. Make sure they aren’t too close together, you don’t want them touching.

7. Pre-heat your oven to 160 degree’s celsius.

8. Once risen, with a sharp knife make a cross-like incision on top of each of the pieces of dough and brush with the beaten egg.

9. Break up the sugar cubes so they become chunky coarse pieces of sugar and sprinkle on top of each of the Sirnica’s.

10. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Task Overview

Timeframe 

8 am start mixing.

9 am leave it to rise (if not before)

11:30 – punch down the dough

12:30 – punch it down again and shape the loaves.

1:30 – The loaves should be risen by now…Prepare to bake

2:00 – bake!

Baking time is 30 minutes. 20 minutes, put on the topping, then another 10 minutes, so each batch will take around 40 minutes maximum to execute. Unless you have two ovens, the baking process (another 40 minutes) must be repeated.

If you have to be in church for the Holy Saturday Blessing, typically around 5 p.m., this leaves you plenty of time to place the cooled down sirnica loaf into a decorative basket with festive hard – cooked Easter eggs and get yourself fixed up. That means, put on some lipstick and a fresh blouse.

Shopping List

THE BREAD

Ingredients

* 16 fresh eggs (10 eggs plus six egg yolks, in other words, remove six egg whites),

* 250 grams butter or margarine,

* 5 lbs pkg. or 2 kilo pkg. all purpose flour,

* 1 lb. package cake flour, milk,

* 1/2 cup vegetable or sunflower oil,

* 1 lb. sugar,

* 2 rounded Tablespoons vanilla extract,

* a generous pinch of salt,

* Sirnica flavoring 

(Pear Brandy, Rum, and Cherry Brandy are all good additions approximately 1 T each).

* Lemon and Orange Rind (at least one piece of each variety). Squeeze a little juice in too

Recipe for the Sugar Topping is listed below. You will need about 20 sugar cubes and another two eggs.

Regarding Yeast: 8 pieces of cubed fresh yeast, if available, is the best option. If not, use 16 envelopes of the powdered variety.

Roll up those sleeves….

Let’s Begin!

I like to start on Saturday morning around 8 am. This ensures that the Sirnica, if everything goes as planned, will be in the oven no later than 2 or – at the very latest – 3 p.m.

I suggest you put on an apron and tell your family that you are not available.

Ready, Set, Go!

In a plastic bowl, combine the yeast with a glass of warm milk and let it rise. Once it starts bubbling, add a scoop of flour and keep it covered to the side.

On the stove, warm up the margarine or butter slowly combined with a glass of milk. When completely melted and cooled down, add the half-cup of liquid oil.

Now, in a separate large bowl, combine the pound of sugar and the eggs, flavorings, vanilla, lemon and orange rind. Blend together a good 10 minutes until the mixture is homogeneous. When the butter+milk+oil mixture is fully cooled, add it to this bowl.

Now add half of the flour, but slowly. Keep mixing to ensure that there are no lumps. Add the yeast mixture on top.

Continue mixing the remainder of the flour, using dough hooks if you have them. If not, take off your rings, wash your hands and mix by hand. Add extra flour if needed, making sure the dough is not sticky and has a degree of “bounce” to it. The cake flour is added at the end. It has a slightly finer consistency and helps to “finish off” the dough. Don’t lick your fingers. Add flour to your fingers, add it to the bowl and then go wash up.

Put the entire mixture into an extra-large bowl. If you make an “imaginary hug” in front of you, that is the approximate size that your bowl needs to be. Put the bowl full of sirnica dough in a warm place, like on the washing machine or near the TV, and cover it with blankets, a jeans jacket – whatever – to help it rise faster.

If you started at 8 am, the dough should probably be risen by around 11:30. Punch it down and let it rise again, carefully covering with blankets like before. In another hour or so, you will be shaping the dough into eight loaves.

A note about the loaves. Better smaller than too big. If they are large to begin with, once they rise, they will be too huge to fit onto the cookie sheet, and then there is a problem that the dough isn’t fully baked in the middle. I’ve found that a diameter of eight inches is about right for the sirnica loaves. They finish in a half hour, which means the sugar won’t burn the the middle will be baked through. When they come out of the oven they are invariably larger than when they went in :).

Shaping the Dough – Loaves

At this point you will need a sheet for a single bed, preferably white and cottony. Using a scale to ensure consistency, take a chunk of flour and shape it into a circle, pushing the dough to the center of each loaf with your fingers. 

Arrange the sheet lengthwise, then fold in half. With the sheet make wells for eight sirnica loaves. The top portion of the sheet will cover the loaves. Put a blanket on top and let them rise (this should take another hour or so).

If the loaves feel “light” they are probably ready to bake.

Baking

Heat the oven. I bake at 180 degree Celzius. The Fahrenheit equivalent is 350 degrees or a bit less, ovens may vary.

Like always, grease your cookie sheet. Place on the middle rack in the oven. Better to bake four at a time and have a great result. The other four Sirnica’s can wait their turn in the “sheet”!

Around each of the four sirnicas, I put a strip of foil. The four sirnicas will probably touch or almost touch each other. The foil strip helps them keep their shape. On top of each sirnica, with a clean pair of scissors I cut three “crosses” which has religious symbolism. It also helps to hold the sugar topping in place 🙂 When the oven is fully heated, put the uncovered sirnicas into the oven and look at the clock.

In 20 minutes, you will remove them from the oven in order to coat them. First, remove the foil strips – their job is done.

Now, using a pastry brush, brush on the egg mixture and crumble on the sugar topping. Again, note the exact time when you return them to the oven. Only ten minutes more – and remove!

Now place the remaining sirnicas into the oven with foil strips, like before. Be sure to keep the oven door closed during this “changing of the guard” time frame so the oven doesn’t lose its temperature.

Sirnica needs to be cooled down before eating, they will be more flavorful. Technically speaking, sirnica should not be eaten until Easter! But that rule can be bent, especially with such wonderful smells coming out of the kitchen…..

The Sugar Topping

In a small bowl, combine 1 egg and one egg yolk. Mix well, Add a drop or two of water for consistency. Using a pastry brush or the back of a Tablespoon, spread it all over the top of the sirnica. Now you need to crush some sugar cubes for an attractive topping. There are several ways to do this. A knife is one way. Another is to wrap a handful of sugar cubes in a clean dishtowel and crush them using a rock or a hammer. The basic idea is to smash them into smaller pieces and sprinkle the mixture on top of the egg.

Recipe 2 

Croatian Easter Bread 

25 g yeast

3 tbsp warm milk

4 egg yolks

100 g sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla sugar

60g soft unsalted butter

4 tbsp sunflower oil

pinch of salt

zest of 1/2 lemon

zest of 1 orange

3 tbsp rum

400 g sifted all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups milk

1 egg lightly beaten

3 cubes of sugar
Method: Croatian Easter Bread, Sirnica

Place the yeast in a bowl and add the 3 tbsp of warm milk, a tsp of sugar and a tsp of flour.

Allow the yeast to do its magic and get foamy.

In another bowl add the egg yolks, sugar, vanilla sugar, and butter and beat until it thickens and then add the sunflower oil and gently mix to combine.

Now add the foamy yeast mixture, lemon and orange zest, rum, salt and flour and milk and start kneading. You need to get a soft – medium dough.

Cover the dough and allow to rise for about an hour.

Form 4 smaller round shaped pieces of dough, place them on a baking tray and allow to rise again until they double in size. Make sure they aren’t too close together, you don’t want them touching.

Pre-heat your oven to 160 degree’s celsius.

Once risen, with a sharp knife make a cross-like incision on top of each of the pieces of dough and brush with the beaten egg.

Break up the sugar cubes so they become chunky coarse pieces of sugar and sprinkle on top of each of the Sirnica’s.

Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Recipe 3 

This is a beautiful, flavorful traditional Croatian Easter cake.


Ingredients
5 cups (500 g) all purpose flour

2 tsp (7 g) active dry yeast

½ cup (100 g) granulated sugar

7 tbsp (100 g) butter, melted

2 eggs

zest of 1 lemon

zest of ½ orange

5 oz (150 ml) warm milk

freshly squeezed juice of 1 orange

1 cup (100 g) dry cranberries

1 egg yolk

Instructions

Combine dry yeast with 1 tsp sugar and 150 ml warm milk. Let rise for 5 min.

Combine cranberries with orange juice and leave for 1 hour.

Sift flour, add sugar, melted yeast, melted butter, eggs, lemon and orange zest. Knead until the dough forms, it should be on the soft side. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour.

Drain cranberries (don’t discard orange juice, drink it) and knead them into the risen dough. Divide it into 3 equal parts and roll into long, equal rolls. Entwine them to make braid. Here you can also divide the dough into equal pieces and make hot cross buns. Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper and brush with egg yolk. Let rise for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 356 F (180 Celsius) and bake the bread for 30 min. Let cool. You can sprinkle it with powdered sugar before serving.

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