GREEK EASTER BREADS

Easter preparations begin on Holy Thursday when the traditional eggs are dyed red and  sweet Easter bread may be baked.

Lampropsomo (=bright bread) or lamprokouloura (=bright circular bread) is rich in eggs and butter (foods forbidden during Lent) and is  often decorated on top with spring flowers, leaves, crosses and snakes made of dough. A red egg, symbol or rebirth, renewal and blood of Christ is usually -but not always- part of the decoration. Avgokouloura (circular bread with an egg), avkoula (large egg), kokona (lady), koutsouna (doll),

krios (ram),

kalathaki (basket),

Jesus’ foot ,

breads made into snail or snake shapes,

8-shaped breads:

the names of Easter breads vary according to the region and their shape. Many food words in modern Greek can be traced to other languages. Turkish is frequently a source because of the 400 years of Ottoman domination.  Thus tsoureki (Turk. çörek), another well known Easter bread, comes by this route.

It  has the flavours of mastic or mahlep or both, depending on the  regional preferences. Once made only at Easter, tsoureki is now mass -produced and found everywhere in the country, all year long.

A VERY EASY TSOUREKI RECIPE

2 k. flour

200 gr yeast

240 gr lightly warm water

550 gr sugar (or less)

1 tsp salt

1 tsp mahlep, toasted and ground

lemon zest

1 tsp mastic powder

10 eggs lightly beaten + 1 egg

140 gr milk

100 gr orange juice

500 gr butter or 250 gr butter + 250 gr extra virgin olive oil

1 hard boiled egg, dyed red

Dissolve yeast in the water and add about 1/2 cup flour. Mix thoroughly, cover with a cloth and set in a warm place to rise for 20 minutes. Add the ingredients in the order they are listed and on a floured surface or in a mixer, knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Form ropes, each about 25 cm long and twist gently. Braid sets of 3 ropes and place them on greased baking sheets or baking pans and allow to doubled. Brush  with beaten egg. Place the boiled, dyed eggs. Bake tsourekia in preheated oven (175 C) for 30 minutes or until golden brown. ________________________________________________________________________________ On holy Saturday, Easter breads and red eggs are placed in baskets and then they are taken to church to be blessed. Some of them will be given as gift  to  godparents from children. In earlier times the newly married women also offered Easter bread to their parents in law. _____________________________________________________________________________ Since Easter Monday is associated with funerary customs,  it is common for people to visit the cemeteries and place red eggs, Easter breads and cookies on the graves. The departed can thus share in  family joys. ______________________________________________________________________________

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Lazarakia #2

Lazarakia, small loaves of  sweet bread,  celebrate the miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I’ve made them yesterday (the day before Palm Sunday).  As you can see, they are in the shape of a man wrapped in a shroud or of a dead man wearing costume.

For more on lazarakia and a recipe, click here.

LENTEN FAST- EASTER FEAST: ALMOST AN ALPHABET

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Angel hair soup: with angel hair pasta, chopped potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, onions,  lentils,  bay leaf,  without olive oil. It is eaten during Good Friday.

Bacaliaros, salt cod: once an inexpensive food but now it is a luxury. It is prepared in many ways and is the emblematic food of the Feast of Annunciation and Palm Sunday.
Cheese, soft and fresh: it is often baked in savory or sweet pastries, around Easter.

Derbiye:  although the word in Arabic (tarbiya) and Turkish (terbiye) is applied to egg-lemon sauce, in Greek derbiye refers to a flour and lemon sauce that is used as a thickener, especially in chickpeas, black eyed beans, salted cod and artichoke dishes. In Casos, the term derbiye is used for the dish that is eaten on the Easter Sunday morning after the midnight church service. It is made with the offals, head and legs of the Easter Sunday lamb, rice and onions.

Egg, red: it symbolizes birth and rebirth, long life and immortality and hence Christ’s Ressurection. The red colour of Easter eggs links Jewish and Christian tradition. It reminds the lamb’s blood with which Jews marked their houses and signifies the blood of Christ. The cracking of the eggs was known in Byzantium by 13th century. It symbolizes the breaking of the tomb, but it is also a wish for a new, better life issuing from Christ’s Ressurection. The owner of the last uncracked egg is considered very lucky though.

Flowers: in islands, the Easter cookies are covered with orange and lemon flowers before being stored in tightly closed containers. Home bakers also enjoy the flavoring of orange or lemon flower water in their Easter baking.

Garlic: chopped fresh garlic, olives, soaked broad beans and rusks soaked in water is an easy dish to make and a favorite meze or appetizer with raki and ouzo.

Hyakinth: the bulbs of the genus Muscari comosum are pickled and then served with virgin olive oil and fresh chopped onions. A Lenten delicacy.

Intestines: well washed lamb intestines are used for kokoretsi and mayiritsa.

J: a common shape for Easter cookies in Crete.

Kokoretsi: it is traditionally consumed in mainland Greece, where is the main appetizer on Easter Sunday table. Though it is  related with Easter period, it can be found all year round. Small pieces of lamb’s liver, lungs, heart, kidneys, spleen, suet are pierced on a skewer and covered by well washed small intestine wound around. Kokoretsi is roasted over charcoals and served chopped and sprinkled with salt, pepper and oregano.

Lamb: it is the traditional Easter meat served throughout Greece. Spit-roast lamb (mainland Greece), lamb (or goat) stuffed with rice and herbs and then baked (Aegean islands), baby lamb fed on its mother milk cooked with artichokes in egg-lemon sauce or baked with potatoes (Crete), lamb-pie (W. Crete) etc. are delicacies enjoyed during Easter Sunday lunch.

Mayiritsa: It is egg-lemon soup made with Easter lamb offal and optional chopped lettuce and /or rice. Mayiritsa is eaten in mainland Greece, early on the Easter Sunday morning.

Olive oil: on most days of Holy Week no olive oil is permitted in the cooking.

Pulses: they are much eaten during Lent in a array of delicious dishes, soaked in water or boiled or cooked with or without olive oil.

q: another shape for Eastern cookies.

Roe of cod: it is the basic ingredient of taramosalata, a favorite meze traditionally eaten during Lent, though it is found all year round.

Sesame seeds: they are sprinkled on the Easter cheese and meat pies and on the surface of layers of fyllo dough for sesamopita, a delightful syrup pie.

Tsoureki, sing. tsourekia, pl. (also known as lambropsomo = bright bread): though the word derives from Turkish çörek, this brioche- like bread is the traditional bread of Easter. It is baked on Good Friday and a red egg is placed in its center symbolizing the resurrection of Christ and the eternal life.

Voutyro: butter, in Greek. One of the basic ingredients used in the making of Greek Easter cookies and tsourekia.

Wheat flour: it is used for making Easter cookies, tsoureki – traditional  Easter sweet bread- and savory and sweet cheese pies.

Yeast: sourdough starter, brewer’s yeast and chemical yeast (baking powder)- or a combination of these- are used to make Easter cookies and tsourekia light and fluffy.