Italian Shop Decorated For Easter
Buona Pasqua! - Happy Easter
For Americans who are accustomed to coloring Easter eggs and baskets with chocolate bunnies, Italian Easter is a change of pace.
Church, family, friends and food are the core of this celebration. Carnevale signals the beginning of Lent and Easter celebrates the end of the season of fasting and penance.
"Christmas at home and Easter with whomever you wish" is an old Italian saying, but traditional Italians often celebrate Easter with a huge family meal on Easter Sunday - the eating often starts at noon - and gatherings with friends wait until Easter Monday.
Pizza Rustica or Easter Pie is made in many regions to mark the end of meatless meals. Served on Saturday afternoon or before dinner on Easter Sunday, this meat pie is a delicious treat at any time of the year.
Breads are also a big part of the festivities and Pani Pasquali or Italian Easter Bread comes in many shapes and sizes.
Roasted baby lamb is a favorite choice for Easter dinner. Many vegetables and pastas and occasionally a lasagna complete the meal.
A special treat for grownups and kids of all ages are the uova di Pasqua, Italian hollow chocolate Easter eggs. Perugina or Kinder eggs are the most popular but any hollow chocolate egg will do. Each egg holds a surprise. Specialty candy shops in Italy allow you to supply the gift.
In the 15th century the nobility encased works of art and other extravagant items in these enormous chocolate eggs. The modern versions are a bit more modest, but may still hold jewelry or other valuable gifts. Some romantics have been known to hide an engagement ring inside for a sweet proposal on Easter morning.
Easter is a celebration of Spring, rebirth and the end of a long Lenten fast and a longer winter. In Italy it is a time for peace, hope and joy. Eating good food, sharing the holiday with family and friends and enjoying the new warmth of the longer days is a wonderful way to mark the end of another winter - Italian style!
Italian Easter Egg Wreath
1 envelope (2-1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 degrees F.)
3 lg. eggs, room temperature
2/3 c. granulated sugar
8 T. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c. warm milk (100 to 110 degrees F.)
1 T. vanilla extract
1 T. grated orange zest
5 to 5-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
6 whole uncooked eggs, colored if desired
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 T. water, for egg wash
Colored sprinkles, optional
To make the dough: In a small cup, combine the yeast with the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Let stand until creamy, about 5 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs until blended. Beat in the sugar. Stir in the butter, milk, vanilla, and orange zest. Stir in the yeast mixture. Add 5 cups of the flour and salt. Stir until a soft dough forms. Gradually add just enough of the remaining flour to make a smooth, slightly sticky dough.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two until very smooth. Shape the dough into a ball. Place in a buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 ½ hours.
Butter 2 baking sheets. Punch down the dough and cut into 4 pieces. Roll out one piece under your palms into a rope about 20 inches long. Repeat with another piece of dough. Lay the ropes side by side and loosely braid them together. Lift the braid onto the prepared baking sheet and bring the ends together to form a ring. Pinch the ends to seal. Place 3 eggs at intervals around the wreath, tucking them in between the ropes of the dough. Repeat with the remaining dough and eggs. Cover the wreaths with plastic wrap and let rise four about 45 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the egg wash over the wreaths. Scatter the candy sprinkles on top if using. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown, reversing the position of the pans in the oven halfway through the baking time. Transfer the bread to racks to cool complete.
Note: The dye on the eggs may bleed a little onto your bread. This recipe calls for uncooked whole colored eggs to be placed on the dough. You can use hard-boiled if you prefer, they will just be cooked a little more, but will be fine.
Italian Sweet Ricotta Pie
1 Refrigerated All-Ready pie crust
1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese (drained)
1 c. canned crushed pineapple in own juice (drained)
3 lg. eggs
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. cornstarch
Place the ricotta in one strainer and the pineapple in another for at least 1 ½ hours, or preferably overnight in the refrigerator. Discard the liquids. This will create a thicker pie filling and keep the crust crispier.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Line 9-inch pie plate with crust and flute edge decoratively. Place pie crust on a cookie sheet. In large mixing bowl, blend eggs and sugar. Beat in cream, vanilla and cornstarch until smooth. Add the drained ricotta and blend well. Fold in drained pineapple and pour filling into pie crust. Sprinkle the top with ground cinnamon.
Bake the pie for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake another 30 to 35 minutes or until the filling puffs up, turns golden and is set. It should be firm, not jiggly when you gently move the pie plate from side to side. Remove from the oven and cookie sheet and let cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Italian Lemon Rings
3 c. all-purpose flour
¾ c. granulated sugar
4 ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ c. vegetable oil
¼ c. milk
2 tsp. lemon extract
3 c. confectionersí sugar, sifted
3-4 T. milk
2 tsp. lemon extract
Preheat oven to 325ºF. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, oil, milk and lemon extract on low speed until well blended. Stir in the flour mixture until dough is formed. Let rest, covered for 20 minutes. Break off small pieces of the dough and roll into pencil thin strips 4 inches long. Twist dough pieces to make knots and braids. Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove cookies from cookie sheet and allow to cool on wire racks. Frosting: Mix together the confectionersí sugar, milk and lemon extract until smooth. Add more milk, if necessary. Using a metal spatula, frost the tops of the cookies. The frosting will drip down the sides and coat the cookies. Return to wire racks for frosting to set. Sprinkle with multi-colored sprinkles before frosting is set. Store in an airtight container. Makes 36.