I just can’t let Easter go by without writing about the Italian Easter tradition of Easter Bread. Everybody makes Easter bread in Italy, but does it turn into a competitive baking contest? In Coppola’s Restaurant and in the little town of Monte di Procida it is! During Lent not only do we fast and give up stuff (never panettone recipes!) but we start planning the art of baking panettone (Easter bread).
One year we were in Italy during Easter. At every house we visited we were shown rows and rows of pans filled with rising dough covered under blankets waiting for Holy Saturday to be baked. Now mind you the judging starts even before the bread is baked. Everyone is eagerly watching their breads rise. If it rises too fast that it will be a big flop. If it rises too slow it will be hard as a rock. At twelve years old I thought this was comical as we all peered into all these pans. We were made to look at these pans as if was the latest discovery! hahaha…
Our whole family practiced this tradition. So you can imagine the amount of Easter bread that was made. But what was even funnier is that my father, the chef made Easter bread and also my mother made her own batch. It ended up being a contest within our own household. So if that wasn’t enough my dad’s brothers and their wives also made Easter bread. And guess what? Yup! Our Italian customers and employees got into the act too!! And you can’t leave out Caffe Aurora!! So by Easter Sunday the restaurant was wall to wall Easter Bread.
Now this competition was not a formal competition but was just informal tastings. Like “Hey Joe, taste my Easter Bread how good it came out!”…. and vice versa. But with all this craziness that I experienced growing up with this informal Panettone competition I keep making loaves and loaves of it myself trying to get the perfect recipe. I always try a new recipe every year. But let me tell you a little secret if any of you have ever tried Easter bread. It is an acquired taste. It comes in a variety of ways its either really dry and flavorful or it is moist and light. Some are braided with colored eggs. Always with bits of dried fruit throughout. The Italians like to eat this bread at the end of their meal with jugs of wine. That’s the best part!
When you come to Coppola’s on Easter Sunday you will all find Easter Bread in our bread baskets. Over the years our competition has given up the challenge but we continue on. It can’t be Easter without a battle of the Easter Breads at Coppola’s. It’s tradition!
Let me share my recipe that I used this year. According to my son who just came home from college (….he ate the whole thing in 2 days) it came out awesome!!! Not sure if it was hunger or if it was really good. But I am delivering a loaf to my uncle and hopefully I will get the nod of approval!