Tradition Inspired Food

IMG_0055I heard an interesting interview on NPR. Frederick Opie, a food historian who teaches at Babson , was discussing food traditions, and the concept that food is not just fuel, but feelings.

Unfortunately, like so many people, we never thought to ask Frank’s mother how she made the Easter bread that appeared on our table each year. We just took it for granted. Betsy set out to find the recipe and recreate the bread so the tradition could continue. She made some breads that looked promising, but weren’t quite right. Then, as serendipity would have it, we found Grandpa’s old copy of Mary Ann Esposito’s first cookbook, Ciao Italia, and the Easter bread lives on!

The recipe that follows is a real adaptation. It’s also cut in half and produces two free form, kind of torpedo shaped loaves. The original recipe was formed into a braid studded with colored hard boiled eggs. It also wasn’t flavored with anise like Grandma’s, but it just looked right somehow. We knew that we were looking for the dense crumb and consistency of a batter bread. Grandma wasn’t a yeast bread kind of baker. We also knew that she wouldn’t bother to braid the dough, but would make simple loaves. Cutting out the fancy stuff (the way she would have!) this turned out to be the actual recipe. It was perfect.

3 large eggs
1/2 stick softened butter
1/2 C sugar (plus about 2 tsp more)
1 tsp vanilla ( or anise or 1/2 tsp each)
3 C flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the glaze:
1/8 C confectioner’s sugar
1 tsp milk
colored sprinkles

1. Cream the butter and sugar, using a hand mixer or a wooden spoon.
2. Add the eggs and vanilla or anise. Continue mixing.
3. Combine the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon, add the flour mixture a cup at a time.
4. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for a couple of minutes until smooth. Form into two loaves ( around 8 to 10 ” long)
5. Bake on a parchment paper lined sheet pan in a pre-heated 350 oven for 35 minutes.
6. Cool on a rack. When cool, spread with the glaze (add a drop or two of anise flavoring) and shower with colored sprinkles.

Professor Opie was right. This bread is much more about feelings than fuel.

 

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About Mary Jane

I am a retired English teacher. My husband, Frank, and I have lived on Cape Cod since 2000. I am a lifelong bread baker and writer and have been posting a blog on Falmouth Patch for the last few years. Savory Seasons has been largely devoted to recipes and food in general. I am hoping to expand my focus in this new blog.
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One Response to Tradition Inspired Food

  1. bbbyles says:

    What would a holiday be without the special food we associate with it? The one helps to define and distinguish the other!

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