Easter Bread Traditions

Cultures all over the world have their own variations on Easter bread, from sweet braided Czech bread, to Armenian choereg, to British hot cross buns. In Romania, Easter calls for pasca, a cheese-filled sweetbread that’s light, fluffy, and topped with raisins. It’s similar to Polish kolacz, another type of traditional Easter bread. The base of the recipe is cozonac, a type of sweet leavened bread, which is then stuffed with a cheesecake-like filling to make pasca. As with a number of Easter breads, pasca is a religious symbol—that white cheese filling symbolizes Christ who has risen and the Holy Spirit.

My mother-in law Jenny called it Fragoni, celebrating her Calabrese roots (fragoni deliziosi stuzzichini). This Easter memory includes Ma sending Pa first thing Good Friday morning to Roman Cheese to get the freshest ricotta. This was a wonderful treat and was always ready to cut throughout the Easter celebrations! Here is our families delicious Fragoni recipe:


Ingredients

For the Dough:

  • 1 cup whole milk (warmed)
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour

For the Cheese Filling:

  • 1 pound ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks, beaten (divided)
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

  1. Fit a stand mixer with the dough hook. Combine the warm milk, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of the mixer and let it proof.
  2. Add the eggs, sugar, butter, salt, vanilla, and 4 cups of flour to the bowl and mix with the dough hook. Add additional flour a little bit at a time until the dough clears the sides of the bowls and is soft but not sticky. Or use your hands definitely how it worked for Ma and it made a difference.
  3. Let the dough knead for 10 minutes, and then place it in an oiled bowl. Cover with a clean dish towel and let the dough rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
  4. Coat a 2-inch-deep 10- or 12-inch round pan with cooking spray.
  5. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Line the bottom and sides of the prepared pan (s)
  6. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let sit in a warm place for 1 hour.
  7. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  8. Beat cheese with a mixer and add butter, sugar, three egg yolks, flour, vanilla extract, and salt. Beat until smooth, add your ingredients and mix again.
  9. When the dough has risen, pour in the cheese filling, making sure it doesn’t go over the edges.
  10. Baste cheese filling and dough border with remaining beaten egg yolk.
  11. Bake for 1 hour. Remove from oven, and cool on a wire rack.
  12. Remove from pan once cooled.

Other Ingredient Ideas

  • Add 3 ounces raisins and 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • Add 4 oz chocolate chips
  • Replace 1/4 cup of sugar with 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese  and replace 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla with 1 tsp of Italian dry seasoning or 1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil
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Karen Stearne, Food Exemplary
Heart Niagara, karen.stearne@heartniagara.com
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