Saturday, April 16, 2011

“ Buona Pasqua !!!“ Happy Easter.....

Spring has finally arrived with a full array of tulips, daffodils and many other pretty colored flowers that are beginning to pop up from the ground. The weather is still cool but that is not stopping the coloring of eggs, bunny rabbits, Easter bonnets, parades, and egg hunts for Easter is right around the corner. It’s also time to start thinking about baking Easter cakes and sweet desserts for your Easter dinner.
Christians in over 80 nations will be celebrating Easter. Easter is known as “La Pasqua” in Italy and is celebrated in many Italian homes with breads, cakes and pastries.

As I promised in my last post, I have a recipe that I would love to share with you. It is a very traditional Italian Easter cake called Cruzzupe or Cuzzupas. This recipe comes from Calabria, Italy. It is made with Anise seeds (licorice flavor) and made into a braided wreath or nest with hard boiled colored eggs placed into the dough, and then colored sprinkles are added to top off the cakes. The consistency is a cake type of dough not bread and the anise flavor adds a very distinct taste to them.

Sofia / Great Grandmother
I remember a time when I was about 10 or 11 years old and lived in Queens, NY……..
We had a large kitchen and we would prepare for baking day with a large wooden board that we used to roll out our dough and create our special cakes and cookies for Christmas or Easter. This pastry board was my Grandmother’s, but it may actually have been from my great grandmother (Sofia) and we are really not sure about the age of this wonderful board. Now, I have inherited this antique wooden dough board to create my own delectable sweet treats and as I roll out my dough, I will think back to a simpler time. I remember at Easter time we would make the Cruzzupe. There were many different shapes that my family would make, sometimes a nest, crosses, and dolls. My Mother would create these beautiful baskets out of the dough and then place the colored eggs in the middle of the basket, when it was baked; it looked so pretty, you really didn’t want to eat it. The dolls were made in the shape of boys or girls like stick figures and then a colored hard boiled egg was used for the head. My job in helping them was not only to watch and learn but to brush the egg white on them and dot with candy confetti sprinkles. I always enjoyed that as I used to sneak some candy confetti in my hand and eat it. Believe me my Mother knew what I was doing, because after eating the candy your tongue would turn colors, so I really wasn’t fooling her. The smells in the kitchen would always give me that warm and toasty feeling. The aroma’s that could be smelled were like sweet clouds of licorice from heaven. It was a feeling of love, family and food. Food was and still is a big part of my family and it always seemed that everything centered around the kitchen for a gathering whether it be a holiday or not.

So here’s to the familia, (family) enjoy the recipe and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I will try to answer you the best way I can.

“ Buona Pasqua !!!“ Happy Easter in Italian to one and all. Also want to wish all of my Jewish friends out there a “Happy Passover” as well. Passover starts on Monday evening April 18th. Everyone enjoy Easter or Passover.



6 cups of flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
Anise Seeds (between 1/3 and 1/2 oz of crushed and cleaned anise)
4 tablespoons Crisco (room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
6 eggs (save 1 egg white to brush on cakes before baking)
3/4 cup of milk
Confetti candy sprinkles


Color hard boiled eggs ( amount is up to you)
Preheat oven to 350° -375° depending on your oven. Grease flat cookie sheets or pans.
Crush Anise seeds and put into dish (before, use a cotton handkerchief to gather anise and twist hanky under it. Then rub hard on the ball of Anise. After rubbing it rolled up in between both hands (make fists.) Open carefully and sort out Anise from brown husks and sometimes small stones.)
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Then mix in Anise. Mix in Crisco with sugar and after make a well shape. (Remember, this is the traditional old Italian way, but you can also use a bowl to mix all ingredients.) Put in eggs (save/1 egg white) and milk.
Gradually take flour from sides of the well and mix with eggs and milk. Don’t break the wall as all liquid will run out. When all mixed you knead dough till all mixed good and a smooth texture. Might have to put a little flour on board or counter, so it will not stick. Not to much flour or the cakes will be too dry. Then cut a chunk and leave the rest on the side of board or counter.
Roll out dough in a long and thin strip. Make the strip the thickness of a wooden spoon handle, not any thinner as the dough will break. If you twist 2 strips together to make a braid make each a little thinner than your finger. They will swell as they bake. Put your colored eggs in the braid, nest or dolls, whatever you decide to create. Be careful as you put them on a baking sheet so they don’t break or crack. Roll small pieces of dough and then flatten out with the palm of your hand to cover around the side of the egg on dolls or nests. This helps keep the eggs more secure. If you make dolls, put a slit on feet and hands.
Now beat saved egg white and with a pastry brush, brush egg white on all parts of your cakes. (Careful not to get egg white on cookie sheet or pan as it will burn and also try to keep egg white off of colored eggs as they will be spotty after they bake.) The egg whites make the cakes brown in the oven. After the egg whites are on brushed on the cakes dip a finger in egg white mixture and then dot with candy confetti sprinkles on the dolls, crosses or what ever you made.

Then bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. They should be lightly browned. Let them sit about 10 minutes to cool off before taking them off the cookie sheet/pans, they may crack or break so be careful removing them from the pans.
You can store in an air tight cookie tin for about a week, if they don’t get eaten before that.

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