Easter bread in a traditional way

The tradition of Easter festivities is inexorably intertwined with making bread or buns. Coupled with its distinctive sacral values, the symbolism of bread invokes a feeling of comfort, sharing and home. To this very day bread has a cult status as one of the quintessential delicacies. There are countless bread recipes passed on from our grandmothers, mothers or taught at school.

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The tradition of making Easter bread can be observed in all regions of Croatia. From north and east where they make orahnjača (nut roll), makovnjača (poppy roll), gibanica (crumpled pie), pretzels, flatbread, buns, Gugelhupf, rolls; all the way to Istria, Kvarner and Dalmatia where sirnica, kvasnica or pinca (traditional Dalmatian and Istrian sweet bread loaf with the sign of a cross, which is carved in with a knife before baking, on the upper side) is more prevalent. Ham in bread dough is the ultimate smash hit when it comes to Easter breakfast.

When making holiday bread, the dough is usually very rich given that it contains eggs, milk and butter. The best recipes and ingredients are usually used for special occasions. Holidays are a season when friends and family get together, but they’re also a great opportunity to prepare classic recipes that always make Easter evoke such vivid memories.

Restaurants and chef across Croatia cherish deep-rooted culinary customs and they told us how they make Easter bread whether it’s bread they serve during breakfast, lunch or as dessert together with a nice dessert wine. So let’s take a trip down Easter bread lane.

The rural estate Stara Preša, which is located in the small village of Šenkovac in northern Croatia near the border with Slovenia, has set itself the task of preserving traditional family recipes. Their menu always offers local delicacies with seasonal ingredients determining what’s on offer at a given time. Given that Easter preparations are in full swing, we were fortunate enough to get the pinca recipe which, aside from being the most sought after holiday treat, is also the main Easter dining table decoration. What can be better than edible decorations? Owner Biserka Švigir revealed how they make pinca at Stara Preša.

“When it comes to Easter, we always prepare sweet bread with dried fruit and pinca, but you definitely can’t leave out pinca. I always braid sweet bread or pinca, but I leave some room in the middle where I place an Easter egg. I always dye the Easter eggs using natural substances such as beetroot or parsley. In order to make pinca you need two egg yolks, a whole egg, half a kilo of plain flour, sugar, milk, fresh yeast, half a decilitre of oil or butter because this dough requires fat. After the yeast grows and all the ingredients combine, we should leave the dough to rise. When the dough has risen, we then shape it and place it on a flat baking tin and coat it with egg yolk and oil so that pinca gets its distinctive golden-yellow colour. The dough should be left to stand and rise for a short while prior to baking. Pinca is baked for about thirty minutes at 180 °C.”

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The sounds of Mrežnica and a homey atmosphere are the best ways to describe restaurant DP Zvečaj. Led by Ivana Vukmanić, a true professional and chef with considerable experience, you can relish local specialties ranging from meat such as game to all kinds of wild edible mushrooms. Orahnjača, which, aside from Lika, is prepared throughout Croatia, is one of the main Easter specialties. Head chef Ivana Vukmanić told us how they prepare orahnjača:

“Orahnjača dough is leavened dough. You need plain flour, fresh yeast, lemon zest, milk, butter, an egg, sugar and salt. This dough requires more sugar and just a pinch of salt. When preparing it, it’s important to knead the dough a couple of times and leave it to rise a couple of times in order to get the right texture. When you knead it for the first time, the dough has a pretty liquid appearance. But it’ll become more elastic every time you knead it. Usually it’s ready to be rolled out after the third time you knead it. The filling is made using milk, ground nuts, sugar, cinnamon, rum and raisins. All of these ingredients are cooked in milk. When they’re done, they should be left to cool. One the filling is done, the dough should be rolled flat, about 1 centimetre thick, smeared with melted butter, while the filling is spread on the entire rolled out dough. Once orahnjača is rolled, we coat it with butter. It’s best baked in deep-sided moulds. Depending on the oven, it’s baked at 180 to 200 °C for about forty minutes.”

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Family restaurant Barun is located in the very heart of Sisak. This restaurant will win you over with their phenomenal selection of local continental and Mediterranean specialties. While tasting the food, you’ll get a chance to try the very best wines from Moslavina. We’re going to wrap up our holiday story with the main Easter specialty no Easter dining table is conceivable without. Head chef Dejan Topalović obtains local ham for his guests:

“The homemade ham we always buy from our local butchers is first cooked with cinnamon, honey and mustard. “Once the ham is done, we cover it with pancetta prior to rolling it into dough. To make the bread we use 550 plain flour and two litres of water. We usually use five to six kilos of flour per two litres of water, then some oil (olive or pumpkin), fresh yeast and salt. When the dough rises, we roll it flat, about 2 centimetres thick, and put the ham in it. When we cover the ham, we coat the dough with egg yolk. Ham in bread is served with spring onions and a spread made from cottage cheese and horseradish. It can also be served with roasts.”

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