For Croatians, Easter is the holiest holiday of all, it’s much more of a bigger deal than Christmas and it’s the one time of the year that families come together to pray and celebrate. Holidays such as these were always celebrated with specific foods in our household and Easter was no exception. Some of our fondest memories growing up in Croatia were the Easter foods which our mothers and grandmothers lovingly prepared year after year. There was a certain ritualism to these foods and the sense of structure and continuity which they evoked was a reminder of how Easter was a time of renewal.
As far as Easter is concerned, the one dish which every Croatian household cherishes most is Pinca (or as the Dalmatians refer to it, Sirnica). This sweet bread is usually prepared just a few days ahead of Easter, and then consumed on Saturday after good Friday. It’s similar to the Jewish Challah bread, with an interior that although looks hard, is actually soft on the palate. It’s difficult to put into words but if you grew up in Croatia, Pinca is one of those items you absolutely need to see on the Easter table or it’s basically as if Easter never happened.
pinca: croatian easter bread
- two hundred and fifty milliliters of milk
- one heaped tablepsoon of active dry yeast
- one teaspoon of sugar
- eight hundred and fifty grams of plain flour
- two hundred and fifty grams of salted butter
- two hundred and fifty grams of sugar
- finely grated zest of one lemon
- finely grated zest of one orange
- six egg yolks
- one teaspoon of vanilla extract
- one tablespoon of marsala wine (or any other preferred red wine)
- one teaspoon of ground cinnamon
- half a teaspoon of ground nutmeg
- one egg, for finish
- sugar cubes to dust, optional
Combine the milk, yeast, and the one tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl or measuring jug. Stir well and set aside to activate the yeast.
Place the flour and butter into a food processor and pulse until the butter has incorporated into the flour. Transfer the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, lemon and orange zest and mix well using a whisk.
Lightly mix the egg yolks, vanilla and Marsala wine in a separate bowl then add it to the flour, along with the yeast milk. Using your hand, bring the mixture together to form a dough and knead for ten minutes, adding additional flour if needed, until it springs back when touched.
Place the dough back into the greased mixing bowl, cover with a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm place for at least six to eight hours.
Line a baking tray with parchment paper and spray lightly with oil. Set aside.
Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and cut into even quarters. Roll each quarter into a perfect ball and place onto the lined baking tray. Allow it to rise again for an additional two to three hours before baking.
Preheat the oven to one hundred and eighty degrees Celsius.
Brush each ball of dough with a beaten egg, then cut a shallow cross into the tops of each ball. Bake in the oven for approximately thirty minutes or until golden and a skewer comes out clean.
Optionally, while warm top with crushed sugar cubes.