Easter bread and celebrating Grandma

spring flowers

Easter flowers for g-ma

Tomorrow is Good Friday and our family Easter meal will be on Sunday. Both Hitoshi and I are not religious but this time of year is important for me to celebrate one of my grandmothers. How will we do this? Through food, of course!

My grandmother was Romanian with roots in Bukovina and she married a Ukrainian man. While they spoke a mix of Romanian and Ukrainian at home, they were active in the local Romanian church and the big food events of Orthodox Christmas in January and Easter in the Spring were decidedly Romanian. (That said, there seems to be a fair bit of crossover with the foods.)

Growing up with these mega food extravaganzas, the following lessons were ingrained by the time I was 8 years old.
#1 – Fight for your food, especially the cabbage rolls, even if your opponent (usually a cousin) is older, bigger and stronger.
#2 – Wear a skirt with an elastic waistband.

Rule #2 was critical. Grandma was the oldest of over 10 kids, grew up on a farm and married young. Grandpa’s situation was similar. While Grandma didn’t have as many kids, the ones she did have were big eaters and having a ton of delicious food around didn’t help. It was normal for Grandma to make enough food for the meal, care packages for each person and extras to last another day or two. If you ever get a chance to go to a Romanian wedding, funeral or memorial service or even a regular Easter brunch, you will no doubt be in for a feast.

Grandma didn’t use recipes. My cousin aka opponent tried to extract her cabbage roll recipe in her later years and, the last I heard, was still not able to replicate her genius. My dad found a shop in town a few years back that makes them pretty close to what we remember.

The next critical dish is perogies, however you choose to spell it. We bought those too from that same shop as the cabbage rolls and will give them a try. Grandma’s cheese-filled ones were the best. Dead last in my books were the poppyseed ones.

It wouldn’t be Easter without sausage and we still buy it from the same shop my grandma used for all those years. The owner died years ago and his wife still works there, refusing to use anything but a scratch pad and pencil to record purchases. Dad checks and corrects her work every time – she tends to shortchange herself.

Another staple is the bread. Over the last few days, we have searched the Internet, old cookbooks and our memories to figure out how to make my Grandma’s delectable cheese bread. We’re going to cobble all our research together to create something hopefully close this Saturday. Yup. We need a whole day to get the meal ready for Sunday. Those cabbage rolls have to bake for three hours!

In preparation for the bread, I made a second test loaf today. What do you think?

Romanian/Ukranian Easter Bread

Easter bread – take 2!

I was too lazy to get the strands long enough to braid them into a circle. That’s okay though. The cheese bread will be made in a circular pan with the dry cottage cheese and dill mixture set in the middle. I’m already drooling.

If you celebrate Easter, do you have any special foods you enjoy making or, more importantly, eating? If Easter is not part of your calendar, what foods fit with special events during the year?

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29 thoughts on “Easter bread and celebrating Grandma

    • Oh yes! Grandma used to always have those sickly sweet Cadbury cream eggs. They were revolting but at the same time a once-a-year requirement. 😀 Sis cooked us up an Easter meal a few years back – rack of lamb. It was so yummy! What is the family favorite way to prepare lamb for you?

      • Well… it’s a tricky question because I don’t like lamb (I know right ?!), so usually I have a steak while they have little skewers made of lamb meat or a roast.

        • Ha ha! That’s too funny. Steak is a nice alternative though. 😀 We actually had lamb last night. I made my first ever lamb stew (which turned out more like soup but no matter!) and the meat practically fell off the bone. This is a *big* deal for me as hubby usually ends up having to eat boiled meat. I finally learned recently how to not turn meat into shoe leather in a stir fry so I’m excited to get on this.

  1. Hi Hilary,

    I’ve no doubt you bread smells and tastes as god as it looks and I’m sure your Easter will be filled with wonderful memories of your Grandma.

    Clare

    • Thank you! That was loaf #1 and my hubby said to make it *exactly* like that again. 😀 I have a reputation for making changes to my cooking and baking so that food rarely tastes the same twice. I did my best with loaf #2 and got two thumbs up but the timing was off with #3 and it rose too much. Loaf #4 will hopefully come about by the end of the week. It’s fun to keep working on something and learning each time.

    • Oh definitely… after every meal, most of the guests would drift/roll over to the living room beside the dining room table, sink into the supersized chesterfield and lazy-boy recliners, turn on Star Trek and sit comatose for a couple of hours. 😀

  2. Your bread looks delicious. I had big plans to experiment with bread when I retired but so far haven’t got round to it. I’m not sure our waistlines would appreciate it either, but you can’t beat a good loaf.
    At Easter we usually have a roast dinner, probably lamb and yes lots of chocolate! We used to hide the chocolate eggs in the garden for the children to find (left by the Easter bunny of course), then in the afternoon we would take hard boiled eggs to a suitable slope and roll them down the hill to see whose would go furthest. It seems terribly wasteful now, but it was only once a year. We found these amazing plastic sleeves that you could put on your eggs while boiling and they shrink-wrapped the egg and stopped it breaking up when being rolled. We are going back nearly thirty years now, but happy days.

    • Ha ha! I started making bread after baby starting eating solids. My parents gave us a hand-me-down breadmaker and I haven’t looked back. I actually used it to make the dough for the Easter bread.

      Your Easter meal sounds fantastic! I love your story about the egg hung and especially rolling them down a hill. That reminds me of our egg cracking contest we held every year around the table. The idea was to bash two egg tips together and whoever’s egg stayed solid kept challenging someone until a winner was crowned.

      Yes! I saw those plastic sleeves for the first time this year… well, maybe they are the same? The instructions were entirely in Polish but I got the gist. 😀 They have lovely decorations on them. My mom picked them up a couple of years back at the local Italian Centre. Big plans to try them next year when spudlet is bigger. 🙂

      • That egg bashing competition sounds great fun – a variation on ‘conkers’ but less dangerous. You will enjoy the egg sleeves. I saw some at the bottom of a small hill while out for a walk yesterday so someone had been rolling eggs, but not clearing up after themselves. They should make the sleeves biodegradable, like the eggs!

        • So true! Do you know how long those sleeves have been around? This year was the first I’d seen them here but I hadn’t decorated eggs since I was probably a teen and we used the Romanian/Ukrainian method with wax and a little metal point on a stick. !!

    • Well… let me describe it so you are drooling appropriately. He he he… 😀 The bread is really light and pulls apart easily. The texture is quite interesting inside… sort of like interlaced fibres. If I remember, I’ll take some pics as I’ve got another loaf to make this week. Gosh… I really don’t know how to describe the taste but it’s unlike any other bread I’ve eaten. It’s good toasted or raw and plain or with toppings, both savory and sweet. I’m not near the recipe but if memory serves me, the ingredients are eggs, sugar, salt, yeast, flour, and water.

        • Ohhhh… that sounds delish. How does Dutch chocolate compare to others?? You know… I don’t think I’ve ever tried Dutch chocolate! I wonder if I could track some down here…

          • Hmm well most people over the world love Belgian chocolate. I don’t, it’s too sickly sweet and very close to American and Japanese chocolate to me. I think Dutch chocolate is comparable to German chocolate. English chocolate is somewhere in between Belgian and Dutch. I have seen Dutch chocolate in the States: Droste. Those are chocolate medaillions in a tube. Good comparable German chocolate I have seen in the States is Ritter chocolate, which are the square blocks with all kinds of fillings. Not sure if Canada has the same as America though.

            • That’s interesting about the different chocolate comparisons! I’ll keep a look out for Droste. The Italian market near us carries a lot of imported sweets from around Europe. Ritter is super popular here and easy to find. My favorite is the limited edition Winter version with white chocolate. I can’t remember the filling – maybe hazelnut? Do you have a fav?

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