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The Key To Cracking Easter Feasts? It's All In The Eggs

Eggs dyed blood red at the center of the Greek Easter treat known as tsoureki paschalino.
Eggs dyed blood red at the center of the Greek Easter treat known as tsoureki paschalino.

In the spring, a cook's fancy turns to thoughts of eggs. They're everywhere at Easter time, in breads and pies and children's baskets.

Holiday chefs looking for last-minute ideas may find inspiration in these offerings from NPR archives.

Easter Egg Breads

"The centuries have bequeathed us an international carb-o-copia of leavened egg breads: Greek tsoureki, Eastern European babka, Russian kulich, English hot cross buns," wrote T. Susan Chang in 2007. She offered a recipe for Lithuanian yeasted coffee cake, or babka, filled with cinnamon sugar, cocoa powder, butter and other bits of delight.

Hot cross buns, made with an eggy dough, have been an Easter treat in England since the 1500s, Tove Danovich explained in The Salt last year. But the tradition is much older: "As one story goes, a 12th century monk added the crosses to the bun to tie them firmly to the Christian religion."

Tsoureki paschalino, or Greek Easter bread, is dotted with eggs dyed red to symbolize Christ's blood. The sweet bread "not only makes a wonderful breakfast bread but also a nice dessert when paired with cheese and fruit," wrote Kevin D. Weeks in a 2010 piece featuring a recipe to try.

Easter Pies

"During Easter time, bakeries in both Italy and Italian-American neighborhoods offer a dazzling array of sweet and savory pies," Susan Russo wrote in 2008. The recipes for her family's favorites — ricotta pie, rice pie and pizza chena — all call for lots of eggs.

The pizza chena, or "full pie" in a Neapolitan dialect, requires a full dozen eggs, eight of which are beaten for the filling, while the other four are hard-boiled. The sliced hard-boiled eggs are layered into the pie with plenty of meats and cheeses.

Russo's grandmother's version "was the piece de resistance of every Easter Sunday feast at our house," she recalled.

Easter Confections

Those whose favorite part of the holiday is the sugary bounty of the traditional Easter basket might find inspiration not in the egg's flavor, but in its shape.

Famed chef Thomas Keller included a recipe for marshmallow eggs — flavored with vanilla, raspberry or lemon — in his 2012 cookbook Bouchon Bakery, written with Sebastien Rouxel.

"When you serve them in all kinds of colors, they're a joy to behold, especially for kids," they wrote. "When people first open the carton, they think it's filled with dyed Easter eggs, not marshmallows."

It's also permissible, of course, to leave the making of egg-shaped candies to the pros. Store shelves bear plenty of offerings from the likes of Hershey's and Cadbury.

In Italy, chocolate Easter eggs that hide surprises ranging from trinkets like key chains to expensive goodies like engagement rings are the food gift of choice in the spring, Amy Guttman wrote for The Salt in 2013. Then-Pope Benedict XVI was once presented with an elaborately decorated chocolate egg weighing more than 500 pounds.

And, on a much smaller scale, NPR's Joanna Kakissis, reporting from France this week, discovered her chocolate Easter egg contained even more treats inside.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.