Easter for me is an adopted festivity. Being an Indian Sikh I took to this colorful spring tradition when I married my German husband almost 17 years ago. As a Sikh we are a very tolerant religion and are more than open in celebrating the rituals and traditions of other religions. I was raised mostly in the Middle East and the US where as a family my brother and I were encouraged by my parents to take an interest in the traditions and cultures of all our friends.
It was not until I married and had a son of my own that I realized how important these teachings were. A Catholic by birth, my husband and his family are fairly lenient about their faith, but pay attention to following certain rituals during the various Holidays.
Easter is a special time and welcomes Spring after a cold winter – probably why it’s one of my favorite Christian Holiday. Living in Thüringen for the past 10 years I have heard about so many customs and practices during Easter that I was keen to find out the background of some of the less common ones.
We all know about the coloring of the Easter eggs and then the Easter egg hunt, two favorites amongst many children. Another popular custom is that of the Easter rabbit hiding those colorful eggs around the gardens. On Easter Sunday the children then go out in search of these eggs. The origins of the Easter rabbit is however unclear. One of the theories is that the rabbit was the symbol of the fertility goddess Ostara and as Easter and Ostara’s festivity were celebrated in Spring the rabbit became the symbol for Easter too. But did you know that in Thüringen there was a time when storks delivered the Easter eggs?
The tradition of the Easter fire is one that dates back to the pre-Christian times. It marked the victory over winter and the awakening from a long, cold and hard winter. Later it was reinterpreted into the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who lights the darkness as the guiding light of the world. For many Christians in Thüringen the illuminating of the Easter is a central event. In our community wood, twigs and other flammable items are collected several weeks before Easter. On Saturday before Easter Sunday, the community church sanctifies and lights up the fire and residents of our community come together to enjoy beer and freshly grilled bratwürste!
A custom that I recently learnt about was the meaning of the Easter Lamb. In the Old Testament the lamb was described as a sacrificial animal and even today in some places a lamb is sacrificed to commemorate God. The white fleece of the lamb symbolizes purity and freedom and is placed at the altar to bless it. Nowadays in Germany the Easter lamb usually comes in the form of an adorable cake usually made out of a sponge mixture. For my search for the cake Easter Lamb I turned to the very talented bakers at Bäcker Rose here in Weimar. I am a huge fan of their amazing variety of breads and sweet treats and when I told them I needed an Easter lamb they were more than pleased in baking this wonderful example.
At home I usually bake a challah, yeasted sweet bread or hot cross buns before Easter Sunday and will take it to my in-laws where we generally spend the Easter days. On Easter Sunday we indulge in a nice big brunch where my bread plays a small but important role in the family traditions. This year I baked a special orange and pistachio filled yeasted braid full of sweet orange aromas and a wonderful nutty crunch!
Recipe: Orange and Pistachio Sweet ChallahMeeta K. Wolff
Total Time: Plus resting time
- 500g flour
- 100g sugar
- 3 organic oranges, zest of all three and juice of one
- Pinch of salt
- 1 packet of dried baking yeast
- 220ml lukewarm milk
- 3 eggs
- 100g melted butter, lightly cooled
- 120g pistachios
- 120g Greek yogurt
- 160g Muscovado sugar
- 100g ground almonds
- 100g chopped almonds
- Place the flour, 90g sugar, zest of 1 orange and the pinch of salt in large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the baking yeast over the flour then, then pour 200ml of the lukewarm milk, 2 eggs and the melted butter into the bowl. With the dough hooks attached, knead the dough for a few minutes until it all comes together into a smooth mixture. If it is sticky add another 2-3 tablespoons of flour. Cover the bowl and allow to rest in a warm place for 35 minutes.
- In the meantime make the nut filling by chopping up approximately 100g of the pistachios. Transfer to a bowl and then add the zest from the remaining 2 oranges and the juice of one, yogurt, Muscovado sugar and both kinds of almonds. Mix well until you get a homogeneous mixture.
- Heat the oven to 160 degrees C. Separate the remaining egg and mix the yolk with about 2 tablespoons of milk. The dough should be smooth and very pliable – using your hands knead it a few times. Roll out on the countertop to a rectangle (approx. 40 x 50 cm). Divide the dough in half lengthways and on each half spread half of the nut mixture leaving a 2cm edge free. Taking one half roll the dough – lengthways – to give you a long roll. Do the same with the other half. Braid the two pieces together, tucking the edges on both ends under the braid and pinching them together.
- Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the braid with the egg-milk mixture, scatter with the remaining chopped pistachios, then bake in the oven for 45 to 55 minutes. Keep a watch on it – if you see it browning too much cover with one or two sheets of baking paper.
I wish you all a very Happy Easter! I hope you enjoy the time with your family - relaxing, brunching and egg hunting. The challah with it’s beautiful flavors of orange and nutty crunch is exceptional and a real stunner for a brunch table.
You might like these Easter ideas from What's for lunch, Honey?:
|Buttery Saffron Brioche||Chocolate Cherry and Prune Hot Cross Buns||The Sunny Side Up Cake|
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