The Easter mornings of my childhood were filled with the scent of freshly baked cinnamon swirl bread. Back then, it never occurred to me that the act of baking bread enriched with butter, egg, and milk was part of a time-honored tradition or that my Americanized version with cinnamon had older cousins back in Europe.
Once I grew up and became a professional baker, I realized that despite the variety of Easter bread shapes and flavors, they had a common thread: a slightly sweet, extra soft and buttery dough. As much I enjoy the adventure of trying new foods, I’m lazy at heart. After trying what appeared to be very different Easter bread recipes, I realized that I could streamline my efforts by creating a single dough to use as a springboard for endless variety.
The recipes linked here represent my versions of a few delicious European-style Easter breads, all using my perfected master dough but with different spices and shapes: there’s the circular Greek tsoureki, flavored with mahleb and traditionally decorated with dyed-red eggs (though undyed naturally-colored eggs are also beautiful). There’s the Romanian cozonac de nuca, filled with cocoa and nuts (and in my version, chopped chocolate). There’s Croatian pinca, snail-shaped and studded with lemon zest and raisins. And finally, a proper British hot cross buns.
Try one or bake them all to create a new Easter tradition of your own.