Italian Easter Bread Tradition

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Bread.   During the Easter period, there are few symbolisms that embody life other than bread.   Easter Sunday is celebrated throughout the Christian world celebrating the life and death of Jesus Christ. In John 6:35, Jesus quotes “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry again.” It is only fitting that one Italy’s most well known traditions’ is Easter bread.

Italian Easter Bread, sweet bread made with milk and sugar, uses yeast to rise like bread. There are variations, which a dyed egg can be placed in the middle but usually is glazed with a confectioners sugar and sprinkles. So how did Easter Bread come to be? One legend is that Easter Bread originated in the region of Lombardy.   The people celebrated their victory over the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa by making an Easter dove known as a Colomba Pasquale. A Colomba Pasquale was a type of dough similar to panettone. The religious context is that the egg represents rebirth.

Easter Bread is a delectable dish rich in sweets especially after a long Lenten season. Christians refrain from luxuries and of course meat on Fridays to represent the suffering of Christ. Particularly in Italy, church services are somber and re-enactments of the Stations of the Cross can be found practically everywhere.   Whichever your tradition, it’s a time to celebrate spring, nature, and rebirth in all of it’s glory.

Traditional Easter Bread (Pane di Pasqua) Recipe

1 packet of active dry yeast or Rapid Rise

2/3 warm milk

3-5 cups of flour

½ cup of sugar

2 medium size eggs

2 tablespoons of butter or olive oil

1 teaspoon of salt

1 egg (for eggwash)

By using a hand mixer or even by hand:

Add the yeast, 1 cup of flour, sugar, and salt.

Add in the milk and butter or olive oil. Continue to beat until combined.

Add in eggs one by one and slowly add the additional flour. Continue to beat until reaching consistency

Add in the rest of the flour until a soft dough forms. Continue to add the flour until the dough no longer sticks.

Form a ball and place in a greased or buttered bowl and cover with towel. Place the bowl in a warm place until the dough rises. This may take from 1-1 ½ hours long. The dough should rise to about double your size.

For egg wash: beat one until smooth and lumps have disappeared

Once the dough is ready, either roll and cut to two pieces in order to braid the dough or just leave in an oval shape. Brush the eggwash on the dough and place multi colored sprinkles all over the loaf.   Place the dough in the oven at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until baked. Easter bread with have a nice brown texture from the eggwash. Most of all enjoy and Buona Pasqua!

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Springtime Travel Tips in Italy

DN237Traveling to Italy in Springtime?  Here are some tips to guide you during your Italian vacanze !

  1. Weather can be unpredictable- You always hope for sunshine filled days as you walk Via Condotti or stroll through Vatican square however rainy days can be commonplace. Northern Italy especially experience more showers and temperatures are generally cooler.  Not to fret, pack a rain coat and carry an umbrella as back up.  Also, have a backup plan on indoor sight seeing if the weather does not compromise.
  2. Easter Liturgical Services- If you find yourself in Rome, opt to attend Easter Mass in Vatican City. This once in a lifetime experience will allow you to experience the wonder of Christianity right at its epicenter.  Also we think it’s pretty cool to hear and hopefully see a sitting Pope serve Mass.  Papal Audience tickets are free however it is suggested that a fax be sent to the Prefecture of the Papal Household.  Sending a fax is the only means of obtaining tickets as they receive requests worldwide.  Churches in all of the major cities and towns usually have their doors open.  Remember to dress appropriately as admittance is denied if not in proper attire.
  3. Easter Holiday- the Easter Holiday lasts for a full week if not more. Traditionally, native Italians may be off from work and school as they travel to their loved ones during this festive holiday.  It also means a time of festivals and outdoor markets are in full swing all the while mingling with locals.  What better way to get the best tips on restaurants, wine, and food? Verona is host to Vinitaly,a wine festival and the region of Lazio celebrates their Artichoke festival or “Sagre di Carciofo Romanesco.”
  4. Saints Holidays- April 25th is the Feast of St. Mark in Venice, the city’s patron saint. It is also Liberation Day in Italy which is a holiday marking the liberation of Nazi Occupation. Saints holidays consist of what Italy is famous for- food and wine festivals, and perhaps a fireworks display.
  5. Smaller Crowds- Of course the real benefits of traveling in Italy during spring time are smaller crowds and beating the heat. You can always call your hotel concierge in advance to assist you in making reservations to a popular restaurant, booking a sightseeing tour, or purchasing tickets to a special event.  You can always (kindly) ask for a free upgrade of course depending on availability.
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Milan Fashion Week- The Future is Here

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The message was loud and clear. Girls run the world. Unsurprisingly politics made its’ way on the runway this season and some sans logos. There was no mistake on observer. This year’s Milan Fashion Week or social media moniker #mfw was a fashion show for and of the people. Their subjects rose up and demanded their voices be heard…and the designers listened. Examples were abundant. While the U.S. was battling the immigration ban, Italy is experiencing their own crisis while dealing with an overflow of migrants. While citizens around the world are working to redefine their cultural identities, the theme of this year was inclusivity.

Versace minimized their Medusa insignia and replaced with bold print phrases such as EQUALITY and COURAGE. Missoni dressed their models and guests in “pussyhats”. The knit hats, famous or infamous depending on your perspective, that were sported during the Women’s March in Washington D.C, the day after the Presidential Inauguration. Dolce and Gabbana incorporated everyday people of all ages, race, and creed into their runway show. Gucci opened the show in a spectacular art performance show. The models walked through a plexiglass tunnel titled “The Alchemist’s Garden: An anti-modern laboratory. “

Despite the underlying and bold messages, there is a familiar and consistent theme in Italian fashion. The idea that craftsmanship is intertwined with Italian identity as much as a glass of Chianti, resonated with big and smaller fashion houses. This year’s fashion demonstrates a nod toward futurism and acknowledging the tech world we live in now.   Other ethereal concepts included bohemian and tropical fantasies. Vegetation, fauna, metallics, and impracticality make for a materialization of George Orwell’s 1984. If anything, what Milan showed us this week is that rules no longer apply in a mobile non-traditional world.

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Milan Fashion Week- The Future is Here

images

The message was loud and clear. Girls run the world. Unsurprisingly politics made its’ way on the runway this season and some sans logos. There was no mistake on observer. This year’s Milan Fashion Week or social media moniker #mfw was a fashion show for and of the people. Their subjects rose up and demanded their voices be heard…and the designers listened. Examples were abundant. While the U.S. was battling the immigration ban, Italy is experiencing their own crisis while dealing with an overflow of migrants. While citizens around the world are working to redefine their cultural identities, the theme of this year was inclusivity.

Versace minimized their Medusa insignia and replaced with bold print phrases such as EQUALITY and COURAGE. Missoni dressed their models and guests in “pussyhats”. The knit hats, famous or infamous depending on your perspective, that were sported during the Women’s March in Washington D.C, the day after the Presidential Inauguration. Dolce and Gabbana incorporated everyday people of all ages, race, and creed into their runway show. Gucci opened the show in a spectacular art performance show. The models walked through a plexiglass tunnel titled “The Alchemist’s Garden: An anti-modern laboratory. “

Despite the underlying and bold messages, there is a familiar and consistent theme in Italian fashion. The idea that craftsmanship is intertwined with Italian identity as much as a glass of Chianti, resonated with big and smaller fashion houses. This year’s fashion demonstrates a nod toward futurism and acknowledging the tech world we live in now.   Other ethereal concepts included bohemian and tropical fantasies. Vegetation, fauna, metallics, and impracticality make for a materialization of George Orwell’s 1984. If anything, what Milan showed us this week is that rules no longer apply in a mobile non-traditional world.

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Olive Oil Health & Beauty

Olive oil is very rich in vitamins, minerals and natural fatty acids. Not only is it such a healthy ingredient to incorporate into your daily diet, it’s also convenient for a sensitive skin.

Olive oil is a powerful ingredient of anti-aging skin care products; rich in antioxidants, it prevents skin aging, the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, it also nourishes, rejuvenates and protects the skin.

Rich in vitamin E and A, olive oil helps prolong youth, hydrates the skin, maintains its elasticity and softness. Also, olive oil helps skin cells to regenerate. The list of olive oil benefits can go on and on, but let’s talk about practical things: how can you use olive oil for beauty?

  1. Olive Oil Baths. You also can have gorgeous soft skin.  Sophia Loren once shared this secret.  Just add 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to your bathtub
  2. Olive Oil Body Lotion. Apply right after your bath or shower and your skin will be soft & smooth
  3. Olive Oil Makeup Remover. Apply to a cotton pad to gently remove your makeup.  Then rinse your face with warm water and finally cold water which will stimulate the blood circulation
  4. Nail Strengthener. Soak your fingers in slightly warmed olive oil for 5-10 minutes for strong shiny nails
  5. Olive Oil Eye Cream. Keep some olive oil in the fridge and dab under your eyes at bedtime or in the morning.  It will nourish the tender skin under your eyes
  6. Olive Oil Face Masks. Combine 1 tablespoon of olive oil with an egg yolk and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Apply to a clean face for 5-10 minutes then rinse with warm water and finally cold water. This will brighten & nourish your skin
  7. Olive Oil Exfoliator. Combine olive oil with sugar to make a paste. Apply to face but avoid eye area.  Gently rub to remove dead skin cells.  Your face will be bright, fresh and oh so soft!
  8. Olive Oil Hair Conditioner. Mix one egg yolk with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a teaspoon of lemon juice. Apply to your hair and keep on for 15 minutes before you shampoo and condition.  Another method is to apply slightly warmed olive oil to your hair for an hour before you shampoo and condition. You will find your hair silkier than ever!

 

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La Crostata

In honor of National Pie Day, here are some ideas of making an Italian standard- La Crostata.  La Crostata is simply pie.  Of course there many variations and recipes; apple, frutti del bosco, apricot, blueberry, and the list goes on.  The word crostata derives from the Latin word crustata.  La Crostata is also known as coppi in Naples and  is sfogliate in the region of Lombardia.  The word first appeared in dictionaries in Italy as far back as the late 1500’s with actual recipes.

A true crostata is recognizable by the design.  A crostata is closer to a tart than a traditional pie and the top is criss cross of lattice dough.  Home cooks, bakeries, and of your course your nonna can make the most delightful and various crostatas using simple ingredients and fruit.  Since there is so many to choose from, we found a recipe from La Tavola Marche recipe box that embodies a true and traditional marmalade crostata. Buon Appetito! 

CROSTATA DI MARMALADE (Jam Tart)
1 1/3 cup butter
5 scant cups of flour
1 1/4 cups of sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 full eggs + 3 yolks
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
drop of booze – grappa, rum, brandy, anything you like
favorite marmalade/jam, about a half a cup depending on your taste

Cream butter & sugar until light & fluffy. Beat in all the eggs & vanilla.
Sift together all the dry ingredients.
Incorporate the flour into the butter & egg mixture with a few strokes of a wooden spoon forming a dough.  Take 1/3 of the dough & press into a parchment lined tart pan to 1/4 inch thickness. If the dough is sticky wet your finger tips slightly.
Generously spread marmalade on the shell.

To make the lattice work top:
Pull off a pinch of dough & roll into a long snake. This is an easy dough to work with if it breaks just pinch it back together. This is a rustic tart. Moist hands will help if the dough is sticky.
Continue until you have enough to make your lattice top.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the top is nice & brown, the bottom is cooked & the dough should shrink away from the pan a bit.

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The Epiphany

dsc05091The Feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th.  That historical date is rooted as the three Magi presented its’ three gifts to the baby Jesus twelve days after his birth.  The Feast of the Epiphany or “little Christmas”  is an important holiday in

Italian culture.  Aside from the religious significance, the fabled “Befana” features prominently in Italian tradition.

If one is not familiar with La Befana, the translation is a witch.  She is more or less an old woman who flies on a broomstick on the eve of January 6th delivering gifts and sweets to all the good children in Italy.   The bad children receive lumps of coal in their stockings.  According to legend, the three Magi stopped at the old woman’s house asking for directions.  The Magi invited the old woman to join them on their journey however the old woman replied she was too busy.  The old woman has since regretted it and now visits all the children of Italy once a year.

As in large festivals across Italy, La Befana has regional celebrations. The Befana is also interpreted as a symbol of discarding negative experiences of the past year and bringing in the new. For example, Veneto holds a symbolic bonfire called the “panevin.” In other northern regions, bonfires are held and glasses of mulled wine and Panettone are served. Venice holds gondola races dressed in Befana costumes. Residents in Rome and Florence display a puppet in the window. Let’s not forget Christmas markets all over Italy partake in the celebration by selling toys (giocatolli), nuts, fruits, and cheeses. However way you celebrate La Befana…we leave you with a traditional poem.
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col vestito alla “romana”
viva viva la Befana!!
Porta cenere e carboni
ai bambini cattivoni
ai bambini belli e buoni
porta chicchi e tanti doni!
[English]

The Befana comes by night
With her shoes all broken
With a dress in Roman style
Up, up with the Befana !!
She brings ashes and coal
To bad nasty children
To the nice good child
She brings candies and many gifts!

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