C U C U L I: The reason I love Easter
It’s been a few months since I’ve been back home to Toronto, and what could excite me more than my most loved feature of Easter weekend…Easter bread, or by its Southern Italian (Calabrese) name Cuculi. It is a traditional and symbolic sweet bread, generally with a whole egg with shell embedded in it, made at Easter time to represent the crucifix. I can’t say that I ever knew that fact until I just did some research. All I know is that I have the ability to ingest A LOT of Cuculi and it tastes good with anything from nutella to salami or just plain. All the credit goes to my mom, she is the super star baker when it comes to this recipe (if I’m around I help!). There are variations of this recipe, differences and alterations can be found just moving a town over in Calabria. Some are made to be more like a biscuit when sliced, my mother’s recipe is much more doughy, just the way I like it.
So if you want to try a traditional recipe, even if you don’t celebrate Easter, take my word for it, it’s delicious!
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
1 tablespoon liquid anise /and or 1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
6 tablespoons butter, cubed
3 hard-cooked eggs
2 tablespoons cold water
1. In a large mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, anise/vanilla and salt. In a saucepan, heat milk and butter to 120 degrees F-130 degrees F. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add 3 eggs; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
3. Dye hard-cooked eggs; lightly rub with oil. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide dough into thirds. Shape each portion into a 24-in. rope.
4. Place ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid; bring ends together to form a ring. Pinch ends to seal. Gently separate braided ropes and tuck dyed eggs into openings. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 20 minutes.
5. Beat water and remaining egg; gently brush over dough. Bake at 375 degrees F for 28-32 or until golden brown. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. Refrigerate leftovers.