It doesn’t occur often that the astronomical and ecclesiastical moons line up. When it does, however, a few things happen.
First everyone stands around confused, wondering why I care and why I think anyone else should.
Next, both Western and Orthodox Easter meet on some of the same dates as the Passover.
Finally an uncommon convergence of feasts takes place.
In edible terms it means that every Christian and Jew in the world will break bread this year over the first weekend in April, whether it’s with matza or hot cross buns.
It’s a bit of a shame though, because I can’t think of any practical way to fit three big meals into the same small space. Especially since I didn’t chose to take a literal fast through Lent.
But where there’s a will, there’s a way to fit in a light Easter brunch, followed by an Orthodox Easter supper. Then Passover on Monday, which is to end with the beginning.
Passover, after all, is the grandfather to Easter. A seven day affair (except when it’s eight), that starts and ends on the 15th and 21st day of Nissan. For 2010, it means that what began on 30 March doesn’t come to a close until twilight on 5 April.
Traditionally, the Passover meal of lamb and unleavened bread is served with horseradish and sweet apple as reminders of the bittersweetness of Passover and the cost of freedom.
After the items of remembrance, though, everything kosher is fair game.
Orthodox Easter, on the other hand, is a much more Faberge occasion than either of its counterparts. It’s a lavish celebration dated according to the ancient Julian calendar and the actual equinox as experienced in Jerusalem.
Easter meals in Greece for example, can last most of the day. There are olives and tappas, patates fournou, spanakotryopita. And spit-roasted lamb, followed by desserts of galaktoboureko, spoon sweets and coffee.
The Western church on the other hand, calculates Easter according to the Gregorian calendar and an equinox constant of March 21st, meaning that the two Easters are often separated by weeks. Good news for anyone who needs a breather between meals.
Not so this year.
So this is what I propose:
With Easter setting a more moderate table in the West, and many believers breaking the 40 day fast of Lent on Sunday, start the weekend modestly – say, with hot cross buns, before moving on to the the more elaborate preparations of Easter and then Passover.
Besides being a traditional indulgence eaten to end Lent, hot cross buns are also edible memorials of Christ’s atoning work on the cross, whether baked with the usual spices and currants before being crossed with sugar frosting, or made in shades of chocolate. Try either, or both.
Hot Cross Buns (breadmaker recipe)
3/4 cup butter, cut into cubes
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp lemon zest
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
5 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbs active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups currants
1 1/3 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tbs lemon juice
2 tbs milk
Place butter, milk, sugar, salt, spices, zest and eggs in the bowl of your breadmaker. Cover with the flour, then yeast. Program machine for the dough setting.Turn dough onto a well-floured surface. Knead in currants. Divide into 24 equal pieces. Shape into buns and place, 1/2-inch apart, on an 11 by 17-inch Silpat-lined baking sheet. Cover and set aside to rise for an hour, until doubled in size and touching.Whisk egg with 1 tbs water and a pinch of salt. Lightly brush tops of buns with egg wash. With a very sharp knife, slice a cross into top of each bun. Bake at 375F until golden, about 25 minutes. Place pan on a wire rack to cool completely. In a medium bowl, whisk together confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice and milk. Pipe or drizzle glaze into crosses.
Chocolate Hot Cross Buns
approx 4 cups white bread flour
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
5 tbs cocoa
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
2 large eggs, plus one for glazing
1/4 cup butter, melted then cooled
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips
white chocolate for piping
Heat milk to body temperature. Proof yeast in milk until foamy (about 10 minutes). Whisk in eggs, butter and vanilla. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa sugar and salt. Add milk mixture and bring ingredients together with a fork. Turn out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes to form a soft, elastic dough. When finished, incorporate chopped chocolate. Return dough to bowl, cover and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1 3/4 hours, until doubled.
Turn out dough. Divide and shape into 16 buns and place on a large Silpat-lined baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise until doubled. Cut crosses into the top of each bun. Brush tops with an egg beaten together with a little water. Bake in a 375F oven for about 18 minutes.
When buns are completely cool, pipe melted white chocolate into the marks made before baking.
– Story and photos by Darcie Hossack