My Little Zagreb By 

ODE TO THE EASTER BREAD


I got a free week before Easter by chance and since I have to spend it lying down and resting, I have to fully seize control of my OCD and welcome Easter without washing the windows and cleaning the apartment, leaving the chores to my clumsy family members. Every decent OCD-er knows what kind of torture it is to really have to let go. Sweet mother of God, pain like no other.

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However, as my doctor ordered, I am not moving at all, lying as if I’m dead. And only because this dirty mind of mine aims to bypass all the laws of recovery and pack up on energy for something I wouldn’t let another person do if my life was hanging off a loose tightrope. Can you guess my cunning plan?

MAKING A PINCA!!!

Making dough and baking is my passion, but making a pinza, the Easter bread, is the highpoint of Easter preparations. I love to make it and eat it so much it can’t be described by words. I only make it for Easter and I never buy it. Ham, mayonnaise, radishes, and scallions are mere trinkets compared to the pinza I spend the entire year waiting for. Accessories to a beautiful woman who’s beautiful because she simply is, not because of the jewelry she threw on. Once she accessorizes, it adds so little to her beauty since it has to do with genes, nothing else. Well, that’s pinza in my bread and cake-making world. In the history of my hedonism, I’ve been thrilled with a dish or an ingredient so many times that I would start overeating or making only that for a while, so after some time I’d get bored or sick of it. In order to prevent that, I made a pact with myself long ago that I would eat pinza only and exclusively for Easter. Never outside that timeframe, and I won’t succumb even though the chubby beauties have been luring me for weeks…

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THE SMELLS AND THE AROMAS, MMM...

What is this thing that knocked me off my feet when I was still a kid? I have no idea… It must be the smells, the aromas, the yellow you get from home-grown eggs (pinza is where they matter the most, trust me), the delicate sweetness underneath the sometimes overly salty ham; it pretending to be bread when it’s not, having all the ingredients of a cake, yet not being one… There is also a memory from my childhood I mustn’t forget; packs of granulated powdered sugar you put on the pinza before baking, but after you’ve coated with egg yolk – there was no way you could get those here. My mom and her friends planned for weeks before Easter which one of them would go to Austria to buy that super extra precious ingredient. When I was a kid, I used to think those were nuggets of gold, not sugar – it was such an important topic every year around the same time. Now I find it funny, but smuggling along the Balkan route didn’t originate yesterday, come to think of it. Long before the unfortunate refugees, pots of lumpy powdered sugar were daftly transferred across borders for years – they had paved the way long ago. I am not sure if you can buy it here today, though: I still buy it abroad. And I get my rose water from my friend in Dubai, even though I’ve heard you can find it here as well. These smuggling hard-to-get goods give my pinza added value.

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*****

Anyway, I always bake them on Friday. My extended family gathers at my place for Easter lunch, and we always spend breakfasts in our nuclear units. As there are so many of us, I need to start on Friday to bake all of them and to deliver them around town to my most loved ones on Saturday. Only those closest to my heart get the pinzas. (Side note: I love you all and can’t wait to have you over for lunch.)

This means I start preparing on Thursday evening. I take out (home-grown!) eggs from the fridge, take butter and flour out to adapt to room temperature, prepare my working area, and say a few Hail Marys. This is also a vital component, the so-called hidden ingredient. Believe me, you’d want him on your side while baking pinzas.

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On Friday morning, I shut all the windows and create a room temperature that borders on loss of conscience. That’s extremely important since we no longer have wood-burning stoves that would heat the kitchen up in a heartbeat. And you need warmth to raise the dough. That damn room temperature. I ALWAYS sift the flour, which I normally rarely do for other cakes, but that’s also part of the tradition. Grandma used to sift so I sift, too. And then you have the rhapsody of adding scents and future tastes… Pure crazy. Ecstasy. Once I make the dough – I wait. Another prayer or a word or two with the heavens just to make sure that the One Above saw I did everything right. Once it has risen enough, I redo it into smaller balls and let them rise again. Now they’re forming into pinzas – about half a pregnancy to go. Once the beauties have risen, I coat them with egg yolk and dust them with precious granulated powdered sugar. I take a knife and make a cross to create the typical pinza horns. While I do it, I truly feel ecstatic. I bake it at about 180 C for approximately 45 min. It depends on the size of the pinzas. You can reduce the temperature while you bake them so they wouldn’t burn, which can easily happen and then it’s a disaster since they turn sour.

And another thing. A true pinza needs to be hard, thick, not like these modern ones textured like panettone. If it’s not hard and thick, it’s not a real Zagreb pinza, trust me!

Enjoy your meal, my dears, and have a happy Easter!

PINCA BY DARLING&SHEGRTS

What do you need?

  • 700 gr soft flour, room temperature
  • 300 gr hard flour, room temperature
  • 250 gr melted butter (Granny Lj would put lard, but I gave up on that)
  • 2 cubes of fresh yeast
  • 250 gr sugar
  • 2-3 packs of vanilla sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • Zest of one lemon (untreated)
  • A bit of orange juice (From about half an orange; you eat the second half – you can’t overdo it with vitamins!)
  • Some rose water
  • Some Maraschino (You can use prosecco, cherry brandy or any sweet alcoholic drink. Whatever you have at home.)
  • 2,5 dcl milk (lukewarm)

Procedure:

  • Let the yeast rise in lukewarm milk with some sugar.
  • Sift the flour and add other dry ingredients.
  • Add butter, eggs, yeast, milk, and other wet ingredients and make dough that has to separate from the bowl. Leave it to rise somewhere warm.
  • Once it has risen, split it into two balls or even 4 or 5, depending on whether you like your pinzas smaller or bigger.
  • Leave the balls to rise in a warm surrounding.
  • Once they have risen, coat them with egg yolk and precious granulated powdered sugar and cut across.
  • Bake in a preheated oven at 170-180 C for 45-50 min. Check occasionally so they wouldn’t burn.
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Words: Darling&Shegrts

Translation: Nevena Erak

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