Being a person that doesn’t partake in Easter traditions doesn’t mean I can’t eat the food that goes along for the ride. Take this pinca – also called sirnica – for instance.
This sweet bread is usually made on the morning of Holy Saturday; starting bright and early so that, by late afternoon, the cooled loaf can be placed into a basket with other bits like boiled eggs and ham. Then off to mass the basket of food is taken, to be blessed and eaten on Easter Sunday for breakfast.
When I was a youngster we never quite got as far as doing the mass thing, and come to think of it, I don’t think this bread was ever made, either. It was regular bread on our Easter Sunday breakfast table, along with boiled eggs that we dyed the night before, lots of sliced ham, spring onions, horseradish and hot mustard. I still remember rubbing the dyed eggs with a piece of speck fat; a process that makes them all nice and glossy.
Pinca, or sirnica, is akin to brioche. It’s soft and buttery and very aromatic thanks to lemon and orange zest that fleck its dense innards. There’s even a little booze in there, as well. Brandy by tradition, but I used marsala as that was all I had in the liquor cupboard. I don’t think tequila or rakija would cut it, somehow.
Typically, a cross is cut into the top of the dough before it gets baked – for obvious reasons, you know. And traditionally you’re meant to scatter the top with crushed sugar cubes, but thanks to not having seen sugar cubes for decades, I’ve dusted the top with the powdered stuff.
Powdered sugar, a fern pattern and no sugar cubes. I sense many bakas are turning in their graves.