Pinca, a Croatian Easter Bread that hails from Dalmatia – full of buttery richness and fresh citrus notes.
Last year, I shared with you a variation of the traditional Easter bread my mom always made, Easter Bread Dolls, or Primorski Uskrsne Bebe. It seemed fitting to choose this time-honoured recipe to share with you, for a couple of reasons. It was the first Easter recipe I posted here on The Suburban Peasant and I wanted that recipe to communicate what Easter is to me and my family, but also because it was my first time celebrating Easter at home, in a long time. Spending the last few years away from the traditions I grew up with made me nostalgic for those customs, and compelled me to share a recipe that truly represents Easter for me. This year, I am hosting Easter, and since we’re breaking with tradition by having a new generation-er (me) cooking lunch, I thought I’d try my hand at a new Easter bread.
Me, cooking Easter lunch is kind of a big deal. I’ve cooked for my family and extended family many times before, but this is the first time I am going to cook for them for a major holiday. In reality, it’s no different from making Sunday lunch or when I cooked for my husband’s 30th birthday, which was almost double the amount of people I am cooking for on Sunday. However, on a more profound level, one that examines the significance of such family gatherings and how time, relationships, and plain old growing up really do change things, no matter how hard we try, it’s difficult to part with those traditions we have become so accustomed to.
I don’t mean to get all philosophical here, but I think you know what I’m talking about. I’m sure at one time or another, you mourned the way things use to be. If you’re a parent of grown kids or a grandparent with grown grandchildren, letting go of your child’s youth, and the good times had that went along with it, can be a bitter pill to swallow. Just yesterday, I called my grandmother to wish her a happy birthday and she commented on how she wishes things were like they use to be. When we were all together, squished around the table in their basement, swapping Easter eggs and slurping soup with paper napkins tied around our necks as makeshift bibs. Those were the days. But those days have long since come and gone, and while I am sure there will be many more feasts around Baka’s table or my mom’s table, I am honoured to keep the tradition – as different it may turn out to be – alive.
So, since I’m stirring things up by hosting Easter this year, I thought why not try a new Easter bread. In reality, Pinca (peen-tza) isn’t new at all, it’s just new to me. Also, it’s not all that different from the recipe I grew up with, except that it includes the additions of lemon and orange zest, as well as rum, and if you like, raisins. Pinca is the Dalmatian version of my go to recipe. Those Dalmatians with their warm climate, soothing sea, sunny dispositions and laid back attitudes, put a little spin on their Easter bread to reflect the uniqueness of their land – citrus! The addition of flavourings to the bread make it so fragrant and really irresistible to eat. Similar to challah, Pinca is dense and buttery, with an almost cake-like texture that makes it the perfect celebratory loaf, after a long 40 days of Lent.
Flashback from last year: Goulash
Pinca (Croatian Easter Bread)
This recipe makes two loaves of bread, but it can be easily halved to make one. Leftovers, if there are any, would make fantastic french toast. It’s also just as delicious lightly toasted and smeared with jam for breakfast.
400 mL luke warm milk
2 packages (16 g) active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
7 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 package vanilla sugar
2 teaspoons salt
zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
1 cup melted butter
3 egg yolks, lightly beaten (1 egg white reserved for the egg wash)
1 tablespoon rum
1 tablespoon šljivovica (plum brandy) or brandy
Proof the yeast in the luke warm milk and 1 teaspoon of sugar for 10 to 15 minutes, or until it has doubled in volume.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment on, combine the flour, sugar, vanilla sugar, salt and zests. Mix on low to combine.
Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the milk and yeast mixture, the egg yolks, melted butter, rum and šljivovica. Turn the mixer on to low and slowly combine. When the ingredients begin to come together, turn the mixer up to medium high and knead for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes check to see the progress. Dough should be very smooth and only slightly sticky. If it it’s still fairly wet, add a little flour, a tablespoon at a time, and continue mixing until smooth. Remove the dough from the bowl and on a lightly floured surface, knead 10 to 15 times, just enough to make a smooth mass. Lightly flour the dough and place in a clean bowl, covered with a tea towel, and set in a warm, draftless area of your kitchen. Leave it to rise for 4 hours, or until it has doubled in volume.
After 4 hours, punch the dough to deflate it, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead briefly (4 or 5 times) and cut the dough into two equal halves. Knead each half 3 or 4 times to make a smooth, round ball and place each on its own baking sheet, lined with parchment paper. Allow to rise for another 2 hours before baking.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush each loaf with the egg white that has been lightly beaten with a little water. Cut a cross on the top of the each loaf, using a small, sharp knife (I used scissors and it didn’t turn out right). Bake the loaves one at a time, for 30 to 40 minutes, or until it is a deep brown. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.