After the strict fasting of Lent, an explosion of "forbidden" foods appears on the Eastern European Easter table.
There is no better example than these slightly sweet yeast bread full of butter, sugar and, sometimes, cheese.
A staggering number of eggs, a symbol of fertility, rebirth, spring, and the Resurrection figures prominently in them. Their names are often some form of the word paska, which means "Easter."
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This rich, eggy, slightly sweet yeast bread exists in almost every culture. Bohemians and Czechs call it vanocka or mazanec, while other refer to it as houska. Poles, who call it chalka, adopted it from their Jewish countrymen who refer to it as challah, and on and on. Leftovers make great French toast and bread pudding.
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This Bulgarian bread, known as kozunak, is featured at Christmas, Easter and other special occasions. It is an egg-rich braided loaf stuffed with rum-soaked raisins. Read more about how Bulgarians celebrate Easter.
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Croatian Easter Bread Dolls take center stage on a table all decked out in Easter linens, silver, and crystal. Kids love them! But the most popular Easter bread is a sweet yeast-raised round loaf known as pinca or sirnica.
A small loaf of this cake-like bread is placed in the basket of food to be blessed on Holy Saturday. Read more about how Croatians celebrate Easter.
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This recipe for Hungarian egg twist or fonott kalacs is a slightly sweet braided loaf with raisins served for Easter, Christmas or any time of year. In general, kalacs (kaw-lahch) refers to any yeast-raised cake or sweet bread.
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Lithuanian Easter bread is similar to many other Eastern European offerings -- a sweet yeast dough with raisins. It's delicious on Easter morning slathered with butter and a good accompaniment to the hard-cooked colored eggs everyone "clinks" together to see whose egg is the strongest.
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Chałka is served year-round, but especially at Christmas and Easter. If you have any leftover chalka, it makes delicious French toast or bread pudding with orange sauce or makówki (Polish poppy seed bread pudding).
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Romanian Easter bread is called the Italian panettone of Romania because of its shape and similar texture. Bulgarians serve the same bread but call it kozunak.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Russian Easter bread takes the form of kulich, a tall, cylindrical sweet yeast-risen bread. On Easter morning, Russian ladies engage in a little good-natured rivalry centering around who has the tallest kulich while waiting for the priest to bless their basket of delicacies.
Here is a description of a traditional Russian Easter food basket for blessing.
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This sweet braided egg bread features red hard-cooked eggs, symbolizing the blood Christ shed and his rebirth or resurrection. Some people shape their bread into a cross with an egg at the head, foot, and arms of the cross. This is very similar to Bohemian houska.
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