Easter Bread

There are a lot of things to love about Easter—chocolate bunnies, new dresses, egg hunts, spring blossoms—but the thing I love the most is reading the account of Christ’s resurrection. As a perpetual optimist, I’m a big fan of happy endings, and that’s what we get when we keep reading the Gospels after the events of the crucifixion. The difference between Luke 23 and Luke 24 is monumental!

 

The women who had looked after Jesus and his disciples throughout his ministry saw him die a gruesome death. Luke says that others “beat their breasts and walked away” from the foot of the cross, but many of his followers, including these women, stayed to keep watch. Later, they followed Joseph, the man who had asked permission to bury Jesus, to see where he would lay the body. Once they knew where the tomb was, they went home to prepare burial spices and finish all their tasks so they could rest. It was the Sabbath, and these women knew the rules.

 

I imagine them feeling weighed down, their arms and legs seemed heavier than ever before as they took down their spices, pausing to hold the dried flowers and leaves and resin to their noses to smell the familiar, soothing scents which perhaps reminded them of the burials of other loved ones. They were sad and confused, but I bet they were grateful for a job to do. They needed purpose and agency to keep going.

 

Then, early in the morning on the first day of the week, the women took the spices and headed to the tomb. When they got there, they saw that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. They ran inside, but Jesus’ body was gone. They clutched those spices and wondered what had happened. Was this good? Was it bad? What should they do? Who should they tell? Then two men in lightning-bright robes appeared out of nowhere. The women fell to the ground, hiding their faces. The angels said, “Why are you looking for him here? Don’t you remember what he told you? It’s all happened just as he predicted.” Then the women remembered, and they ran to tell the others.

 

I look forward to the day when I can meet these women—Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. I want to ask them what it was like to be a woman in their time, and what did Jesus’ teachings mean to them in light of their social position. I wonder if they’ll discuss how caring for others, especially Jesus and his disciples, was such a big part of their ministries. Whether they were preparing meals or preparing burial spices, this was how they showed love.

 

The older I get, the more I see this to be true. I feel a natural pull toward feeding the stomachs and souls of those I get to love on. Now that I have college-aged kids, I like to cook a meal for them and their friends. And my kids are learning to appreciate our family traditions as they see them in a new light from a little farther away.

 

One of those traditions is something my mom started when I was little. Every year, she made Easter Bread—soft, eggy rings of yeast bread covered in crunchy sprinkles with a dyed egg nestled in the center. It was my favorite breakfast all year, and now it’s the favorite of my kids. There are several steps to make the bread, but it’s not all that difficult. In fact, I made it twice this year to accommodate the busy schedules of my girls. That’s how important it’s become to us. But for me, it’s not about eating the bread. It’s about creating memories. Yeast dough has built-in periods of rest where you wait for the dough to rise. These magical moments are gifts. The dough expands while you remain watchful, expectant. Then, when the dough is baked, the house smells amazing, filling up with a heavenly aroma. This is how we prepare and celebrate.

 

So much has changed over the thousands of years since Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary crept home after witnessing the horrors of the cross. The most striking difference came when they entered the tomb and found it empty. They had carried spices to mask the smell of death, but left the tomb rejoicing with the angels’ news ringing in their ears!

EASTER BREAD

  • 12 hard-boiled, dyed eggs
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 packets of yeast (or 5 ½ tsp)
  • ½ cup flour
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
  • Sprinkles (optional, but also essential)

Cook milk, sugar, and water in microwave for 1 minute. Pour into large bowl, and add yeast and ½ cup flour. Stir until smooth. Add oil, salt, and 2 eggs, and beat with mixer. Add flour, mixing well after each cup. Turn dough on lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-8 minutes. Put dough back in well-oiled bowl, coating all sides of dough with oil. Cover with a cloth, and put the bowl in oven with the light on to rise for 1 hour. Punch dough down and let rise for more 30 minutes. Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll each part into a long rope. Take two ropes and twist them so that there are 6 “nests” to hold 6 dyed eggs. This makes one 1 large ring. Repeat with other dough and eggs. Let rings rise until doubled in size (or let rise over night in the refrigerator). Beat egg and brush onto dough. Add sprinkles. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting each ring into 6 sections.

My vegetable peeler

I feel like I lost a good friend this week. My vegetable peeler broke. To the untrained eye, this kitchen tool looks like any other, but I know there was more to it behind its commonplace, functional façade.

I wish I could remember who gave us our kitchen peeler, but I am pretty certain it was a wedding present. I can recall adding it to our registry as we scanned with abandon various items in the “Home” section of Target.

 

For just shy of 20 years, I have used that vegetable peeler to prepare food for my family. I peeled potatoes to make mashed potatoes, quartering the naked spuds and boiling them until fork tender. Then mashing and buttering and creaming and salting until they tasted just right.

 

I peeled apples for many apple pies, attempting to keep the spiraled apple peel intact before slicing them, adding heaps of brown sugar and cinnamon and dumping all of that sticky apple goodness in a pie shell not quite as good as my mom’s. Is there any smell in this world as gratifying as the smell of an apple pie baking?

 

My dearly departed vegetable peeler wasn’t flashy but it was dependable. It helped me make comfort food that filled the souls of my people. It symbolized a labor of love for those I cherish and serve most every day. It also was my companion through my early cooking trials, the pies and side dishes that didn’t turn out so great and the occasional, accidental whittling of some knuckle skin while trying to peel a fruit or vegetable.

 

As we approach Thanksgiving and all the preparations for the big meal, I think about what it means to feed my family, particularly a special dinner with all the trimmings. I’m much more chill when it comes to timing the dishes and the turkey and the desserts and doing as much ahead of time as possible, but those first years I hosted Thanksgiving I was a wreck. It’s hard to live up to the hype.

 

But as long as I can be the human equivalent of that trusty little vegetable peeler, I can get it done: One swift movement at a time, pay attention to what you’re doing, make it special because you take the time, relax and breathe.