Maggie's Books & Recipes

in Memory of Margaret H.L. Lim

Easter Bread

As Easter Sunday is deeply embedded in the fertility cult with its symbol of eggs, I have whipped up my own version of the Easter Bread. Instead of the traditional sweetish bread, braided, with coloured eggs stuck along its length, known as Greek Easter Bread, I have made a wreath of cinnamon rolls with dried cranberries and pistachios, fruits and nuts from last year’s harvest.

Demeter's Easter Wreath

Basic dough (of which you need half)

1 cup (250 ml) cream ( I use coconut cream)
½ cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp brown sugar
Mix together and warm the mixture to about 40 degrees C. with microwave.

3½ cups flour
1 packet (1 Tbsp) dried yeast
1 egg

Mix yeast and 1½ cups flour. Stir into warmed fluid. Allow to rise 20 minutes in a warm place (the microwave oven where you have just warmed the fluid). Remove and beat in one egg. Add the rest of the flour slowly, kneading until a soft dough forms. Add more flour if necessary should the dough still stick to your fingers. Divide into 2 portions. Put one portion in a greased bowl, turning over once to grease it. Cover the bowl with a tea cloth. Set aside to rise 1½ to 2 hours.

NOTE: Do not let the other portion rise. Keep it in a covered container in the fridge (up to 4 days) for making bread rolls etc. or more cinnamon rolls. Remove from fridge and let rise 2 hours before baking.

The Filling

2 Tbsp softened butter
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup shelled roasted pistachio nuts, whole or coarsely chopped
Pistachios, shelled. Leave whole or chop coarsely.
How to create a form for a wreath? I used the ring from my biggest spring form pan and placed it on the baking pan that comes with the oven. A small fire-proof glass bowl kept the centre free to hold the Easter eggs.
Punch down the dough and roll out thinly into a square. Spread butter-sugar-cinnamon mixture evenly on the dough. Scatter nuts and berries over the dough and roll the whole up, like a Swiss roll. Cut into 1 inch lengths and place cut sides down on baking pan. Arrange in a circle, leaving the centre bare for the eggs. Bake at 375 F or 170 C for 20 to 25 minutes or till golden brown.

Spread butter-sugar-cinnamon mixture on rolled-out dough and scatter cranberries and pistachio nuts on top. Roll as for a Swiss roll.
Cut into 1" lengths and arrange cut side down in a baking pan. A half portion of the basic dough will give you about 12 slices. Cool down after baking. Carefully remove the ring before cooling thoroughly on a rack. When cool, remove the centre glass bowl.
Place on a platter and arrange either coloured Easter eggs or an Easter "egg" in the centre of the wreath. This attractive container holds quite a number of chocolate eggs. Delicious!

While the Easter Bread is baking in the oven...

What have eggs or bunnies to do with Easter?

Since bunnies are well-known for being prolific and eggs are a symbol of life, there are no better symbols than these to mark Easter, which is deeply rooted in the pagan cult of fertility.

Easter, an authoritative source tells us, is derived from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of fertility, EASTRE. This goddess is also variously known as Ishtar, Astarte, Demeter, Ceres, Cybele.  In the Indian subcontinent, she is called Kali, she who takes and gives. Life-giver or death-dealer, this goddess of antiquity was revered as well as feared for she demanded a sacrifice.

The Great Mother, as she is sometimes called, was honoured with a fertility rite each year, in cultures stretching from ancient Mexico to ancient Rome (The Golden Bough by J G Frazer). A comely young man was chosen as the consort of the goddess and “reigned” for a year. He was the “Year King”. When his reign ended at the appointed time with the onset of Spring or the sowing season, he was sacrificed to the goddess and his body ploughed into the earth – a symbol of the union of the male and female, ensuring a fruitful and productive year. A new Year King then replaced him.

Books for Easter

Marion Zimmer Bradley’s novel The Forest House makes use of this myth. A young Roman soldier in Celtic Britain who dared to love a virgin priestess of the Mother was burned on the pyre as a sacrifice to this goddess.

Dan Brown weaves this ancient fertility cult into his immensely suspenseful thriller The Da Vinci Code.

Children’s Books for Easter

E. Nesbit’s delightful and enchanting  children’s classic, The Phoenix and the Carpet, is just the perfect book for children for Easter. Four children find an egg rolled up in a carpet. The egg accidentally falls into the fire that is burning in the hearth. Out hatches a Phoenix. Together with the Phoenix and the carpet, which is a magic flying carpet, they have exciting adventures. Then it is time for the Phoenix to leave. Life with the children is too strenuous. The children, at the same time, rather wish that the Phoenix would go and take the carpet with it, for their adventures have put them into some pretty tight situations. The Phoenix lays an egg which it rolls up in the carpet that is looking rather the worse for wear from the many adventures, and sends it off into the future. It tells the children to build a pyre of scented woods for it and to set the whole aflame, explaining that it is going to sleep and will wake up in its egg in two thousand years.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis also makes delicious reading for children during Easter. It is full of magic and myths, peopled by fauns and satyrs, ogres and werewolves, a wicked witch and a lion – a sprinkling of Oz, a little bit of Camelot, a betrayal, a death and resurrection. Four children while exploring a rambling old house find a wardrobe whose back opens into a strange country which is always winter without any Christmas. A witch has set herself up as queen of this country called Narnia. Anyone who opposes her is turned to stone. There is a prophecy that the witch will be vanquished when Aslan the Lion returns and Narnia will be ruled by two Kings and two Queens. One of the children turns traitor. The Lion trades place with the child and lets the wicked witch kill him. The Lion’s magic however goes back beyond the dawn of time and is stronger than that of the witch. Aslan the Lion rises from the dead, the witch is killed, two kings and two queens rule Narnia where Spring once again follows Winter.