I was raised in a Christian household but we also celebrated some of the big Jewish holidays. We even went through a period of celebrating the sabbath every week. Depending on the time of year it seemed like there was either a heavier emphasis on my Christian upbringing, say like Christmas, or my Jewish heritage, like Passover. We still would celebrate Chanukah and Easter but if I thought of food I would say Christmas and Passover got priority. Then there are times they bleed together. This would best be explained but sharing that our traditional Christmas Eve dinner were, and still are, blintzes.
Typically during Easter were were heavily involved in whatever the church was putting together for their Easter service so the idea of Easter baskets, egg hunts, and a big ham dinner was not something we did. However, the one thing we always did was a Seder on the first night of Passover.
Fast-forward to about a year ago when my husband and I started talking about wanting to adopt and start a family the topic of religion came up. With my husband having an upbringing in The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and I in a mix of Born Again Christianity and Judaism we both understood the importance of a religious upbringing even though neither of us are practicing anymore.
As we talked about the upbringing of our future child we talked about our love all many cultures, traditions, and celebrations. We see the value of so many religions that the more we talked the more we knew we didn’t want to limit it. This got us talking about holidays and that even without a child we wanted to start working out what each holiday meant for us and how we would observe the ones that sparked any meaning or interest.
What better way than through food! Every holiday has something. The key is working out how to work it in without being glutinous or overindulgent. So now, as I map out my menu planning I also work in all the holidays we’re interested in. This allows me to look at the various meals and were I can put different dishes. Inevitably holidays are going to overlap or fall on the same day. Rather than trying to make multiple feats I look at putting an emphasis on a particular holiday in a particular meal.
Take for example right now… I am doing Passover all 9 days but in there falls Easter. So my idea was to find a way to work easter in to either the breakfast, lunch, or snack of the day and/or week it falls on.
Not knowing what I wanted to do I happened to stumble across a magazine in the grocery store called Bake. The cover had a beautiful Easter Bread with hard-boiled eggs and a topic that said “Easter Bread Traditions Abroad”. It couldn’t have been any more meaningful. So I grabbed a copy and devoured it when I got home. In it I discovered a loaf from the Czech Republic called Braided Mazanec. Having done many Challah’s and Babka’s this grabbed my attention. I looked that the recipe and it used things like amaretto, golden raisins, orange juice, and marzipan. I was sold.
I then happened to be watching an episode of The Great British Bake-Off and they were doing an eight-braid bread. I was fascinated. I have been doing six-braid for my challah so I was eager to try. This lead me to deciding that I would do an eight-braid Mazanec for easter. This would work in well as our “morning pastry” but it would be something equally special that if successful will only be made at Easter.
Like so many good ideas it didn’t go to plan but in the end I was able to troubleshoot it and make a loaf that is amazing! So much so this will now be a Easter tradition. To see the recipe and the crazy story that goes with trying to get this bread made check out my post Busted Braided Bread No More.
Although this may seem like the two ideas conflict, as one holiday is all about non leavened bread, choosing a leavened bread as my Easter tribute my seem wonky but as I am not trying to stick to any kosher dietary laws I was happy to find something that would be truly special to do. I also didn’t want to pigeon hold Easter to the confines of Passover is that they don’t always overlap. So after much drama of failed desserts and failed bakes I ended up with something I can build on creating memorable flavors and foods for both these holidays.