Friday, April 18, 2014

Early Easter Surprises and Delights

Thank you Easter Bunny for the amazing Easter Gift I would on my door step after work.  I can't wait to open it.  Although it's so pretty I think I will sit back and enjoy it all wrapped up first.

The second surprise I received today was from the Tierney family.  They have a tradition each year of baking Pugliese sweet called a scarcella or "Easter Braid".  It is not quite a cake and not quite a cookie.  They are made in many shapes.  Their family makes them into the shape of a dove.

The oldest form of scarcella is a round braided wreath which is believed to have a bearing on one's luck.  It is said that the recipe dates back to the time of the Roman Emperors and each region of Italy has adopted its own version.  You can find scarcella in Lombardy and the Veneto but you have the Pugliese to thank for this tasty treat.

The scarella merges pagan and Christian Easter symbols.  The braid, already adopted by pre-Christian pagan religions is the symbol of eternity.  The typical Christmas wreath may be based on the same tradition.

The Tierney family uses white eggs (originally they were intricately hand-painted, a custom that has fallen by the wayside).  The white egg is a symbol of purity and of the rebirth or resurrection.  It is held on the scarella by a cross, representing the crucifixion of Christ.  Some scarcella have up to 21 eggs on them, but you'll always find it's an odd number of eggs because odd numbers are considered lucky in Italy.

Scarcella are usually covered in colorful sprinkles or a sugar glaze.  They always prepare theirs on Holy Thursday and they are not eaten until Easter morning.  In Bari where their family originated from scarcella are exchanged on Easter Sunday where the size of the cake and the number of eggs demonstrate the relationship between the giver and receiver.  The more eggs, the more there is to be forgiven between the two.

Most of all scarcella are meant to be shared with friends and family.  Buona Pasqua!  Happy Easter!

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