Sunday, April 4, 2010

Carmela Soprano's Easter Bread, Anna Sultana's Figolli (Easter Bread, Maltese Style)

Sometimes flipping through Entertaining with The Sopranos is a real blast from the past.  I have quite a few Sicilian relatives.  The photo of Carmela's Easter Sweet Bread on p. 133 brought back lots of Easter memories.

Nice Easter memories.

Every extended immigrant family has a spiritual/cultural center, one family where everyone gathers for important and festive occasions.  Aunt Betty and Uncle Joe's home was the heart of our family.  We always gathered there for holidays.

Aunt Betty's mother, Nonni DiNoto, supervised the holiday meals.  Easter wouldn't be complete until she carried a glistening golden brown loaf of Easter Sweet Bread, a huge braided loaf decorated with colored eggs, and a Colomba di Pasqua.

We always avoided the eggs.  They had a weird green circle around the yolk.  I was reassured when I read in Entertaining with The Sopranos:
Nobody ever eats the eggs, but store the bread in the refrigerator just in case. 

After a few years, we stopped gathering at Aunt Betty's house.
At home Ma followed our Maltese traditions.  Our Easter dinner menu was similar.  But, instead of making a Colomba, Ma baked a figolli, a Maltese sweet bread with a marzipan filling.  

A figolli was harder to make than a Colomba.  The dough was rolled about one centimeter thick.  Then Ma cut the dough into pairs of figolla with a figolla cutter.  They looked like a large letter J, but the stick part ended in a fish’s tail.  

On one side of a figolla Ma spread jam and marzipan.  Then she covered it with the identical shape, as if she was making a sandwich.  After the figolli had been baked and cooled, they were covered with colored icing and piped royal icing.  Then a decorated Easter egg was placed on top of each figolli.  For the final touch a cardboard woman’s face was inserted into the mound of the J.  

The odd thing about Ma’s traditional figolli was that it was a mermaid.  I asked Ma why a mermaid and not a dove.  She said, “I don’t know.  It’s our tradition.”

Well, you can’t argue with tradition. 

Happy Easter!! 

Another recipe down.  Sixty-eight more to go.   

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