SHORTLY before Easter, the bakeries and shops in the villages and towns of Corfu, come alive with the smell of a sweet bread called fogatsa, meaning Easter bread.
The traditional fragrance comes from kumquat liqueur, but being tee-total I used the juice from a tin of mandarins and good quality vanilla extract.
This with the added quantity of sugar brings a beautifully balanced sweetness to this typical Corfiot offering.
If you happen to be on the island of Corfu during the Easter period I’ve been assured from close friends who live there you will experience the most amazing time of your lives!
Good Friday is the day of Epitaphios, the funeral of Christ – as the crowds gather, tourists mingle with hundreds of Corfiots to bring a real sense of tradition, something I would imagine, liking it to the May Day parade in Padstow in Cornwall.
On Holy Saturday at 11am the ‘First Resurrection’ and the ‘pot throwing’ custom takes place.
The celebration of the ‘early resurrection’ of Christ where balconies in the old town are decked in bright red pieces of cloth. Then the Corfiot’s throw down large clay pots are full of water to smash on the street pavements.
The Resurrection is celebrated and the Lenten fast is broken with all types of traditional fayre including the brioche type bread known to Corfiots as Fogatsa.
Easter Sunday people celebrate with their families eating usually slow roasted lamb and smashing red eggs (they hold one egg and then smash with the egg of the other, if your egg doesn’t break, you win).
A bit like our game of conkers.
I hope one day you will visit Corfu at this time of year to celebrate the Easter traditions – but if you do, keep an eye on falling clay pots and don’t slip on the water that was inside them.
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Fogatsa (Easter bread)
300ml of milk
1 sachet of active dry yeast
100grams of plain flour to start with, then as needed during the recipe instructions.
3/4 tablespoons sugar
2 small eggs, separated
125ml of well-drained mandarin juice from a tin.
1tbsp of vanilla extract
150ml of melted Butter
1. Heat the milk in a small saucepan until it is just warm. Pour it into a very large glass or ceramic bowl and stir in the yeast, 100g of the flour, and 6 tablespoons of the sugar.
2. Place the bowl in a warm place, lightly covered with a tea towel , and allow to stand until the yeast starts to bubble up, roughly about 20 to 30 minutes.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the egg yolks with 6 tablespoons of the remaining sugar until pale and creamy. Pour this mixture into the yeast mixture.
4. Stir in the drained mandarin juice, vanilla and melted butter.
5. Slowly add flour, a bit at a time mixing it in with a wooden spoon, until it begins to form. Turn this out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding more flour if necessary to form a very smooth, large ball of dough.
6. Put it back into a bowl, cover and place somewhere warm and allow to stand until the dough has doubled in bulk, about an hour-and-a-half to two hours.
7. Punch the dough down and knead again for about 8 to 10 minutes.
8. Shape into a loaf tin and make a cross shape slash on the surface of the dough, cover with a cloth, and let rise again until doubled for about 45mins to an hour.
9. Preheat oven to 180c and beat the egg whites with the remaining sugar in a medium bowl until they are frothy but not forming peaks.
10. Brush the surface of the loaf with the mixture, and bake until the fogatsa has swelled and browned, this usually takes about an hour. Remove from the oven, let cool on a wire rack, and serve.
Serve and enjoy.