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My SIL, Geri came from a strong Portuguese family. She was the oldest of 7 children, born into a family with strong ties, religious beliefs and traditions. She was very proud of them and helped to carry on the traditions as she grew into adulthood. I wrote about Geri on another post, when she passed away unexpectedly. It is amazing to realize, as I think about her, what a mark she left on her husband's, my brother's family as well. There are so many things that I see in my day to day routine that remind me of her on almost a daily basis. She was a great example of how to keep family ties strong.
One of the traditions that she kept with her mother, that was a long held tradition in the Portuguese culture, was to make the sweet Easter Bread with the colored egg inside. They would make this bread in large batches and give the loaves away to friends and family. By virtue of marriage, our family became the lucky recipients of these tasty loaves every year. Even when I married and lived away from home, Geri would mail my husband and I a loaf of this wonderful Portuguese Easter Bread.
Then, one year, I was asked to teach a bread baking class and I thought of this bread and thought it would be a great loaf to teach. I wrote my SIL and asked about the bread and if I could possibly have the recipe. Geri sent me a variety of recipes and variations, plus the cultural history of the bread. Her mother's recipe was large, calling for 10 pounds of flour! I was a little overwhelmed by that and didn't end up including this bread in my class. But, I always kept the recipe and the letter she sent, intending to tackle the recipe one day. Well! Today was the day! 3 of my grandchildren helped me to color the eggs (you can see them above) and we set about making the bread. I am so happy to share with you Portuguese Easter Bread and its story, via the words of my dear sister-in-law, Geri.
"The sweet bread is traditionally made for Easter and given away to friends and family. This is a tradition my mom sticks to.
Keep the dough warm! We make the loaves in cake pans. Before you put it in the pans, knead each loaf to get out all the air bubbles, but don't work it too long."
"A hard boiled egg goes in the middle with 2 strips of dough forming a cross. This symbolizes death and resurrection-Christ's triumphant victory!"
Geri went on to say, "As you can see from the recipes i found, everyone has their own variation. I don't even know my grandma Dias' recipe-my dad always liked his mother-in-laws recipe better. It was a lot sweeter.
In the Azores, 'the old country', sweetbread is made into little birdies or individual loaves and given to people on the street during the traditional village celebrations when they bless the cows and give away milk. (Geri grew up on her dad's dairy farm!) The celebrations take place after Pentecost. There's usually 1 or 2 a week all during the summer on the Island of Terceira. The Portuguese in California have continued to have the celebrations. Instead of sweetbread, they serve a type of stew, "soupas". They serve anyone who comes regardless of race, color or religion. They do it to honor the Holy Spirit. The Portuguese Community donates everything. They also take pans of soupas to the sick, elderly or anyone who can't come. They have a parade, a mass, a few dances and serve the soupas at lunch and dinner. As kids, we always participated in one way or another in the parades. A big and little queen is chosen to represent Queen Elizabeth who fed the poor. Some towns really go all out!"
Can you feel the love and pride that she had in her culture and family as she wrote me these words? I wish that I had made the bread before she left us so I could tell her about my experience.
I am going to share my adapted version of the Sweet Bread Recipe. Sorry I don't have the Soupas recipe. I am sure it is delicious though and if I can get it from my brother, I will share it with you.
This delicious bread is a wonderful tradition! Perhaps you would like to incorporate it into your family's Easter plans. The symbolism of this bread is especially appropriate because when Geri wrote of "Christ's Triumphant Victory," it reminded me that she had the faith to know that we would all be together again because of that victory and so do I.
Thanks for stopping by!
Creators of Hot Cocoa Bombs! (copyrighted)
Helen Reynolds: Mother of six children , grandmother to eleven! I love to cook, craft and create things and I especially love doing that with my family, So, when my lawyer daughter, Lindsey, my artist daughter, Madalynn, and I came up with the idea of Hot Cocoa Bombs, this blog was born. Then, one more daughter, with her technical and science skills, plus creativity has joined in to round us out! Read more about us here!