My favorite thing about Easter in Trieste is the delicious Titola. A traditional Easter cake that makes its appearance for a brief time right around the holiday, it is wrapped in cellophane and colorful bows. It is as pretty as it is delicious with its colorful easter eggs nestled in the shiny, moist braided dough. However, the pretty pastry belies the story behind its unique shape.
Tradition would want that the eggs be dyed red to recall the blood of Christ, and the shape to resemble the nails on the cross. Luckily, over the years, the story behind the pastry has faded while the the eggs have brightened to include all the cheerful colors of the holiday. Probably the idea of some marketing guru, no doubt. I have even seen some with little faces painted on the egg and re-baptized as”easter dolls”.
The recipe used is the same that one uses to make the Pinza triestina, but somehow, the flavor and texture of the Titola seems more moist and tender — more like a challah than a Pinza – although they are not so drastically different.
While readily available everywhere from your local pastry shop to the larger grocery chains, there is some pleasure in adopting the local tradition and making it yourself. It is however a long process, as there is a lot of time dedicated to allowing the dough to rise — repeatedly — something of a reference to the resurrection i suppose (!!)
For the Sponge or Starter: 100g Bread Flour – 100g Water – 16g Brewer’s Yeast
For the Dough: 160g Sugar – 300g Flour 00 – 1 Egg – 4 Yolks – 135g Butter – Pinch of Salt – Zest of 1 Lemon – Zest of 1 Orange
For the Glaze: 1 Yolk – 20g Whole Milk
6-8 dyed hard boiled eggs for decorating (for Titola)
To make the starter pour the sifted flour and the dehydrated yeast into a bowl then add the water and knead it briefly. After obtaining a slightly sticky dough, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until it doubles in volume (for about one to two hours).
Transfer the leavened starter dough into the bowl of your stand mixer and add the egg and 120 grams of sugar, 200 grams of sifted flour and begin to knead using the dough hook attachment. As soon as it starts to come together, add the salt and 65 grams of butter at room temperature and continue to knead in the mixer.
Remove the dough from the mixer and work the dough on a wooden pastry board for a few minutes until it is smooth. Put it in a bowl & cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another 2 hours.
Place the dough now back into the stand mixer and add the egg yolks, the remaining 40grams of sugar, the grated orange and lemon peel and the remaining 100 grams of flour and knead again for 5 – 10 minutes or when the dough sticks to the hook leaving the sides of the bowl clean. Add the remaining 75 grams of butter little by little and, when incorporated, transfer the dough on a pastry board.
To make Titola: Split the dough and roll into 12 inch lengths. Make a T shape out of 2 pieces and where they intersect you lay your colored egg. Use a small piece of dough over the egg to secure it and then braid to close. Brush the surfaces of the dough with the glaze made by combining the beaten egg yolk and milk and cook at 180 ° for 18 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. The finished result should look like this :
To make Pinze divide the dough into two halves of 400 grams about one.
With your hands, shape the dough well to make obtaining two taught round balls put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and let rise for another 2 hours. Once the dough balls are well risen, make Y-shaped incisions with a well-sharpened knife allowing the blade to enter completely into the sphere . Brush the surfaces of both dough balls with the glaze made by combining the beaten egg yolk and milk and cook both at 165 ° for 35 minutes in preheated oven in ventilated mode or in static mode at 180 ° for 35 minutes. At the end of cooking it is advisable to do the toothpick test in the center.
My personal favorite place to buy them is at Giorgi’s Pastry shop on Via Giosuè Carducci #14.