Cuzzupa, an Easter tradition from Calabria
Article published by l’Italo Americano on March 30th, 2015 by l’Italo Americano staff : http://www.italoamericano.org/story/2015-3-30/Cuzzupa
The traditional Italian Easter cake called “Cuzzupa“ is made in Calabria, made into a braided nest with colored sprinkles on top. Its consistency reminds a cake type of dough. Here the recipe
6 cups of flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, Pinch of salt, Anise Seeds (between 1/3 and 1/2 oz of crushed and cleaned anise), 4 tablespoons Crisco (room temperature), 1 cup of sugar, 6 eggs (save 1 egg white to brush on cakes before baking), 3/4 cup of milk, Confetti candy sprinkles.
Color hard boiled eggs (amount is up to you) a few days ahead of time. Preheat oven to 350° -375° depending on your oven. Grease flat cookie sheets or pans.
Crush Anise seeds and put into dish (before, use a cotton handkerchief to gather anise and twist hanky under it. Then rub hard on the ball of Anise. After rubbing it rolled up in between both hands (make fists.) Open carefully and sort out Anise from brown husks and sometimes small stones.)
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Then mix in Anise. Mix in Crisco with sugar and after make a well shape. (Remember, this is the traditional Old Italian way, but you can also use a bowl to mix all ingredients.) Put in eggs (save/1 egg white) and milk.
Gradually take flour from sides of the well and mix with eggs and milk. Don’t break the wall as all liquid will run out. When all mixed you knead dough till all mixed good and a smooth texture. Might have to put a little flour on board or counter, so it will not stick. Not too much flour or the cakes will be too dry. Then cut a chunk and leave the rest on the side of board or counter.
Roll out dough in a long and thin strip. Make the strip the thickness of a wooden spoon handle, not any thinner as the dough will break. If you twist 2 strips together to make a braid make each a little thinner than your finger. They will swell as they bake. Put your colored eggs in the braid, nest or dolls, whatever you decide to create. Be careful as you put them on a baking sheet so they don’t break or crack. Roll small pieces of dough and then flatten out with the palm of your hand to cover around the side of the egg on dolls or nests. This helps keep the eggs more secure. If you make dolls, put a slit on feet and hands.
Now beat saved egg white and with a pastry brush, brush egg white on all parts of your cakes. After the egg whites are on brushed on the cakes dip a finger in egg white mixture and then dot with candy confetti sprinkles on the dolls, crosses or what ever you made.
Then bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. They should be lightly browned. Let them sit about 10 minutes to cool off before taking them off the cookie sheet/pans, they may crack or break so be careful removing them from the pans. You can store in an air tight cookie tin for about a week, if they don’t get eaten before that.