Easter Baking – Pupa Con L’Uova (Italian Easter Cookies)

I love this time of year when winter ends and spring begins. There is such a sense of renewal and hope and I love the anticipation of gardening again. It has warmed up earlier than normal. We have leaves forming on the lilac bush and on the plum tree in the back yard. The hyacinth and daffodils are in full bloom and the very first tulip (my favorite flower) opened this morning. This past weekend my husband cleaned out the two garden beds. There were still some good onions, leeks, carrots and kale that held over from winter so I made a nice vegetable soup with them. He tilled the soil and planted peas, fava beans, beets, carrots, parsnips and turnips in the north bed. The south bed has garlic growing from the fall planting. He also planted Italian black kale and Swiss chard. The green beans will go in there next month along with some squash, cardoons and cucuzza. The artichoke, saffron, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant will go in grow boxes that are being built for us this week. I am so excited.

Easter is just around the corner. It is my favorite holiday besides Christmas. Every year I host an Italian Easter dinner for the family that includes various antipasti, followed by lamb, ham, stuffed and grilled artichokes, asparagus, etc. We usually do a lot of baking also. I am simplifying things this year for health reasons, but there are certain foods and traditions that are impossible to give up. The one food tradition that we cannot let go of is baking pupa con l’ uova. It is an Italian Easter specialty meaning ‘doll with the egg.’ It can be a sweet yeast bread that is braided around colored eggs or it can be a cookie dough braided around the egg. My Sicilian great aunts and grandmother made the yeast bread surrounding the egg that I sometimes make on Easter morning. But our tradition is to make the cookie dough surrounding the egg on Good Friday. This recipe came from my cousin Marilyn. I have adapted it by flavoring the dough with lemon and licorice. It is a wonderful combination that smells so good and tastes great. We dye the eggs a few days before we need them for the pupa con l’uova so they are completely dry. My husband likes to make plaid eggs by dipping each egg into different color dyes. That is his specialty and the cookies look particularly pretty when we use his colorful eggs. My kids love the whole process of dyeing eggs and then rolling the dough into ropes to form the braid. My favorite part of it is to paint the baked and cooled cookies with icing and top them with various sprinkles, such as little eggs, bunnies and flowers, or non-pareils. We place the colorful cookies in a basket or on a tray and they help form the centerpiece for the Easter table.

Pupa Con L’Uova
1 c. shortening
1 ΒΌ c. sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp. anise extract
1 tsp. lemon extract or emulsion
zest of 1 small lemon
5-6 c. flour (closer to 6)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
pinch of salt
12-15 hard boiled and colored eggs

Icing
1 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. anise extract

In mixer combine shortening and sugar and mix until light and fluffy. Add eggs, extracts and zest. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Mix into wet ingredients by hand one cup at a time until you have a soft dough that is easy to handle. Break off a golf ball-size piece of dough and form into 9-10 inch long rope, fold rope in two, form a double twist with the ends and wrap around egg. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet, 9 cookies per sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes until firm and pale golden, but not brown. Cool on rack. Combine icing ingredients and whisk until smooth. You want a thin icing, not thick. Use a silicon pastry brush to brush cookies with icing, then sprinkle with non-pareils. You can adjust the flavor of the dough with combinations like almond and orange, or lemon and vanilla if desired. Makes 12-15 cookies.

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14 Responses to Easter Baking – Pupa Con L’Uova (Italian Easter Cookies)

  1. Gasper says:

    “Pupas” also a tradition in my family. However, I am confused about the translation of the name. I always understood it to mean egg in a basket as a sign of new life for spring. Where does the doll with the egg translation come from? It literally looks like an egg in a basket. I fail to see the doll.

    • Thank you for your comment Gasper. I have read several interpretations of this Easter specialty. Pupa means doll in Italian. I think initially two eggs were used and the dough formed in a figure 8 which would look more like a doll. When I started making them with my children, they had small hands and it was easier to maneuver one egg. You are correct that the egg represents life and fertility; all symbols of spring and resurrection. I have also read that the braid around the egg represents Christ’s crown of thorns. Every family has their traditions and interpretations. Happy Easter.

      • Vito Raimondo says:

        Hi Judy. I printed out your Pupo Cu Lova recepie and going to make it with my kids and another family at my house. My mother used to make these when we were kids and hoping to share your great recipe with some great friends this Thursday evening.
        Quick question for you.
        I wanted to know if I can make the dough the day before(say wensday at 8pm) and then refridgerate it that night?
        My plan is to make the pupo cu lova cookie part the following day(Thursday at about 6pm) which would be 24 hours later.
        Will the dough still work 24 hours later with the baking powder in it?
        Also what should I sore it at temp wise?

      • Vito, thank you for commenting. It is a fun recipe to make with kids. I always make two batches of dough so we have plenty. You can make the dough the day before and keep it covered in the refrigerator overnight. When you roll the dough into ropes the next day for the braid, use a minimal amount of flour to keep them from sticking. Sometimes, I don’t need any flour for rolling out, it just depends on the humidity the day I am baking. I hope the recipe works well for you. Happy Easter. Judy

      • The pupa con l’uova are stored room temperature in an airtight container.

  2. nicole says:

    This might be a stupid question but do you put the egg in before you put them in the oven? Or just place them in aftet?

  3. Mary says:

    My mom also made dolls for the girls and a dove for the boys.Lydia Bastinach makes a pupa on her website however if you turn it upside down and do not braid the bottom,it makes a great bunny face for the little ones

  4. Carrie D. says:

    Are the eggs raw or hardboiled before getting wrapped in the dough? My grandmother always made these…and never told her secrets! ;)

    • For this recipe I use eggs that are already boiled and colored. I have never tried them with raw eggs. Roll out the dough and braid it, then place the egg in the center pressing into the dough slightly. Have a Happy Easter.

  5. Mary says:

    I used to boil the eggs.,..now I color raw eggs and they bake in the dough.I think they work well both ways.

  6. Pingback: Traditional Italian Easter Recipe Roundup « An Italian-Canadian Life An Italian-Canadian Life

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