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 ¼ 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

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.


This entry was posted in Cookies, Desserts, Easter. Bookmark the permalink.

35 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.

    • Mary-Jean (Servello) McMillan says:

      I’m pretty sure my mom used soft-boiled eggs, then they finished cooking during the baking process (we’re in SoCal and baked them at 350, not 400). One year she made the cookies for a big family picnic. But, she forgot to cook the eggs first and when all the kids broke into them, they made a mess all over! lol So, they definitely need to be pre-cooked. (Mom always did a criscross handle over the top of the egg to resemble a basket, too.)

      • Mary-Jean (Servello) McMillan says:

        Oops,looks like I posted the same comment last year. I remember speaking to you about the recipe, but couldn’t remember if we talked about them for Christmas or Easter. My grandma (and mom) would use this same dough recipe for Sicilian Fig Cookies at Christmastime. Our recipe has 1/4 cup less Crisco and sugar and less baking powder (but could be the lower altitude in So Cal) and 1 cup less flour). They also didn’t use the flavors you use, but yours sounds good, too! I might try the extra sugar and Crisco as my husband (not an Italian) doesn’t care for them because he thinks they are too dry of a cookie.

  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

  7. nikki says:

    Hey, Jude! Happy Easter to you and yours. Just checking my Pupa Col’uova recipe against yours (I thought mine was missing something). What would I do without you?!

  8. Pingback: Traditional Italian Easter Recipe Roundup | An Italian Canadian Life

  9. M.J. "Servello" says:

    Your dough recipe is very similar to my grandmother’s. As I kid I would help my mom make these, but we would add a piece of dough over the top to form the handle of an Easter basket. I love the idea, though, that the base repesents Jesus’ crown of thorns (mom would have loved that interpretation as well). I believe my mom would soft boil the eggs first so they wouldn’t be overdone when baked. One year she forgot to cook the eggs first and brought them to the family picnic. All the kids broke into the eggs and found them raw! Now one of the funny memories about my mom. Your addition of the flavorings sounds interesting. As a kid, my dad would let me have some anisette after dinner so the anise flavor sounds good.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I enjoyed learning of your family tradition with the cookies. The story about the raw egg is funny. I could see that happening. I love the flavor of anisette but feel free to use any combination that appeals to you. I look forward to the Italian food traditions that surround the holidays. Judy

      • M.J. 'Servello" says:

        We also use this dough for the Italian fig cookies (ciudada). The dough is known inmy family as ‘Uncle Lindy’s Mother’s cookies”. (She was my dad’s mother, but the funny thing is she wasn’t Sicilian like my mom – she was Calarese). We didn’t realize the fig cookies are actually Sicilian, until after my mom and everyone from her generation were gone. It’s left me wondering about my Calabrese nana making them. She would be more than 120 years old so the recipe has been around for quite some time. (It’s possible my mom got the recipe for the fig filling from her Sicilian aunt) Were your relatives all Sicilian?

      • The pupa con l’uova dough is very versatile. It would make sense to use it for Cucidati. My mother’s family is Sicilian. My grandfather immigrated permanently to the U.S. around 1914. My great aunts all got together at Easter and Christmastime to bake cookies and breads. I was very young when the last of that generation passed away. I wish we had more of their recipes. Where in Sicily is your family from?

      • M.J. "Servello" says:

        I hope my previous post didn’t go thru multiple times. It didn’t seem to be posting. My mom’s parents were both from Palermo and my dad’s were both from Calabria. They all came in the early 1900’s as well. I only knew 2 of them. I’m 48 and my parents had me in their 40’s so unfortunately the 2 I did know died when I was a kid, but I had lots of aunts (and uncles), too, and they were all awesome. So proud to be Italian – we’re all about food & family! Lol

      • Very interesting. We are close in age and I find the older I get, the more I cling to the old family traditions. Family and food make for a rich life. I look forward to more exchanges with you.

  10. Rose Z says:

    Hi Judy, just made your recipe and they are fabulous. My husband said these are pretty close to his Aunt Mary’s recipe. My husband’s family is from Sicily and my family is from Bari. So we are truly Italian. I love these recipes. Keep them coming! 😀Thank you and HAPPY EASTER to you.

  11. LuAnn Bondanza says:

    Hello Judy, You wrote above the older you get, the more you seem to cling to family traditions. I find this to be so true with myself. I grew up in a Sicilian/Italian home, helping my Mom with the seasonal baking. She is gone now but when I came across your recipe I had to try it. It was so easy and they came out wonderful. I posted a picture of them on Facebook, telling all this was my first attempt. I shared them with my family and neighbors, hoping Mom would be proud of my efforts in keeping the tradition going. Everyone loved them! Thanks.

    • LuAnn, thank you for taking the time to comment. I’m happy to know that the pupa con l’uova turned out well and you were able to share them. We are fortunate to have grown up in a culture with these wonderful and enriching holiday traditions. Hopefully, they will continue on through many more generations. Judy

  12. virginia says:

    Hi I have my aunts recipe and my moms what concerns me is the amount of baking powder your using 1 TBL, per5 c flour mine is 6 tsp to 6 cups such a big diffrence

    • Virginia, thank you for commenting. I live at high altitude – 4500 feet above sea level, so I use less baking powder. If you are at sea level, more baking powder is probably necessary. This recipe makes a fairly dense cookie. Happy Easter.

  13. Mary Ann Horne says:

    how does your coloring stick to the eggs so well mine some of mine comes off during baking?

  14. Michele says:

    Isn’t this recipe the same or similar to cuccidati dough?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s