It was as if it was divine intervention. We finally found morcilla (see picture of sausages below – it’s the black one) in a specialty store up the block but we weren’t prepared to make a fabada or cocido – two other Spanish dishes which call for morcilla. I picked up one of my favorite Spanish cookbooks, The Food & Wine of Spain by Penelope Casas and looked up morcilla in it’s index. One recipe caught my eye, so I turned to the page and everything in the world just seemed be right. The recipe was for a traditional Spanish Easter bread called hornazo – basically a sausage-stuffed country bread. Whoa, sausage and bread all in one? Here in New York City there’s sausage rolls similar to this one from Proud Italian Cook. There’s also stromboli’s and calzone’s that can be stuffed with sausage, but they will also include sauce and/or cheese and maybe some extra ingredients.
What really drew me to this recipe, besides the use of my beloved morcilla, was the timing. Easter’s almost here and as you can tell we’re mildly obsessed with Spain… this recipe just seemed special. I really love authentic food traditions because, in America, we’re losing them every year. This month, Saveur magazine had a fascinating article about the southern Italian bread called pane di San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph’s bread) eaten in Sicily on the Feast of Saint Joseph on March 19th. The article was particularly interesting to me because as an Italian-American, I’ve always been intrigued by my Italian background and I always wished my grandmother offered up more stories growing up. Like some other first-generation Americans, my grandmother “conveniently” forgot certain parts of her history as she got older. It was as if the past was the past and they needed to look ahead. Anyways, according to the Saveur article, Saint Joseph’s bread was very popular in Italian communities in the US until recently, when most of the first-generation Italian-Americans died off. Many southern Italians living in America do not make this bread anymore – the tradition is dying off with the generation that used to make it. It just made me think about how sadit is that we all came from immigrants from various countries and it’s important to hold on to some of the traditions of the past. Talk to your grandparents. Ask them to share stories. Write things down. My grandmother is not around anymore, but my mother shares things with me – like my grandmom’s famous (well, famous in our family at least!) sausage and peppers sandwiches.
But, back to Easter and bread made around the world during this time. Easter bread is different in depending on the country. The Russians have kulich, the Ukranians have paska, the Greeks have tsoureki, the English have hot cross buns. The Spanish have hornazo. According to research, this Salamancan bread is traditionally eaten to celebrate the end of Lent. Obviously, a great way to celebrate a fasting of meat is to eat lots of it (with the sausage). Back in the day, eggs were looked at as a ‘sort of meat’ since they came from chickens and were not allowed to be eaten during Lent. They were preserved by hardboiling them and used in hornazo. Legend has it that this may actually be the beginnings of the term “easter egg”, according to Wikipedia. Also back in the day, during Lent, prostitutes in Salamenca were ordered across the river so that the men in town were able to concentrate on their religious observences. The men celebrated their ho’s coming home after Easter was over by partying and eating hornazo (maybe the word hornazo comes from what the men got when their ho’s returned?). This is how the “Monday of the Waters” festival began. Gotta love how Christianity puts a temporary bandaid on lustful thoughts and actions.
Even if you can’t find morcilla to add to your hornazo, you could still use this fabulous bread recipe and stuff it with whatever you choose. I know I’m going to make it all year round – why wait for Easter!? Happy Easter, everyone!
- 1 1/4 cups warm water
- 1 package dry yeast
- 3 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
- cornmeal or breadcrumbs for sprinkling
- 1 egg white for brushing (optional)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 pound bacon, sliced into bits
- 2 links of morcilla sausage, cut in half crosswise
- 2 links choizo, cut in half crosswise
- 2 hardboiled eggs, shelled
What to do:
- Mix 1/4 cup of the warm water with the yeast. While this sits, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl and then add the softened yeast along with the remaining cup of water. Mix this with a wooden spoon until it’s all combined then turn out on a floured working surface.
- The dough at this stage will really not hold together well, but as you knead it, it will become perfect. Knead dough for 10 (YES, 10) minutes, adding more flour if necessary.
- Place the dough in a bowl greased with olive oil, roll the dough in the oil and cover cover with a towel. Allow to rise in a dark, draft-free and warm spot for about 3 hours, or until it doubles in size.
- While the dough is rising, saute your bacon first, then save the crispy bits and the rendered fat (this is very important). Next, saute your morcilla and chorizo, put the rendered fat in the bacon fat to keep. Allow to cool. Make sure you hard-boil your eggs and allow to cool.
- After the 3 hour dough resting period, punch down the dough and add a few tablespoons of the rendered fat to the dough as well as the bacon pieces. Knead this all together for awhile, adding more flour as necessary.
- Shape into a ball once the oil and bacon is all incorporated. Next comes the interesting part. Using a knife, make slits in the dough and push in all the pieces of sausage as well as the whole eggs into them. You may need to pinch the dough to create a “seal” around the eggs/sausage. When this is done, you should not really see any of the fillings. It may seem impossible to fit all of these bits, but it really is. The more filling you have, the better the bread is. Don’t worry if some of it pops up. **NOTE: If I can, I recommend putting all the pieces of sausage in the same way so when you cut into the bread, you don’t cut length-wise, but cross-wise so it stays together a bit more easily.
- Place the dough, pinched side down on a baking tray sprinkled with cornmeal. Flatten the dough slightly and allow to rise for another hour in a dark, warm, draft-free spot. It will double in size again.
- Place the bread on the top shelf of a 450 degree oven with a pan of water on the bottom shelf of the oven, for 5 minutes. (OPTIONAL STEP: Remove the pan of oven and the mix the egg white with 1 teaspoon of water and brush on the bread.)
- Continue to bake the bread 15 minutes more, or until well browned.