No Easter passes without family gathering in Croatia, not to mention a table full of tasty delicacies. Yet, if we would have to mention one specialty that centers the Easter table, it might as well be Istrian pinca. A kind of sweet bread, it is one of those things that has numerous variations in the recipe. To some extent, each house has its own version of this food and constantly works on improving its taste.
Istrian pinca is traditionally prepared on Thursday of the Holy Week (a seven-day period that concludes with Easter on Sunday). In recent times, the delicacy is made on Saturday and consumed for breakfast on Easter Day. Before that, usually early in the morning, the meal is brought to local church for blessing.
The knowledge of preparing pinca is very valued. Despite cultural gap, younger generations have genuine interest of learning how to make the meal. One occasion where this can be done is Zminj, an Istrian settlement that organizes an annual event promoting old ways of food preparation. The event is callied Istrijanski pinci pod cerepnjom na ugnjisce and is organized on Palm Sunday.
One of the most notable experts in the field is Zdenka Jakus, a skilful local woman that is in charge of making “mega-pinca”, a large variation of the dish that weights 45 kilograms and can reach the radius of almost one meter.
“If you can, make Istrian pinca below a peka bell. When you make it in the regular oven, a lot of its aromas vanish in thin air,” Zdenka explains. “Back in the old days, we made it with simple flour, sugar and eggs in addition to vine grapes that were dried in cellars. Add some spices to your liking and fresh yeast, and you’ll certainly have good results.”
Once the dough is formed, it should be left in a warm room for 45 minutes. Then it should be kneaded once more before proceeding to baking. On average, this part of procedure takes 45 minutes. At the end, it is a custom to inscribe a cross on pinca’s top crust and decorate it with four leafs of olive tree.
“When I was a child, we anxiously waited for Easter and pinca dining. It wasn’t a meal that was made every day. Today, times have changed,” Zdenka concludes, watching how her favorite specialty receives a golden color next to open flame.
Photo: Goran Sebelic / Hanza Media