It may seem early to start planning your Easter menu, but it never hurts to get some baking practice in. Why not try a sweet and festive Easter bread inspired by Russian coffee cake? The recipe comes from the book “Tava,” a comprehensive volume on Eastern European baking written by Romanian food writer Irina Georgescu. Georgescu laments that the baking traditions of Eastern Europe, and Romania in particular, are largely unknown. Her book aims to rectify this by introducing readers to a variety of tastes and techniques.
Some of the recipes in “Tava” may be unfamiliar to readers, such as rectangular slab pies filled with fruit or cheese, folded yeast-raised plum pastries made with lard and butter, and pear cake scented with sage. But there are also more familiar items from Austrian and Hungarian cuisine, such as strudels, as well as some entries from the Jewish repertoire, including “Jewish cookies with plum butter” (also known as hamantaschen for Purim) and a noodle kugel recipe from Transylvania that crackles with phyllo.
Georgescu provides rich historical context for the many nationalities that inhabit the region and have contributed to its culinary traditions. The only real shortcomings of the book are minor. Georgescu calls for medium eggs but neglects to mention that you can substitute large, and some of the pan sizes are unusual, requiring a bit of adaptation.
So why not start your Easter preparations early this year? You can use the opportunity to try out some of the delicious and unique recipes from “Tava,” and impress your family and friends with your newfound Eastern European baking skills. And if you’re wondering about the book’s title, “tava” simply means tray in Romanian.