A popular sweet yeast bread made by Croatians and Slovenes at Easter time is known as pinca or sirnica (although in Bosnia and elsewhere in the Balkans, sirnica is a cheese filo pie). It is often studded with raisins or citron and is round in shape. Some cooks scatter coarse sugar on the top before baking. A small pinca, along with other symbolic foods, is often placed in the Easter food basket to be blessed on Holy Saturday and eaten Easter morning. Additionally, if you enjoy this, we'd recommend trying your hand at the Croatian bread offering at Easter is Bread Dolls Recipe or Primorski Uskrsne Bebe.
- For the Bread:
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 4 ounces warm milk
- 4 ounces raisins (dark or light)
- 2 tablespoons Croatian grape brandy (rakija komovica) or plum brandy (slivovitz)
- 5 cups all-purpose flour
- 5 ounces cold butter (cut into pieces)
- 7 ounces sugar
- 4 largeegg yolks
- 2 teaspoons orange zest
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- For the Egg Wash:
- 1 large beaten egg
- Optional Garnish: sprinkling of coarse sugar
In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar and 4 ounces warm milk. Stir with a fork, cover and set aside to become foamy. Meanwhile, in a separate small bowl, combine raisins with grape brandy and set aside.
In a large bowl or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cut the cold butter into the flour until fine crumbles result. Switch to the dough hook attachment (or knead by hand) and add 7 ounces sugar, egg yolks, yeast mixture, zests, and vanilla. Knead on medium speed until dough forms into a ball. Add the raisins and the soaking liquid, and continue to knead on low speed until raisins are distributed evenly and the dough is smooth. Add more warm milk if too dry or more flour if too wet. Scrape down the sides and cover the bowl with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. This can take up to 2 hours.
When the dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and shape each into a round loaf. Place each round loaf onto a parchment-lined baking sheet pan, spacing well apart. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. This can take up to 2 hours.
Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Brush the tops of the loaves with beaten egg. Then, using scissors, cut a deep "X in the tops to form a cross shape. Sprinkle with coarse sugar, if desired. Bake 30 to 45 minutes, but start checking for doneness after 25 minutes. An instant-read thermometer should register at least 190 degrees when plunged into the middle of the bread. Remove from oven and from sheet pan, and cool completely on a wire rack. Store cooled pinca in a breadbox or covered loosely with a kitchen towel.