Although Orthodox Easter and regular Easter fell on the same Sunday this year, we are celebrating Greek Easter this Sunday, and I have agreed to make the traditional bread buns shaped as bunnies. I intended to make them today, but things did not quite turn out as I would have hoped.
One of the things that makes Greek Easter Bread distinctive is an essential spice called mahlepi, or mahleb. It's just not Greek Easter Bread without mahlepi, but the only place around here that carries it is The Armenian Delight in Broomall. This store is great but open at very inconvenient hours, as in not past five o clock. When one's only reliable means of transportation doesn't get home until after five, this presents a problem (major thanks to Debbie Watson who went out today on our behalf and bought me some! You have my undying gratitude and (Lord willing) a small loaf of your own). Last night my father and I, in an ultimately futile but eternally hopeful journey, spent about two fruitless hours searching three different grocery stores for it. Not even the Head Nut carries it (although I did replenish my stores of rye flour, so that particular trip wasn't entirely wasted).
Because I had invited my tutoring student to come over today and help me make the bunnies, I went ahead and made some even without mahlepi. However, I was repaid for my flagrant disrespect of tradition and the Gods of Greek Easter Bread...when some five hours after beginning the baking process we pulled the blackened corpses of the innocent, and now sacrificial, bunnies from the oven. Their blistered raisin eyes shall haunt my dreams tonight...
To top it all off, the recipe I use is an old one from my grandmother, and it's not perfect. That is, the bread is always wonderfully flavored, but it uses the traditional proofing method for the yeast, and I have to say that about half the time, the bread will mysteriously refuse to rise. I am pretty confident about my ability to tweak the recipe into a more reliable method of fermentation. I really want to do so, but am extremely nervous about messing with tradition. Especially considering what happened when I dared flaunt it today. I'm still not sure how I'm going to tackle the issue, but I'll have to decide by tomorrow morning.
Wish me luck.