This post is also available in Italiano
At the end of the Jewish Passover, Pesach, Jews of North Africa, now scattered in many places including Italy, celebrate a very special celebration called Mimouna. This occasion not only celebrates the fact that they can finally eat bread, but also the arrival of spring.
The origin of the word mimouna is very uncertain. It seems that the word originates from the term that in Hebrew means faith and in Arabic means happiness, but there are also those who think that the word originates from the name Maimon, the father of one of the most famous Judaism philosophers, Rambam.
The Holiday begins after sunset on the last day of Pesach.
In many communities, Jews received from their neighbors, particularly Muslims, baskets of flour, buckwheat and yeast to prepare bread at the end of Pesach, when Jews did not have the necessary ingredients because of the holiday ban.
Jews, in return, opened their homes to visitors, preparing tables full of sweets, cakes and other products of symbolic significance.
The mimouna festival began with baking bread. The whole family attended this ceremony, expectantly waiting for the fresh bread, much craved after a week of eating matza.
In Libya, where my family comes from, Jews prepared bread that had the same name as the festival, mimouna. I will be telling you about this recipe today.
It is a very special and festive bread that holds an egg, and a lucky charm inside, and is a symbol of the life circle.
Women used to prepare such bread for each family member to give each one a special blessing. It was believed, in fact that the night of the mimouna heaven opened to welcome the prayers of men.
In Italy, at Easter, in many parts of the country and particularly in the South, bread similar to mimouna is prepared.
In the past, during the Lent, severe food bans were observed, banning the consumption of meat, eggs, and cheeses, but with the coming of the Holy Week, all foo restrictions ended, and eggs returned center-stage on the Easter table.
In Sicily, for example, where I am right now, a bread is prepared called “coddura”, probably of orthodox origin, round in shape, with a variable number of hard-boiled eggs.
Breads like these are very common throughout Mediterranean countries. Similar ones are found in Apulia, Calabria, Campania, and also in Greece, where a particular bread with eggs is eaten at Easter called tsoureki.
Eggs are a recurring ingredient in many recipes during the Easter season, because in Christianity they represent the empty tomb of Jesus, while in other religions, even the most ancient ones, they are a symbol of fertility and rebirth.
Are there any recipes, in your family’s tradition, that require this symbolic union of bread and eggs? I would be very happy to read some in the comments.
- 1 kg all purpose flour
- 50 g fresh yeast
- 1½ cup sugar (some prefer to omit it)
- 1 cup light olive or peanut seed oil
- 500 ml water approx.
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 teaspoon onion or black cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons raisins (some prefer to omit them)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- boiled eggs, for decoration
- Dissolve the yeast in a large bowl with water. Let it rest for a few minutes to reactivate the yeast, particularly if you use dry powdered yeast.
- Slowly add the sugar, oil, salt, seeds and flour to the bowl, a little at a time, because you may not need to use it all, depending on the weather conditions and many other unforeseeable factors.
- When the dough becomes compact and no longer sticks to your hands, knead it well on a floured surface for ten minutes, then transfer it to a slightly greased bowl and let it rise for at least one hour (even two if you want) covered with a damp cloth, until it doubles.
- When the dough rises to the fullest, prepare some molds in your favorite size and place on a tray covered with parchment paper.
- With the help of your fingers or a wooden spoon, open a hole in the center of each loaf of bread and place a well-washed and brushed hard-boiled egg. Let the bread rise for another half hour, and then place it in the oven, already preheated to 180° C.
- The bread is ready when the surface takes on a nice color and the bread base is solid. The cooking times vary according to the size of the loaf; about half an hour should be enough.
- Let the bread cool on a wire rack for about half an hour before slicing it.