These are breads to accompany festivals and holidays. These seem to be mostly religious festivals, Passover, Christmas, Day of the Dead, St. Swithin’s Day, Easter and the like.
Most of these breads are made with added sugar, milk, butter, nuts, fruit and spices. Some of them are almost rich enough to qualify as cake, while a few of them are fairly lean. There isn’t really much to separate these festive breads from ordinary sweet breads except tradition. In fact, Challah, the wonderful Jewish Sabbath and special occasion bread, has entered the mainstream in food stores in the US in a big way and is readily available. If you want to buy some of the other festive breads, you will have to travel to markets and grocery stores in ethnic neighborhoods. Here in New Jersey, we have quite a few excellent shops offering a wide variety of special festive breads.
If you want to learn more about these rich, wondeerful breads, find a little book by Kathy Cutler, “The Festive Bread Book.” It’s long out of print, but available on the internet from time to tme. She has put together over 100 recipes for festive breads from all over the world.
For the Jewish holiday tradition, look for Maggie Glezer’s “A Blessing of Bread,” a journey through the bread and the Jewish baking tradition from many lands and times.
For Greek holiday breads (You knew this was coming, right?), try to find Rosemary Barron’s “Flavors of Greece.”
Lastly, but certainly not least, find my favorite “little” bread book, “The Cook’s Guide to Bread,” by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.
All these books have good, reliable recipes for festive breads and, especially in the case of Maggie Glezer’s book, some great background stories and reading.
I’m on the lookout for a book on German and Eastern European festive or holiday breads. I have quite a few recipes for these breads, but I would love to get a baking book with a lot of these recipes and some discussion of the breads, the holidays and how they fit together.
Take a look at the recipes I’ve posted and see if one of them interests you. I’ll be adding others as time goes by, so check in.