I’ve always been fascinated by Easter breads with a colourful whole egg in the middle. They just really appeal to me! And they’re ubiquitous in certain regions of Spain this time of the year. Easter, known here as Setmana Santa (Holy Week), is about to start with penance processions and a myriad of religious activities. More about that later but let’s focus now on our traditional Monas de Pascua! You too could make a pretty Easter egg-in-a-bread! They’re delightful light yeasted mini-loaves almost like brioche but with olive oil instead of butter and the subtle flavours of orange zest and orange blossom water traditional to Valencian monas. Crowned by colourful quail’s eggs which are very good for you! Could you possibly resist?! And Photo101 people, what’s doubled in this photo?
Yes, two Catalan flags! Notice how I’m following an old tradition of doing Photo101 coursework without leaving my balcony?
Now to help us along our merry mona-making way we’ll be following a recipe for Monas de Pascua I found on Fuensanta’s blog Lo He Cocinado Yo (I cooked it myself). She’s from Murcia, a city in South-eastern Spain where apparently they eat monas all year around! So she must be good! Her recipe is detailed and helpful plus her youtube video is excellent, in Spanish but with such clear steps and visuals that much will be understood by non-Spanish speakers.
I’ve followed the original recipe quite closely but added extra tips, used half the quantities and added orange blossom water.
Recipe for 12 small monas (or 6 bigger ones using chicken instead of quail eggs)
- 125g full-fat milk (warmed to tepid, not hot as this would kill the yeast)
- 13g fresh baker’s yeast
- 300g strong or 00 flour (sieved into a big bowl)
- 63g white granulated sugar (I used golden caster sugar)
- 125ml mild olive oil, with no strong flavour
- 1 large beaten egg (58g, or 60g if not adding orange blossom water)
- 4g salt
- grated zest of 1 orange or lemon
- half teaspoon orange blossom water – agua de azahar (optional)
- 12 quail eggs – just found out they’re really good for you! There’s an article here about them.
- beaten egg to glaze
Method (Fuensanta’s video is really helpful and I recommend you watch the relevant clip before you start each section)
- Warm the milk to a tepid temperature (around 35°C) and pour into a clean small-medium bowl.
- Sprinkle the yeast on the milk and whisk till dissolved.
- Add 1 tbsp of the sugar and 4 tbsps of the flour and whisk again till combined.
- Reserve the rest of the sugar and flour for later use.
- Cover the bowl of yeast with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes in a warm place to ferment.
30 minutes later
- Make a well in the flour and add the sugar, beaten egg, oil, salt, orange peel and orange blossom water if using.
- Start mixing with a spoon or a plastic scraper, using choppy movements, until more or less combined.
- Add the fermented yeast, little by little and keep mixing.
- Use your hands to finish off combining and when the dough is coming off the sides of the bowl, take out.
- Put the dough on a lightly oiled surface. Oil your hands too and knead the dough for at least 5 minutes. IMPORTANT NOTE: Fuensanta says it’s important not to add any flour. However, if your dough is much stickier than hers and refuses to leave the surface then add a tablespoon or so of flour until your dough consistency ressembles hers a little more! Just use the least flour possible for a nice dough. Also, I kneaded mine for about 10 to 15 minutes and suddenly felt it was forming a ball nicely and an airier dough. So keep kneading! OPTION: do this in a stand mixer! This dough ressembles a brioche one so have it on low for about 5 minutes or so using the dough hook until the dough comes off the sides of the bowl.
- Once you’re happy with your dough and it forms a ball but is still sticky to touch (see the video) then put it in a big lightly oiled clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- Prove in a warm place until it doubles in size, for about 1 hour (depending on how warm your place is).
In the meantime COOK THE EGGS!
I know in other recipes the eggs cook in the oven. Call me chicken (or quail) but I like the idea of boiling eggs clean before they go on bread.
Hello again! Let’s do the next bit!
- Flatten and knead the dough on a lightly oiled surface to get the gases out.
- Roll the dough out into a long sausage and split it into 12 pieces (each weighing about 55 grams) or 6 pieces weighing around 110g each if making bigger monas with chicken eggs.
- Take each piece and flatten it into a little circle then roll it up towards you. Pinch down each end to seal. Then roll around on the surface with the palm of your hand, exerting some pressure.
- You should roll until you feel that the dough ball has hardened a little and gained some resistance so when you poke with a finger it springs back a little. You can roll 2 balls at a time, one under each hand like Britain’s famous baker Paul Hollywood does on TV!! 🙂
- Shape the dough balls into long or round shapes. Plaited ones are nice but come out flatter.
- Put them on a baking tray with greaseproof paper and leave enough space between each for them to grow. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let them prove 1 hour or more (or less) somewhere warm until they double in size.
Another hour or two later!
When the dough looks almost ready preheat the oven to 175°C (static, non-convection oven) or 155°C (fan-assisted oven). Poke with your finger, if the dough springs back it’s not ready yet. When your fingerprint stays in it’s time to put them in the oven:
Just before you put them in the oven
- Brush the monas with beaten egg, gently and carefully so they don’t collapse!
- Carefully put a dyed egg in the middle of each mona (press down very very slightly). You don’t have to put eggs on all the monas.
- Sprinkle sugar on each mona, around the egg. I put a little less sugar on them than Fuensanta.
Bake in the oven for 18 to 20 minutes until golden brown
Like brioche, they’re best eaten warm or on the same day! But once cool they keep in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic film in the fridge for a few days. Or in the freezer for up to a few months (but without the egg on top). I’m also thinking of making bread pudding or pain perdu with the remainder.
You might be interested in knowing that families gather to eat mona on Easter Monday and traditionally godparents give their godchildren a mona after mass on Easter Sunday. The kids I taught English to last year confirmed this, and also said monas have become very modern, shaped for example like Sponge Bob, footballs or Disneyland castles! So typical monas here in Catalunyas have evolved far beyond the traditional ones in this recipe and are now chocolate sculptures! Here are photos of some I saw today in local bakeries. On a wackier note, I’ve just read there’s a rather strange custom of breaking your mona egg on someone else’s forehead! I vaguely remember a friend telling me this (I thought he was joking!) and will ask around some more but it was on Wikipedia so it must be true? More Easter stories next week!
And finally a confession. The Monas de Pascua were so delicious I kind of immediately had three in a row because I couldn’t stop myself. Someone has to do the research! 🙂 So I’m very happy with my Easter bread and might even pretend I’m from Murcia and make them all year round!
They were still delicious next day for breakfast with healthy Jasmine tea (I try) but getting a tiny bit drier so I understand why the Spanish have them with thick hot chocolate! Very popular with kids and the quail’s egg is excellent for breakfast!
I’ll take them to the Fiesta Friday party to share with everyone, and I just want to thank the host Angie at the Novice Gardener and her co-hosts Margy @La Petite Casserole. and Selma @Selma’s Table. Come and join us!
For now I bid you farewell sweet reader, wishing you a happy Easter week in advance with lots of bunnies, chocolate and other goodies! And Easter Spring joy of course! Hasta pronto! (see you soon!) or Hasta la vista, baby! as Arnold Schwarzenegger said!! 🙂