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Pinza and titola

Traditional Easter desserts from Trieste
pinza e titole
This time-honoured yeast dough recipe was prepared in large quantities and then used to make various baked goods.
The shape of pinza is reminiscent of the vinegar-soaked sponge that was given to Jesus by the soldiers.
Titola, on the other hand, is a braided bread with a coloured egg inserted at one end.
According to a tradition in the Catholic culture as well as the Greek and Serbian Orthodox cultures, the shape of titola recalls the nails used in the crucifixion and the red coloured egg brings to mind the stones of Calvary, stained with the bright-red blood that flowed from the cross.

The recipe below is taken from La Cucina Triestina by Maria Stelvio.

Ingredients (for 6 pinzas)

First yeast dough

50 g brewer's yeast
350 g flour
1 tsp sugar

Second dough
500 g flour
100 g sugar
50 g butter
3 eggs
2 egg yolks

Third dough
1 kg flour
350 g sugar
100 g butter
250 ml egg yolk
250 ml egg
100 ml rum
dash of salt


Before beginning, here are a few recommendations for best results: the ingredients must be at room temperature, not cold from the refrigerator; the butter must be melted and, of course, should be added to the dough while tepid; it is very important that the pinza is kneaded and left to rise in a warm and draught-free environment.

First dough
Crumble the yeast in a mixing bowl and mix it with a little warm water and a teaspoon of sugar and then add the flour.
Add enough tepid water to obtain a soft dough. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and let it rise in a warm place with a constant temperature.

Second dough
When the first yeast dough has doubled in volume, alternately add a little at a time flour, sugar, melted tepid butter, egg yolks and eggs.
Mix well, cover the bowl with a floured napkin and let it rise in a warm place for two hours.

Third dough

When the dough has doubled in volume again, make a mound of flour on the work table, create a well in the middle and place the risen dough inside, along with the sugar, melted butter and a dash of salt. Start kneading the mixture and gradually add the rum, eggs and egg yolks.

Knead vigorously with the fists, flouring the pastry board as needed. The dough will initially be sticky, but after an hour of kneading it will become soft and so elastic that the surface will immediately become smooth again if a finger is pressed into it.

Shape into six cakes, arrange them on buttered baking paper and allow to rise in a warm place. When they have almost doubled in size, brush them with egg yolk and use scissors to make star-shaped cuts about 3 cm deep.

Preheat the oven to 180-190°C and bake one pinza at a time.

The ones that have already risen must be briefly kneaded and allowed to rise again until the oven is free. Bake for approximately 40 minutes.