Menih (The Monk): Slovenian Easter cake

In Slovenia there is a lovely Easter tradition: On Easter Sunday one should go to Mass with a wicker basket full of food to be blessed before eating it later for lunch with your family. One item in the basket is often a plaited bread, beautiful to look at and wonderfully fragrant. This plaited bread has a soft, sweet delicate flavour and is called Menih, which in English means ‘monk’. This recipe is from Grandma Fani, born and raised in Slovenia. Many of you will already be familiar with it, especially if you live in or around the Friuli region which is close geographically and culturally to Slovenia. To all the rest of you, the discovery will be a delight because it is an irresistible sweet bread that, once tasted, will become a classic of your family get-togethers, and even on an ordinary workday!

Ingredients

  • Italian 00 flour 370 grams
  • brewer's yeast 5 grams
  • sugar 50 grams
  • butter 50 grams
  • eggs 1 unit
  • eggs 2 egg yolks
  • lemon Grated zest of a lemon
  • lemon Lemon juice
  • salt A pinch of salt
  • milk 1 millilitre
Information
180 minutes Total time
Serves 4 persons
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Preparation

First allow the milk to come to room temperature, then dissolve the yeast in it along with a teaspoon of sugar. Set it aside and let it ferment. With the electric mixer beat the egg and yolks together with the sugar, butter and lemon zest. Add the milk and yeast, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and then add the flour slowly until it turns into a ball (almost like dough for bread). Let it rise for an hour, covered with a damp cloth. After an hour, knead again and then let it rise for another hour. Knead once again and divide the dough into three equal parts. Each part should be shaped until it looks like a loaf 30 cm long. With these three loaves of dough you'll make a single plaited loaf, with the three ends pushed well together to form a "ball" or “head” at one end. The tradition is to put a boiled egg coloured with onion skins in this head of the Monk. If you like the idea, boil the egg in a little water with lots of red onion skins until it takes on a slightly dark colour. When you have made your plait, using your fingers open a hole in the ‘head’ end in which you place the egg with its thickest part upwards. Bake for 30 minutes at 180°C but be careful not to let it brown too much.

Tips
To give your boiled egg a beautiful red colour, you can boil it, as in the recipe, with lots of red onion skins. Alternatively, you could simply avail yourself of some food colouring.
Trivia
The tradition is to make the head of the monk from a boiled egg coloured red. When you have made your plait, in the endmost part of the dough make a hole with your fingers in which to place the egg, keeping the thickest part upwards. This technique of "embedding" real hard-boiled eggs also exists in other regions: in Puglia, for example, there are the famous ‘scarcelle’; in Sicily, similarly, is the famous ‘cicilio’.

Step by step

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