Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just When You Think You've Had Enough

I'm pretty excited for Easter.  It's a wonderful, purposeful celebration of love, sacrifice, and life.
And the food.  Let's not try to lie here, friends.  I am religious.  I am spiritual.  I do celebrate the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

But the food!

What is it about Easter that recommends peanut butter dipped in chocolate?  Marshmallow everything, and sweet breads?  I don't know, but I like it.

As a little girl, we would always go to the Italian Aunties' for Easter. They would give us enormous Easter baskets, filled to the brim with all the sorts of candy my mother would never let us take home.  So it became an Easter tradition: my sister and I would eat the entire contents of our lovingly gifted baskets in one weekend, usually in one day.  And before we drove home - three long, sickening hours - we would wait to see who got sick first.  Whoever did was the lucky winner.  "Lucky?"  Oh, yes.  Whomever didn't make it to the [one] bathroom in the house had to go to the outhouse by the garden to be sick.  I remember distinctly one year, sitting on the mottled carpet steps, my head leaning against the cool papered wall, willing myself to hold on just a little ... while ... longer.  I was sure my sister was almost finished in there - she had to be! - and I could avoid the trip to the outhouse.

Whoever thought it was a good idea to fill a basket with candy and give it to someone who would make themself sick, year after year??  We turned out to be intelligent women, after all.  [I put games and coloring books in my girls' baskets.]

At home, we had two traditional Easter treats.  Peanut Butter Easter Eggs (think Reese's, but better), and Easter Bread.  As an adult, I've stuck to my childhood promise that I would make them more than once a year. Tomorrow morning, we're choosing our colors for the dyed eggs and will take Little Chick reading breaks while we wait for the colors to ripen.  I'll post pictures as we come along...

Easter Bread

Dye about 6 raw eggs in various bright colors.  Set aside.*

In mixer bowl with bread hook place:
  •  ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Add warmed:
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter

Add and mix for 2 minutes:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 ½ tablespoons yeast

Add and combine:
  • 2 eggs

Add and mix/knead for 10 minutes:
  • 2 cups flour

Just before finished, add a handful each of:
  • Walnuts
  • Golden raisins

Cover and rise for 1 hour.

Divide in half and roll into two 24” ropes.  Twist together and form a ring.  *Place raw dyed eggs to create “nests” where the two ropes cross.

Cover and rise 1 hour.  Preheat oven to 3500.

Bake for 30 minutes, placing foil on top to avoid over-browning.
When partially cooled, drizzle generously with vanilla glaze (recipe follows pictures).
Decorate with colored sprinkles. 

Resist the urge to add too many nuts and raisins, which you should
knead in by hand.  (Too many will make your ropes rough and fragile.)
Dough will not be sticky, but lovely and smooth like this.

Finished with the first rise.

Punch down - knead 2-3 times.  Divide dough in two.

Make two 24" ropes.  Start with both hands flat in the middle and
roll to the outside edges until desired length is reached.

Cross one over the top.

Cross the new top piece over the bottom.
Continue to the end of your ropes.

Circle the braided ropes around and tuck in your ends.
Place on a baking sheet.

Insert colored eggs into the crosses to make "nests".  (Number
of eggs can vary - depends on how many twists are in your bread.)

Notice the difference: pre-rise #2...

...post rise #2.

Alternately, you can make 4-6 individual
breads with a single egg in the middle.
Vanilla Glaze
Melt:
  • 1 teaspoon butter

Add and mix until smooth:
  • +/- 3 tablespoons milk (to desired consistency, and I usually use heavy cream to start, and use milk  to thin)
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
Great plain, or with butter, or extra glaze, or both....

2 comments:

DeNae / SHP said...

So do the eggs cook? Or are they just for decoration? Oh, and you amaze me. Again.

The Short Italian said...

The eggs do cook... they taste essentially like a hard-boiled egg. It's a nice contrast to the sweet icing. Makes you feel like you can have another piece of bread, because, well, you ate an egg!