Saturday, October 17, 2009

EASTER BREAD






My mom made this sweet bread every year for Easter when I was young.  I decided to carry on the tradition for my family.  This bread is sweet and delicious and a real work of art! 

1 cup warm water
2 packages active dry yeast
7 cups flour
3/4 cup shortening of softened butter
1 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 eggs, divided
lemon (grated and juiced)
olive oil
5 or 6 eggs (dyed, but not cooked)
1 tablespoon milk
colored sugar

Heat water in microwave for about 30 seconds in a measuring cup.  Use a thermometer to make sure it is between 100-110* Add yeast and 2 tablespoons sugar to the cup and cover in a warm spot for 10 minutes.  Once you've activated the yeast and see the foam on top, pour it into a large mixing bowl, add 1 1/2 cups flour; with wooden spoon, stir until smooth. Cover with dish towel; let sit in a warm place for 1 hour. (I sit it on top of the oven and turn the oven on to 200 to keep it warm).

*I always activate my yeast first because one time it didn't rise right, see the hot cross bun eggs photo.  If yeast doesn't activate for some reason you can start over until it does and then add that to the flour.

About 20 minutes before dough is ready, with mixer at medium speed cream shortening, then gradually add sugar and salt, beating until smooth and fluffy. Beat in 1 egg at a time. Switch to dough hook and mix in dough, lemon peel and juice, then add 5 1/4 cups flour gradually.  Place dough in large, oiled bowl, brush top with olive oil, cover bowl with towel, let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk (1 hour and 45 minutes).


When doubled, turn dough onto floured board, knead until smooth. Divide dough into 4 equal parts, with your hands roll each piece into a rope about 18 inches long. Then gently twist 2 ropes together, repeat with other 2 ropes. Use a pizza stone or greased cookie sheet, connect the two strands into a ring, leaving holes for 5 or 6 eggs. Insert colored uncooked eggs. Cover ring with towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes.


Preheat oven to 350. Brush ring with mixture of egg yolk and milk. Sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake 30 to 40 minutes.


Serve plain or with butter. Eggs will be hard cooked and edible.


*To color eggs - combine 1 hot cup water, 1 tablespoon vinegar, 20 drops food coloring

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