Easter Bread

My yearly Easter anxiety is finally over… Yeah! It rose, it baked beautifully and is delish!

I guess my desire to try new recipes and to self-improve my cooking skills stems from a few sleepless before-Easter nights. Or is it Firefox’ New Tab feature?!

I read, I imagined, I felt like a cartoon character with a constant bubble above her head that read: “Easter Bread?” Should it be French Brioche or Italian Panettone, Russian Kulich, Greek Tsoureki, Bulgarian Kouzunak, English Hot Cross Buns, Belgian Cramique or …? It wasn’t a dilemma, it was my yearly Easter-emma!

The night before the big day, I decided I am sticking to my grandma’s traditional recipe and using a new braiding technique. I ended up playing with fresh yeast for the first time ever and adding orange zest and orange juice to the dough. I also slightly deviated from the traditional raisins and almonds filling and I used dark chocolate chips and walnuts with cinnamon sugar.

Lila Downs with her Pecados y Milagros album helped tremendously for the final results!

Христос Воскресе!

Easter Bread

Ingredients

Sponge

25 gr fresh yeast or 4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon flour
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon salt

Mix all sponge ingredients together and set the sponge uncovered and undisturbed for 30-40 minutes in a warm place. Once the yeast is activated, the sponge will be bubbly and double or more in size.

Dough

300gr granulated sugar
6 eggs
250ml milk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla
1 tablespoon dark rum
Grated zest and juice of one large lemon
Grated zest and juice of one medium-sized orange
1 kg all-purpose flour
250 gr butter, melted and cooled
1 egg yolk, for egg wash
Sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Filling Ideas

* Make your picks and improvise to your liking

  • Raisins soaked overnight in dark rum
  • Almonds/walnuts, sugar, cinnamon
  • Chocolate chips
  • Thick jam
  • Cinnamon sugar

Directions

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat in sugar and eggs on medium speed, until well combined. Add milk.
  2. Add vanilla, rum, grated lemon and orange zests, lemon and orange juice.
  3. Add in the sponge.
  4. Sift the flour.
  5. Attach the dough hook and reduce the mixer speed to low and start adding slowly ½ cup of flour at a time until all the flour is incorporated. Stop to scrape down the hook and bowl as needed. Continue mixing until you have a cohesive dough. Your mixer will become hot so make sure that you allow the time for your mixer to cool.
  6. Add the butter a few tablespoons at a time until you have a soft and smooth dough. *I usually start adding the butter with the help of the mixer. Then I will butter my hands and knead the dough incorporating the butter that way.
  7. Transfer the dough to a very large buttered bowl, cover with a cotton towel (the dough needs to breath) and let rise in a warm place, undisturbed until the dough has doubled in bulk, usually 1 to 2 hours.
  8. Deflate the dough and divide into 4 equal pieces.
  9. With buttered hands, shape each piece into a rectangle that is 20 inches long, 5 inches wide, and ¼ inch thick. Spread your filling and roll up each rectangle jelly-roll fashion.
  10. Braid your bread.
  11. Generously butter your pan and place the braided bread in the pan. I use a 6 qt dutch oven. Cover with a cotton towel (the bread needs to breath) and let rise in a warm place, undisturbed until the bread has reached the middle of the pan, usually 1 hour.
  12. Preheat the oven to 350F and position the rack in the middle.
  13. Paint the bread with the egg yolk and sprinkle generously with the sanding sugar.
  14. Bake until a tester inserted into center of the bread comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 15 minutes. Unmold the bread from pan and cool completely before slicing.
  15. Store wrapped in cotton towel and placed in a plastic bag.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Easter Bread

  1. This looks FANTASTIC! So professionally plaited!

  2. Wendy says:

    Your loaf looks great! I’ll have to try the braiding technique.

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