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!
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.
300gr granulated sugar
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
* Make your picks and improvise to your liking
- Raisins soaked overnight in dark rum
- Almonds/walnuts, sugar, cinnamon
- Chocolate chips
- Thick jam
- Cinnamon sugar
- 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.
- Add vanilla, rum, grated lemon and orange zests, lemon and orange juice.
- Add in the sponge.
- Sift the flour.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Deflate the dough and divide into 4 equal pieces.
- 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.
- Braid your bread.
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 350F and position the rack in the middle.
- Paint the bread with the egg yolk and sprinkle generously with the sanding sugar.
- 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.
- Store wrapped in cotton towel and placed in a plastic bag.