Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weekend Recipe: Easter Bread

This bread is a family recipe, as well as an Easter tradition coming through the generations from my dad's side of the family. My parents would make the bread a day or two before Easter, then that Sunday morning we would eat the bread along with the eggs we had dyed earlier in the week.

The lowdown: it's a decorative, tasty bread that looks like a bird's nest when finished. Use raw eggs that you've colored to put in the center. They bake right along with the bread! This Easter bread is especially tasty because it has a hint of lemon in it. My favorite way to eat it is warmed up, with butter spread on top. {And don't let me mislead you here - this could easily be called Anytime Bread instead of limiting it to just once a year!}

I finally took some pictures this year as I worked, and I'm so excited to share this delicious recipe with you! Let's dig in!

Easter Bread

1 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 cups sifted flour
3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs, divided
4 tsp grated lemon rind
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 1/4 cup sifted flour
1 tbsp cream or milk
Colored sprinkles
4-8 raw eggs to color (they bake along with the bread!)

Mix lukewarm water, yeast and 2 tbsp sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups sifted flour, and stir until smooth. Cover bowl and put in a warm place 1 1/2 hours.

Color 4-8 raw eggs and set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, cream shortening, gradually adding in 1 cup sugar and the salt. Beat in 2 whole eggs, plus 1 egg white, saving the third yolk for later use. Beat until smooth and fluffy. Stir in the yeast mixture, grated lemon rind, and lemon juice. Stir in approximately 3 1/4 cups flour to make easily handled dough. Place in a large, well-greased bowl and brush with melted butter or shortening. Cover and let rise until doubled (1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Once dough has doubled in size, turn onto a floured surface and knead gently. Let rest for 2 minutes. Divide into four parts. Form each quarter into a rope, about 18 inches long.

(Note: I have made 4 smaller rings, which are very nice for sharing or freezing, but I have also made one big "nest" from this recipe. I make two ropes and twist them together, then form the big nest, placing eggs in the center or tucking them into the folds.)

Grease 1 or 2 large cookie sheets (depending on whether you make one large nest or up to 4 smaller nests). Form loosely braided rings by twisting each rope around itself, like a bird's nest, leaving space for colored eggs. Pinch the ends together to seal the ring. Insert 1 or 2 eggs into the center of each ring. Arrange two rings on each cookie sheet, leaving room to rise. Cover and let rise until doubled again. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Once rings have doubled again, bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Take out and brush with remaining egg yolk, beaten with 1 tbsp cream or milk. Top with sprinkles and bake another 30-40 minutes, depending on size of loaves.

Let me know if you try it, and if you do, how it turns out for you!

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