I hope you all had a happy and relaxing Easter/Passover holiday! We did a lot of cooking and roaming around my parent’s house.
Yesterday Zara and I tried our hand at Russian (or Italian depending on who you talk to) Easter Bread.
I have actually never tried this bread before, but I always see it around the holiday and I think it is so beautiful. There are many variations, but I decided to go with what seemed like a tried and true epicurious recipe.
This recipe seems easy enough, it doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of ingredients and I thought Z would be interested in making (and eating this).
We took several eggs we dyed (and the Easter Bunny hid) to use as part of the braided decoration. Full disclosure. Dye eggs ahead of time if you are going to dye them. Otherwise you can use plain brown or white eggs hard boiled. The eggs need to be completely dried before you add them to the bread.
First, you need to make the dough. This is where I think I may have failed, but I’ll walk you through what I did (and didn’t) do.
I did not make this in the food processor like suggested. Why? Well I really like making dough with my hands. I like the texture and I think it helps you feel when the bread has been processed enough and when all the ingredients are mixed through. If you do not like to do this, or, if you have a child like mine who does not like to get their hands dirty, use a kitchenaid with the dough hook (if you are so lucky) or a large food processor that has a blade that can handle the weight of dough.
This is what you’ll need for this recipe;
2/3 cup of whole milk
5 tbsp sugar
1 3/4 active dry yeast
2 large eggs at room temp.
2 3/4 cups of flour
1 tea salt
1 stick of room temp butter cut into pieces
1 tbsp whole milk for brushing
I used 3 bowls for this recipe. I found it just made life easier with a small child. I washed up afterwards (when I usually wash up as I go). It does make a little bit more of a mess, but hey, it was a new recipe, it was for my family for the holiday, mess is mess right?
Anyway, butter a large bowl and set aside. Have two other bowls at the ready.
Using a small saucepan, heat milk until it is tepid. Stick your finger in to test. When you stick your finger in, it should feel like nothing (Think testing a baby bottle). When your milk reaches this temp. (about 2 minutes), remove from heat and dump into one of the non-buttered bowls. Add 1 tbsp sugar, stir. Add yeast, stir. As always, Z stirred. Let this mixture stir for about 5 minutes or until the yeast is foaming. Next, whisk in your 2 eggs until your mixture is smooth and a golden yellow. Set this bowl aside.
In other non-buttered bowl, add the remaining sugar, flour and salt and let your child play with it until it is mixed through. (Wash hands before you start cooking-I thought that was a no brainer…but it might not be 🙂 )
Slowly add milk mixture to flour mixture and give it one rough mix with a spoon. Now the fun part. If you have a child that likes to get their hands dirty, have them press down and mix everything until it starts to resemble a dough. If you don’t have that type of child…you do it, and try to explain what’s happening as it’s forming the dough (Think of Bill Nye the science guy for inspiration). Now start adding your butter one piece at a time, squishing through your fingers and incorporating into your dough mixture. You’ll start to notice that your dough is a bit less sticky and is getting lighter. Add this dough ball to the buttered bowl and let sit in a dark, undisturbed place for 2 hours to rise.
Make lunch, go to the park, take a walk.
Has it been 2 hours? Okay check your bread. Has it risen? Mine hadn’t, but I decided to keep trucking. So why hadn’t my dough risen? Well I THINK that since I have sort of a high tolerance for heat, I many have made my milk too hot, and killed the yeast. Whatever, I’ll try it again soon and see if that’s what did it…I’m a little mad at myself, but my bread DID turn out, and was delicious, it just didn’t look all fluffy and gorgeous)
Anyway, so your bread has risen. Next beat it down and cut into 3 equal-sized pieces. Using some extra flour, roll out each piece so that it is a long rounded snake (like play dough!) Add each of your dough pieces to a large baking sheet that is covered with a piece of parchment paper. Squish the tops of the three pieces together and then proceed to braid the rolled pieces. Tuck in the dyed eggs into the braid in whatever fashion you think looks good. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for an additional 50 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 375 F. Brush your now twice risen dough (unless you’re me) with milk and pop in your oven for 20-25 minutes.
Careful, eggs will be extremely hot!!!