Friday, March 21, 2008

Italian Easter Bread

Look what I made today. I am not a big baker, but on special occasions I do like a little tradition. It was very nice when my husband came into the kitchen as I was cooling off this anise scented sweet bread and said "It smells like Easter." Sometimes scent works on our memory as much as what we taste and what we see. The smell and taste of this fresh bread brings me right back to my grandmother's kitchen.
I remember her baking this bread when I was a very small child. This memory stands out for me, because she did a little something extra when she made this. She formed a small little loaf just for me that looked like a bunny butt with ears. Over the years I have continued this tradition with my family. Now I just can't wait till Eden is older and we can bake Bunny Butts together.

To all my blogging buddies: Have a wonderful Easter, and a weekend full of His mercy and grace.


For the bread:
2 teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk
about 4 1/2 cups unbleached flour (preferably bread flour)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sugar
11/2 tsp. anise & 1tsp. of almond extracts
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 eggs, beaten

For the topping:
1 cup of powder sugar
1 tsp. anise & ½ tsp. of almond
enough milk to make a drippy icing

Five colored hard boiled eggs.

Mix the yeast into the warm milk and let it sit for about five minutes to activate the yeast. While this is happening, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and lemon zest in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. After the five minutes is up, add the milk, butter, and eggs to the well. Mix the flour into the wet ingredients with a sturdy spoon or your hands. If you are using a spoon you will have to switch to your hands once the dough gets really thick. Remove the dough to a smooth surface and knead it for about ten minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. While mixing and kneading add more water as needed to keep the dough soft and sticky. For those of you with a stand mixer such as a Kitchen Aid, you can use the J hook to mix and knead the dough.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a greased large bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place such as an unwarmed gas oven with a pilot light, an electric oven warmed for about 10-20 seconds, or in the sun for about 4 hours until the dough is doubled in size.
Punch down the dough and let it sit for about ten minutes. At this point you could wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight for baking the next morning. If you do this, let the dough sit out and warm up a bit before moving on to the next step.
Divide the dough into two pieces and roll the dough with your hands into two ropes that are about 1 1/2 to 2 feet long. Pinch one end of the two ropes together and twist one over the other to form a braid. Pinch the other ends together to form a braided circle. Place colored eggs into spaces of braid. Place this on a greased cookie sheet, cover it again with plastic or a towel, and let it rise for about 90 minutes or until doubled in size.
Place the bread in a preheated 400 degree oven and bake until the bread is a golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. This can take anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes, so check the oven often! Remove the baked bread to a cooling rack. While the bread is still slightly warm, drizzle on icing, and top with sprinkles. Try to serve the bread the day it is made, but it will stay fresh for several days if you wrap it well in foil or plastic wrap.


Knitting Mania said...

I'm blind looking at blogs all night....look at my time here...geesh.

Awww this reminds me so much of Noni...I want some. :*(

I don't remember the hard boiled eggs though, nice touch!


Barbara said...

For someone who says she is not a regular baker you certainly have done a good job here. It looks delicious and that is without being able to smell it.
Now if it had nto been for puddin toes then I would probably not have made the connection.

Nadine said...

That looks good. I didn't grow up with this type of bread and I don't remember ever tasting it. It came out really pretty, and knowing you it tastes great.

Happy Easter my friend. See you in the morning.

Sandy said...

Well, you look like a baker!
Beautiful and so yummy looking!
Happy Easter!

Vee ~ A Haven for Vee said...

It's soooo pretty! It looks yummilicious, too. Thanks for the recipe...I'll snag it right now, though I don't imagine that I'll be baking any this year. I can't even bake my own coconut cake properly and I've been doing it for years. Sigh. LOL!

Have a wonderful Easter with your family!

Knitting Mania said...

Hey sis, I've tagged you for another one of those games...lucky you! ;)

Ya have to read my last post...and I was having problems linking your site and others, I'll try to fix later.

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