Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Bread

Italian people celebrate most life events with food. There are all sorts of "special" dishes that are only made once a year during one holiday or another. Most of those holidays are religious events too, so a lot of the special foods take on some type of religious significance.

Easter is no exception. We always had lots of rich and colorful dishes on the table for Easter dinner. We had lamb, when I was younger there would be a whole lamb (head too) but it soon turned into just a leg of lamb. We would also have pizza rustica, pastiera, and the all important Easter bread.

There was never any other name for it other than "Easter Bread", which I found a little odd. We were told that the bread was braided to look like Jesus' crown of thorns. The three eggs represented the Holy Trinity and the new life that Easter brought us. I've also heard non-religious people describe it as a "bird's nest" bread. However you want to describe it, it is colorful and fun for the holiday. It also tastes really yummy!

We would serve this bread warm, slathered in butter with a drizzle of honey on top. I remember sitting at my Grandma's dining room table the morning after Easter, drinking hot tea and eating bread with butter and honey. Making this bread always brings back fond memories from my childhood.

Easter Bread
From Grandma Caponni

4 - 4 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
2 Packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) Active Dry Yeast
1/2 Cup Whole Milk, room temperature
1/2 Cup Water, warm
2 Tablespoons Butter
2 Tablespoons Sugar
2 teaspoons Salt
7 Large Eggs

  1. In a microwave safe dish, melt the butter.
  2. Add the milk, water, sugar, and salt.
  3. Add the yeast and let sit for 3 minutes.
  4. Add 2 cups of flour.
  5. Beat in 3 eggs.
  6. Gradually add in the rest of the flour, until the dough is elastic.
  7. Knead the dough for about 8 minutes, until it is smooth.
  8. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
  9. Punch down the dough and knead out the air bubbles.
  10. Divide the dough into 3 equal parts.
  11. Cover and let the dough rest for 3 minutes.
  12. Roll each piece of dough into a log about 15 inches long.
  13. Braid the three logs together and shape the braid into a circle, pinching the ends together to seal.
  14. Grease a cookie sheet with cooking spray.
  15. Place the braided dough onto the cookie sheet.
  16. Put 3 raw eggs into the folds of the braid.
  17. Cover with wax paper and let rest for 45 minutes.
  18. Preheat oven to 400F.
  19. Beat an egg with a teaspoon of water.
  20. Brush the egg-wash over the dough.
  21. With a small brush, paint food coloring on the eggs.
  22. Sprinkle the top of the dough with multicolored nonpareils.
  23. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown and the bread make a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
Yields: 1 Round Loaf (Approx. 16 servings)

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