Saturday, April 19, 2014
About a day or two before Easter we receive a goodie box from the husband's mom. Every year we open this box with anticipation and excitement. There are always the most exquisite little cookies and a bread doll for each of us. This significant gesture has become a big part of Easter for me. For many others this bread conveys a traditional message or religious meaning. The bread base is somewhat similar to challah, and it comes out of the oven a rich golden brown. The variety of cookies she sends are quite extensive and the flavors are unusual. Some will have nuts, others with dried fruit or anise. There are amaretti, biscotti, bones of the dead AKA ossi-dei-morti, pignoli (my favorite), pizzelle, Italian wedding cookies (knots), ricotta, pepper, Neapolitan and date filled cookies. You can see by this incredible assortment that she is an amazing baker. I've talked about her "here" with the gnocchi.
This is my first time baking a sweet bread and the process was a very positive one. I believe the reason I had so much success with this bread was the use of both recipes and their instructions. This recipe is from the Bon Appetit April 2012 magazine. This was used in conjunction with my mother in-laws recipe. Her instructions were just a little vague and I need a lot of direction.
2/3 cup whole milk
5 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 large eggs, divided (room temperature)
2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 stick butter room temperature (cut into 1 inch pieces) plus 1/2 teaspoon melted
4 to 6 hard boiled eggs
Using a glass 2-cup measuring cup, heat in microwave about 30 seconds, need temperature to register 110F-115F. (I used a instant read thermometer). Stir in 1 tablespoon of sugar. Sprinkle yeast over milk and whisk to blend. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes. (I waited 7 minutes) Add eggs, whisk until smooth.
Combine remaining 4 tablespoons sugar, flour, and salt in bowl of stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add milk mixture. With mixer running add 1/2 of the butter, 1 piece at a time, blending well between additions. Then add the rest. Mix on medium speed for 1 minute. Turn speed up to medium high and kneed 5 minutes. (here I set the timer).
Brush a medium bowl with some of the butter, leaving some to brush on top of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let set 1 1/2 hours.
Let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in size. (If refrigerated let dough set for 2 1/2 hours or more if needed, if the dough springs back it needs more time.)
Prepare baking sheet with parchment.paper.
Lightly flour hands and preparation area. Punch down dough, then divide into three equal pieces. Roll each of your pieces into long ropes using your hands, about 16 inches each.
Arrange ropes on baking sheet side by side, pinch top ends together and begin to braid. When finished pinch bottom ends together. Let rise a second time about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Whisk remaining egg with 2 teaspoons water. Brush dough using pastry brush. Tuck in hard boiled eggs. Bake until golden. About 20 to 25 minutes. Let cook on a wire rack. Happy Easter!