The Family That Bakes Together...
Today is our traditional family baking day. Well, it always starts out like that. Eventually, the kids dissapear, along with the husband, and I'm left standing in a messy kitchen, draped in flour and egg yolk and cursing everyone who comes near me. So they call it Holy Thursday because it's the say when I walk around my house saying "Holy mother of jeebus, how did this much egg yolk get on the floor?" and "Holy shit, the yeast has risen ten feet!" or "Holy shit, you people suck to holy hell. Get out of my kitchen!"
I am not a baker. I hate baking. But this Easter Bread is one of the only things I bake that comes out perfect every time.
The recipe makes below three loaves; I generally make twelve loaves because, as DLR says, everybody wants some.
It's best served warm and smeared with butter, with a nice cup of hot tea on the side.
* 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
* 1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 3 cups warm milk
* 4 cups all-purpose flour
* 6 eggs, beaten
* 1/2 cup white sugar
* 1 cup butter, softened
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
* 12 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 egg
* 1 tablespoon water
* 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. Proof the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl until slightly frothy.
2. In the meantime, dissolve 1/2 cup sugar in the warm milk. Cool to lukewarm. Once cooled, add the milk mixture to the yeast mixture along with four cups of flour. Mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover and put in a dark, warm place until the mixture is bubbly and doubled in size, about 2 hours.
3. Stir in the beaten eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, margarine, salt, and lemon peel (note: I have also used orange peel in the past, which adds a nice flavor). Stir well to blend. Begin adding the remaining flour a cup at a time to form a very soft dough.
4. Knead the dough on a floured board until soft and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to coat both sides. Allow to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 2 hours. Punch dough down, and allow to rise again for 30 minutes.
5. Divide dough into three parts. Shape into slightly rounded loaves, and place on greased baking sheets. Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Beat 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water; brush onto loaves.
6. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 45 to 50 minutes, or until done. Once they are done, brush the tops with melted butter for a soft crust.
Some people make braided breads instead of loaves, or shape the loaves into Easter bunnies or crosses, which always looks nice. Or they color the dough, which looks kind of funky, and I don't mean that in a good way. Or bears with genitals. By the time I get around to having the dough made all I want to do is get it in the oven. I'm not about to get all artistic with the dough at that point. So I just tell people that my rounded breads symbolize the circle of life.
Some people also put almonds or raisins or those fake fruit pieces that look like plastic kid's jewelry in their bread. Not me. I like my bread to be filled with...bread.
If there are any baking fiascos this year with the bread I'm going to quit this tradition and just start making bunnies out of Rice Krispy treats.