Friday, April 2, 2010

Easter Egg Bread

You've got a day left before Easter and that's plenty of time to whip up this braided Easter egg bread.  My friend (Hi Leen!) introduced me to this.  It is a great project to do with your kids.  The dough only needs 2 hours to rise plus an additional half hour.  It's got cinnamon and I added some orange flower water for a hint of floral and citrus notes.

All the braiding of my hair while my girls play "beauty shop" has finally paid off.  These kids can braid like nobody's business.  As for the garnish of icing and sprinkles, well...they haven't quite learned the "less is more" design concept yet.  But you know what, I kind of like it.  One recipe note, if you use Easter eggs in your braided wreath they need to be dyed but NOT hard-boiled.  The eggs will actually bake along with the bread.  Another option-use your hard-boiled dyed eggs but nestle them into the finished baked bread before serving.

Oh and let me save you from one other "Doh!" moment-if you've been keeping your raw dyed eggs in the refrigerator, let them come to room temperature before putting them on the bread and baking.  I found out the hard way that the condensation from the chilled eggs will make the dye run onto the bread.  Look kids, tie-dyed Easter egg bread!

Easter Egg Bread
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

1 T active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup warm milk
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 t kosher salt
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t orange flower water
7 to 9 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
5 dyed uncooked eggs
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water)

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sugar and add 1/2 cup flour. Let this sit for 10 minutes to give the yeast a chance to get going. 
2. Add the milk, eggs, butter, salt, cinnamon and orange flower water. 
3. Stir in 5 cups of the flour. Add more flour, until the dough starts to form a shaggy mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough has formed a smooth and satiny ball. The dough will be a little tacky, but it shouldn't be sticky.
4. Put the dough into a clean bowl and coat it with a little melted butter. This will help prevent the formation of a skin on the dough due to exposure to the air. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it's quite swollen and puffy-looking. 
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it gently to expel any air bubbles. You don't need to actively knead the dough at this point. 
6. Divide the dough into 2 pieces and set one aside. Divide the first piece into 3 even pieces. Roll each piece into a rope that is 1-inch in diameter. Braid the set of ropes and shape the braid into a large circle. Place the circle on a greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
7.  Cover the loaves with damp towels and let the wreaths rise for 30 minutes.
8.  Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the eggs on the wreaths and gently press them into the dough. Brush the dough with the egg wash. 
9.  Bake the loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, until nicely browned. Occasionally, an egg will split in the oven. Use a sharp knife to remove it from the wreath and substitute a dyed hard-boiled egg. 
10.  Cool the wreaths on a rack and ice when fully cool.  

Icing Glaze
    1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar  
    3 T orange liqueur or 2 T orange juice
Beat the sugar and the liqueur or juice together. The icing should be the consistency of a thick salad dressing. Use a fork to drizzle the icing on the wreaths. 

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