Friday, April 6, 2012
Nana's Easter Bread
Makes 4 8-inch diameter ring loaves
There are no colored sprinkles on these loaves which I've seen on many other versions. Nana's bread is plain and simple and that's the way I like it. You can decorate them with an egg tucked into the meeting place of the twisted ends. Twist a couple of small pieces of dough around the egg for a more finished look.
2 envelopes (4 1/2 tsp) yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 tsp sugar
1 tbs vanilla
1/2 cup milk (warmed a bit, but not hot)
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tbs anise seeds
8 tbs (1 stick) butter, very soft but not melted
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the yeast, water and 2 tsp sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, or until it looks foamy and smells of yeast.
Add the eggs, milk and vanilla to the bowl and stir with a whisk or fork to break up the eggs. Attach your bowl to your mixer and add in the cup of sugar. Mix briefly using the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add 7 cups of the flour and the anise seeds. Let the mixer knead the dough for a minute. With the mixer still on low, add the butter by the tablespoon mixing in between each addition. Your dough will probably still be very sticky, so add more flour to it by the 1/4 cup until it forms a soft and still slightly sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. You should have added a total of about 8 cups flour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough, adding flour as necessary, until you have a dough that is soft and no longer sticking to your fingers or the counter. This should take about 5 minutes and maybe another 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour. Set the dough into a large buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm spot in the kitchen until it is doubled in size, about 2 hours.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and cut it into 4 equal parts. Cut each quarter into two pieces and roll each piece into a log about 14 inches long. Pinch one end of the two pieces together, then working from that end, twist one over the other until you have a tight twist. Pinch the bottom end together. Bring the two ends together to form a ring and place the loaf onto the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the other quarters of the dough. Cover the loaves lightly with a clean kitchen towel and let them rise for a half hour.
Brush the loaves with an egg wash made of 1 beaten egg and a tbs water. Place into the hot oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pans back to front and top to bottom about halfway through the baking time. The loaves will be nicely golden on top when they are finished. Let them cool on a baking rack. You can store them wrapped tightly in aluminum foil for a few days or for longer storage, put them in the refrigerator.
Slice off a good sized piece and dunk into your morning coffee or enjoy for a great afternoon snack.