Well, it's that time of year again. You know? When a bunny lays eggs? And we not only want to eat those eggs, but we'll hunt through the woods to find them. Talk about magic.
It's time to celebrate new life, and the coming of spring. That last part would be easier for me if it didn't keep snowing in Virginia for goodness sakes. Anyway, I digress.
One of the ways we do that here is by cooking and eating far too much. We are, after all, Italian. Breakfast is a mix of chocolates snatched from Easter baskets when parents aren't looking, and Easter Bread. I couldn't find my Mom's recipe this year, and wasn't able to call her at a decent hour to ask so I had to rely on one from a book. Specifically, Greek Cooking by Lou Seibert Pappas (Galahad Books, 1973). So here it is with some modification to make it more like Ma makes:
2 packages (tsp.) active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
(okay. I don't use this ingredient because I dislike the taste, but it's in the recipe and you can make
your own mind up about it).
1/2 tsp. salt
5 Cups flour
6 hard boiled eggs, dyed in the shell
(the traditional Greek recipe uses red dyed eggs, we've always used multi-colored ones though).
1 egg white, slightly beaten
gum drops (The Greek recipe calls for sesame seeds)
Sprinkle yeast into the warm water, stir to blend, and let stand until dissolved. Heat milk and butter together, until the butter melts. Pour milk/butter mixture into mixing bowl, add sugar, and let cool until lukewarm. Add (raw) eggs one at a time, and beat until smooth. Stir in yeast mixture, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and 2 cups of flour, beat at until mixed (on medium speed - about 5 minutes). Gradually add the remaining flour with a heavy duty mixer or a wooden spoon.
Knead until smooth and no longer sticky. If necessary add in additional flour. Place dough in a greased bowl, lightly oil top of dough, cover with dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled- about 1 1/2 hours.
Here's where the Greek recipe and my Mom diverge again. I'm going with my Mom here.
Put aside some dough for decoration, Roll dough into six oval loaves. In the center of each loaf make
an indentation or a nest. Gently push one of the hard boiled eggs into this spot. Roll the remaining dough into a thin strip. Place a section of the strip over the egg (to simulate a handle), pressing the ends of the strips into the bread to secure the eggs. Cover and let rise until doubled in size again.
Preheat oven to 325
Brush the dough with the slightly beaten egg white, and push the gum drops into dough as decoration. (The Greek recipe would have you sprinkling the tops with the sesame seeds).
Bake in 325 degree oven for about 50 minutes. Serve hot or let cool on a rack.
And after all your time and hard work, your children can also declare that they want pancakes instead.
Sigh. Now it's time to cook the leg of lamb. Odds on whether the boys eat that?
Anyway, have a lovely day everyone.