Saturday, April 2, 2011

Carmela Soprano's Italian Easter Sweet Bread

Last year I wrote about the Easter Breads of my childhood.

The memories were triggered by a picture of a loaf of Easter Sweet Bread in the Holidays chapter of Carmela's Entertaining with The Sopranos

If you're Italian, I'm sure you've sat down to an Easter Sweet Bread.  
And I'm also sure you were either pro or anti eating the colored eggs.  
That weird green circle was spooky.

But if you're not Italian, you probably read about the Easter Sweet Bread and wondered what the heck I was talking about.

I'm sorry.

I don't have a picture, but I do have a recipe.
It's easy to make.
The kids'll love it.
You might even get one or two to eat the eggs.

Without further ado, I mean, you've waited a year already, the recipe...  

                        Easter Sweet Bread

Makes 2 loaves
grease 2 large baking sheets         
preheat oven to 350º           
bake 30 min., until golden brown 

Color for Easter, in advance
6 eggs (or more if you have lots of kids who like eggs)
Heat, in a small saucepan, until the butter melts
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut up
1/2 Cup milk
Let cool.
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 Cup warm water (@ 110º F)
Let stand about 5 minutes, then stir.
In a large mixer bowl, beat until foamy
3 large eggs, at room temperature
beat in until blended
2/3 Cup sugar

the butter/milk mixture
the yeast/water mixture
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 Cups flour
Mix until a soft dough is formed.
Gradually add
1/2 Cup flour, more or less
to make a smooth, moist dough.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface.
Knead until it is very smooth (about 5 minutes).
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl.
Cover and let rise in a warm place about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and cut it into 4 even pieces.
Roll out one piece, between your hands, into a rope about 22 inches long.
Repeat with another piece of dough.
Lay the ropes side by side and braid them together.
Place the braid on one of the baking sheets and bring the ends together to form a ring.
Pinch the ends together to seal and tuck the ends under so it looks nice.
Place half of the colored eggs in the wreath, evenly spaced.

Repeat with the remaining dough and eggs.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes.

Beat together
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon water
Brush the dough with the beaten egg
Scatter on top
Multicolored round candy sprinkles

Bake 15 minutes 
Reverse the positions of the pans so the bread bakes evenly
Bake another 15 minutes or until golden
Remove from pans
Cool on a rack
Slice and serve, just like regular bread.

About the eggs... You never know, someone may want to eat them.
So, it might be safer to store the bread in the fridge.
Or remove the eggs after the dinner and just refrigerate them.
After a few slices have been removed, it just looks like bread.

The oomph is gone, but the memories last.

Would I make Italian Easter Sweet Bread again?
Easter wouldn't be Easter without it.

Since I had mentioned this recipe last year, it isn't part of the countdown.
There's still twenty-five more to go.

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