Saturday, March 30, 2013

Italian Easter bread — sort of

The Altitude Adjustment Section
This week I am doing another bread, this time in honor of Easter (which is tomorrow). I found this on the internet and I had to try it. It kind of reminds me of Panettone, which I love around Christmas time. The citrus zest and eggy sweetness are lovely, sort of like Italian Challah. This is a big recipe, but you can freeze half — or share it! I cleaned it up a little and removed the sprinkles. I also omitted the sweet glaze but you can do those things if you want. I also changed it from margarine to butter, need you ask why?

8 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 oranges, zested & juiced
4 1/2 teaspoons (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
1 cup butter, melted
8 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Pernod

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is warm to the touch, but not hot (between 110 and 115 degrees F). While the milk is warming, place the sugar in a small bowl and add the orange zest. With your fingertips, rub the zest into the sugar until it is completely incorporated and the sugar is moistened. Once the milk reaches the correct temperature, stir in the sugar and zest mixture, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the yeast, stir, and let sit for 10 minutes. Add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour and begin to mix it into a dough (it will be shaggy at this point). Next, add the melted butter and continue to mix. Now, add the orange juice to the dough and mix to combine. In a small bowl, use a fork to lightly beat together the eggs, salt, and Pernod. Add to the dough and continue mixing. At this point, you may need to add more flour to the dough, depending on how much juice you get out of your oranges. Once you have a sticky ball of dough formed, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is soft and elastic. Or use your dough hook and mix with your electric mixer. The dough will remain slightly tacky. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat, and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Place in a draft-free area and allow to rise until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Turn the dough out onto a clean surface and divide in three. Divide each piece into two (you will have six pieces of dough). You will work with one pair, and then the other, and then the other. Roll two pieces of dough into 24-inch long ropes. Loosely twist the ropes together. Transfer the braided rope to one of the prepared baking sheets and bring the ends together to form a ring, twisting and pinching the ends together to seal. Repeat with the remaining two pieces of dough so that you have three circular, braided loaves. Brush the tops of each with melted butter, loosely cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until nearly doubled in size, about 30 minute. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown on top, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Once the breads are cooled to room temperature, start eating!