Friday, April 15, 2011

Fanciful Easter Bread in a Baked Basket

I'm sure in more artistic hands, this would be an extraordinary centrepiece for the Easter table. I'll post the recipe as there's still time to get in a few practise runs before Easter, should you give it a try.

From Sunset Breads, Step-By-Step:

2 1/4 teaspoons regular (not instant) yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup warm milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 large eggs
5-6 cups AP flour
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk for glaze

In a large bowl, proof the yeast in water. Add milk, butter, sugar, peel, salt and eggs one at a time. Add the flour a cup at a time and beat well with a wooden spoon. When you can hold the dough together, transfer it to a floured surface and knead until smooth, adding flour as you see fit (you thought I was going to say, "As needed" didn't you. I didn't want anyone to think I was attempting to be clever).

Place in a buttered bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 2 hours. Punch down, knead a minute or tow longer and then transfer to the fridge for at least an hour, or as long as 24.

Use a 2-21/2 quart bowl that is ovenproof to shape the bread. Cover the bowl with foil, grease well,invert, and place on a greased baking sheet. Divide dough into 20 pieces. Keep dough chilled as you work, only removing two at a time. The bowl should also be returned to the fridge as you work so that the bottom does not begin to rise unevenly. This is admittedly a pain, but there's good reason to deal with it.

Roll two strips about 20 inches long and 3/8 inch thick. Pinch together and twist as you build them around the inverted bowl. You may run out before getting to the top-that's OK, you'll fill it with something after it bakes.

Let rise, covered another 30 minutes in a warm place as the oven preheats to 350 degrees F. Before baking, brush with egg wash. Bake 25-30 minutes or until well-browned. Remove bowl to a cooling rack, but do not remove for ten minutes (I'd go at least 20).

Meanwhile, crumple enough foil to make a form for the unmoulded bread as it will be fragile and need support beneath as it cools. Carefully remove the bread (use a spatula if you need to pry it loose) and place on a rack over the crumpled foil. Cool completely moving as little as possible. Fill with fanciful shaped breads. Look-the book said, fanciful. Who am I to quibble? For all I personally care, you can fill it with...look, I'm only pointing out that you've gone to the effort of baking this damned thing, you should fill it with something slightly more impressive than marshmallow Peeps (not that I don't enjoy a Peep now and then, but try as they may, Peeps are not fanciful. They're strange-and if you microwave're going to try it right now-aren't you? I thought so.
See? Fanciful.

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