Fresh breads for Easter, or for any old time
Serve delicious hot cross buns for an Easter-morning breakfast treat.
If you love fresh, oven-baked breads, you may find something in this week’s column that would be wonderful to serve at Easter time, coming up soon (or any time).
I have so many fond memories of my grandmother in her kitchen happily baking her Easter breads. I kept up the tradition for many years but must admit I have slacked off a bit. I still enjoy eating Easter breads of all kinds, though. Time for me to get back to my favorite recipes and share them with you.
Happy baking to all of you.
Old-fashioned spiced hot cross buns
2 packages (1/4-oz. each) active dry yeast
2 cups warm, whole milk (110 to 155 degrees or as package directs. Rapid Rise takes a higher temperature)
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
6 to 7 cups flour
1/2 cup dried currants
1/2 cup raisins
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons water
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 to 6 teaspoons whole milk
1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm milk. In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, butter, sugar, salt, spices, yeast mixture and 3 cups flour; beat on medium speed until smooth. Stir in currants, raisins and enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).
2. Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Punch down the dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide and shape into 30 balls. Place the balls of dough 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover with kitchen towels; let rise in a warm place until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 375.
4. Using a sharp knife, cut a cross on top of each bun. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water; brush over tops. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool slightly.
5. For icing, mix confectioners’ sugar and enough milk to reach desired consistency. Pipe a cross on top of each bun. Serve warm. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen buns.
Italian Easter bread
I used to make this one every year, but I admit I do not always take the time to make yeast breads these days. There is one thing that you readers might be able to help with — I have not figured out a way to keep the colored eggs from blistering. The heat of the oven will sometimes cause the dye to bubble and flake. I just used the Easter egg dye kits sold in grocery stores. What I ended up doing is forming egg-shaped balls of aluminum foil to act as space-saving “dummies” and after baking I took those out and inserted hard-cooked, dyed eggs. If you have any suggestions, please let the rest of us know.
2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast (I tried it with 2 packages and found better results.)
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1/2 cup mixed candied fruits
1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
Melted butter or margarine
5 raw, colored eggs
Confectioners’ sugar frosting
Colored candy sprinkles
1. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast. Heat milk and 2 tablespoons butter in a saucepan over low heat until liquid is warm (120 to 130 degrees). Add to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally.
2. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat at high speed 2 minutes. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn onto floured board; knead about 8 to 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl; turn to grease top. Cover; let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Punch dough down; turn onto floured board. Knead in fruits, almonds and anise seed. Divide in half. Roll each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Twist ropes together loosely; form into a ring on a greased baking sheet.
4. Brush with melted butter. Place colored eggs into spaces in the twist (or foil “dummies”). Cover; let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake at 350 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Remove from baking sheet and cool. Frost ring and decorate with candy sprinkles.
Confectioners’ sugar frosting: Blend 1 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or lemon juice) in a small bowl. Gradually add 3 to 4 teaspoons boiling water to make icing thin enough to drizzle over bread. May also add small amount of grated orange peel, if desired. Makes about 1/3 cup icing.
Cinnamon roll fruit wreath
This one has been updated to accommodate those of us who have discovered the joys of frozen bread dough. The microwave helps, too.
1 pound frozen bread dough
About 6 ounces chopped, pitted prunes or dried apricots (or other favorite dried fruits)
2 tablespoons apple or orange juice
1 tablespoon butter, softened
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted
1. Thaw dough as package directs. Combine fruit morsels and juice in covered microwave-safe bowl. Cook on HIGH 1 1/2 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes to plump fruit.
2. On lightly-floured surface, roll dough to 16 x 8-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter over dough to within 1/2-inch of edges. Mix together brown sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over dough. Sprinkle fruit and nuts over dough. Roll up tightly from long side; pinch seam to seal. Form into ring and pinch ends together to seal. Place seam-side down on greased baking sheet.
3. With kitchen shears, cut through ring almost to center at 2-inch intervals. Separate pieces slightly. Cover; let rise in warm place until almost doubled in size, 30 to 60 minutes.
4. Bake in preheated oven 20 minutes or until done, covering with foil after 10 minutes to prevent over-browning. Remove from baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. Drizzle icing over wreath. (See recipe above.)
Easter bread with orange butter
1 package (0.25-oz.) active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (according to yeast package directions)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
4 to 5 cups flour
1/2 cup raisins
2 teaspoons butter, melted
3/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the eggs, sugar, oil, salt, lemon peel and 2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
2. Turn onto a floured surface. Sprinkle with raisins; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide dough into thirds. Shape each into a 20-inch rope. Place ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 24 to 28 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool. In a small bowl, combine softened butter and marmalade; serve with bread.
2 1/2 to 3 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/3 cup butter, cubed
1/4 cup water
3/4 cup lemon curd
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, optional
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1. In a large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, lemon peel and salt. In a small saucepan, heat the sour cream, butter and water to 120 to130 degrees; add to dry ingredients. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour; beat 2 minutes longer. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough (dough will be sticky).
2. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
3. Punch dough down; turn out onto a floured surface. Roll dough into a rectangle, about 18-by-12-inches. Spread lemon curd evenly to within 1/2 inch of edges. Beginning with the long side, roll up jelly roll fashion and pinch seams to seal. Cut into 12 slices.
4. Place rolls, cut side down, in a greased 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with walnuts, if desired. Preheat oven to 350.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. In a small bowl, combine icing ingredients until smooth. Drizzle over warm rolls. Makes 12 rolls.