I can't believe it's Easter Week again. Seems like it was just this time last year!! We're busy filling Mother's Day orders in the studio, starting very early in the morning, and stamping away til late at nite. Amish Katie came yesterday to clean. Everything looks sparkly again!
Today I spent some time in the kitchen making the Italian Easter Braids that my grandmother(Nonna), and then my mother, baked at Eastertime. My poor mom, who many of you know has alzheimer's and has been in an assisted living facility for the past 4 years, cannot bake any more. So, it's up to me to keep these traditions alive for my family! Here is the recipe I use.....but please note, you can also use Rhodes Frozen Bread Dough...or their Sweet Bread Dough and get similar results~
Nonna's Italian Easter Braids
1 package Rapid Rise (instant) yeast (about 2-1/4 teaspoons)
1.25 cups milk
pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
3.5 cups flour (approximate)
1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water
6 dyed Easter eggs
sprinkles or pearlized sugar
tip: the Easter eggs do not need to be hard boiled. They cook when the bread bakes. I usually just dye the eggs raw without hardboiling them. Saves time. Just be careful they don't crack!
In a small saucepan, warm the milk and butter together, just till butter melts. In a large mixer bowl, combine yeast, salt, eggs and sugar. Add the warm (not hot - it will kill the yeast) milk and butter. Add about half the flour and beat until smooth with dough hook. Slowly add the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Don't worry about how much flour it ends up being, just keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore. Knead until smooth with either dough hook attachment or turn out on floured board and knead. Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.
Punch dough down, divide into 12 pieces. Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 14 inches long and, taking two pieces, twist to form a "braid", pinching the ends, and loop into a circle.
Place on two baking sheets sprayed with Pam. Cover and let rise until double, about an hour again. Brush each bread with beaten egg wash. Put on the sprinkles. In the middle of each bread ring, gently place an Easter egg, making an indentation with the egg.
Bake at 350 degrees until golden - about 20 minutes. Cool on rack.You can eat the eggs, but remember to refrigerate the breads to keep the eggs safe to eat~