12 April 2009

Cardamon Citrus Easter Braid


For years now it has been the tradition at our house to bake an Easter Braid to serve for Easter breakfast. It isn’t one of those traditions that I remember from my childhood as it was passed down through the generations. Instead it is one that I read about, adapted, then adopted as my own.

This must have happened during one of my bread baking phases. When I was first married I was still in college and baking bread was my own brand of inexpensive and productive therapy. After midterms or finals I would retreat to the kitchen and immerse myself in the process of making bread. The simple creativity of mixing basic ingredients to make something nourishing, fresh and delicious helped me to refocus my mind. The physicality of punching down the dough and kneading it was primal and satisfying. The bread that resulted was a blessing!

As I searched for bread recipes and experimented I clipped articles about the special Easter breads baked in different cultures. There were soft doughs with citrus flavors baked into rings, round loaves with eggs on top and even bread shaped like a dove and studded with almonds. Over time I adapted a bit from here, another thought from there, and arrived at a braided bread loaf made from a soft dough flavored with cardamon and citrus, drizzled with sweet icing and decorated with dyed eggs.

I think it still changes a bit from year to year. Sometimes it is shaped in a circle, sometimes a log. Sometimes it has a sweet filling and sometimes not, but a homemade bread braid decorated with icing and colorful eggs is now essential, a family tradition born of my own personal kitchen therapy before my children were born.


Cardamon Citrus Easter Braid

Bread

1 package yeast
3 1/3 cups flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cardamon
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk, scalded
1/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten

Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon + 2 or 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

colored sugar sprinkles (optional)
6 - 10 eggs, hard boiled and dyed

Add all of the bread ingredients to a bread machine. Set the machine to 'manual' so that you can take the dough, when ready, and shape the loaves yourself.

(Or if you don't have a bread machine:
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Heat the milk, water and butter over low heat until warm, 115 to 120 degrees. Add mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the eggs, and stir until a dough forms. Turn the dough onto a well floured surface and knead for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn once. Cover with a towel and let it rise in a warm place until double, approximately 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Continue as follows.)

When the dough is ready, punch down and divide it into 6 equal portions. Cover and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Roll each portion into a rope 15 inches long. Place ropes side by side on a greased baking sheet, one inch apart.

Shape into two braids using 3 ropes for each, beginning in the middle and working out to the ends of the loaves. Pinch ends and tuck under.

Cover loaves and let them rise until nearly double (approximately 1 hour).

Bake in 375 degree oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden.

While the bread is still warm take a hard-cooked egg and push it into the loaf at intervals, between the twists, to make a place for the colored eggs you will add. Cool on a wire rack.

When the loaves are cool. Prepare the icing. Stir together the confectioners' sugar and lemon juice until smooth and drizzle it over the loaves in a random pattern. Quickly sprinkle with colored sugar, if desired.

When the icing has set, place dyed hard cooked eggs in the indentations you made.

Makes two braids.

Happy Easter!

9 comments:

Mary said...

Your Easter braid looks luscious. I suspect some wonderful memories are also being made here. Easter blessings...Mary

Bunny said...

Guess what Lisa!!! You won one of the Giada Cookbooks!!!! Send me an email so I can send the book to you!!! Congratulations!!!!

noble pig said...

How beautiful! Happy Easter!

MaryBeth said...

Happy Easter....Your bread looks so cool & congrats on the win over at Bunny's site!!

Elyse said...

Cardamom? Citrus? Bread? Yes, please! Sign me up. Sounds fantastic. Happy Easter to you! I'm with you: bread-baking not only yields yummy results, but it is so cathartic!

Donna-FFW said...

How gorgeous is this. It looks perfect. Hope you had a wonderful holiday!

Robin Sue said...

I love seeing these types of breads, it reminds me of my youth and visitng all those nice Italian Bakeries. I made bread like this once- ONCE. It is a lot of work but so delicious and beautiful. Now that my kids are older I am getting into more challenging things.

the southern hostess said...

This is absolutely gorgeous!

Debbie said...

The Easter braid looks wonderful. Nice tradition!