The April Daring Baker’s Challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den . She challenged us to Spring into our kitchens and make Easter breads reflecting cultures around the world.
There were soooooo many different Easter breads that I wanted to try! The more I browsed the vast array of recipes out there on the web, the more difficult my decision became. I had planned to make a delightful and adorable braided loaf with eggs nestled into the braids (which would be raw yet dyed and would bake to a “hard boil” as the bread baked). That plan went out the window when my work schedule allowed me little time in the days immediately preceding Easter. I ended up making my “Easter” bread days after the holiday so I figured I’d forgo the dyed eggs and just make a tasty braided loaf.
I’m not really sure why I ended up making this particular bread. I think it was a combination of the fact that I had all of the ingredients on hand, I liked the idea of lemon zest and juice in the bread, rum-soaked raisins and a slivered almond topping. And lots of eggs which means a creamy, tasty bread that would later serve me well in making french toast and a fabulous bread pudding!
The following recipe makes A LOT of bread! The dough was crawling up the hook of my stand mixer and I kept having to scrape it down. But it worked out OK in the end and I am happy to have a plethora of bread with which to make french toast and whatnot, as I said before! I froze a loaf of the bread so that I can do it all over again in a month or so! I would seriously consider making one loaf worth of dough into rolls because I think they would be delicious. But otherwise, maybe cut it in half and you will still have quite a bit!
Bulgarian Easter Bread (a.k.a. Kozunak)
(Adapted from “Bulgarian Easter Bread” at http://www.food.com/recipe/bulgarian-easter-bread-kozunak-109967 and “Bulgarian Easter Bread- Kozunak” at http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/bulgarianbreads/r/Easter-bread-kozunak.htm)
*This makes A LOT of bread and may be somewhat difficult work for a standard stand mixer so feel free to cut recipe in half. OR make the whole batch and freeze 1 or two loaves for use in bread pudding or French toast later on…
- 2 ½ tbsp. instant yeast
- 1 ½ tbsp. granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tsp. fine sea salt
- 1 large egg, beaten lightly
- 1 1/3 cups warmed whole milk
- 1 ½ cups raisins
- ¾ cup spiced rum
- 2 medium lemons
- 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- ~5 lbs. unbleached, white flour (you may not use it all)
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- 2 cups whole milk
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 11 large eggs
- Cooking spray for greasing bowls
- Mix first five ingredients (yeast, small amount sugar, salt, one egg, warm milk) in the bowl of a stand mixer. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled in size and quite puffy
- Meanwhile, put raisins in a medium bowl, pour rum over them to cover and set aside to soak
- Use a micro-plane to take the zest off of lemons and squeeze juice from lemons into a small bowl and set aside
- Place butter in a 2 cup measuring cup and microwave to melt. Add oil to the butter.
- Heat 2 cups of milk and sugar on low in a small saucepan until warm, stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. Do not boil.
- Separate 4 of the eggs. Place the whites in a large mixing bowl and the yolks into a ramekin for brushing your bread later on. Add the remaining 7 WHOLE eggs to the egg whites and beat together.
- Place the bowl with the yeast mixer onto the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, turn on low and gradually add the warm milk mixture, the oil mixture, the eggs, the lemon juice and zest and the vanilla.
- Gradually start adding the flour to the mixer. Add about ½ cup at a time.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment after about 2 cups of flour have been added, or when the mixture starts to thicken up. At this time, drain the raisins and add them to the dough as well.
- Continue to add flour to the mixture a bit at a time until the dough comes together in one mass
- Flour a large work surface and dump the dough out. Knead until a smooth, slightly sticky dough results, adding more flour as needed.
- Divide the dough into 3 even balls
- Lightly coat the inside of 3 large bowls with cooking spray and roll one dough ball in each bowl, making sure to lightly cover the surface of each with the spray oil. Loosely cover each bowl with plastic wrap or moist tea towels and place in a warm place.
- Allow to rise until each ball is doubled in size, about 1- 1 ½ hours.
- Punch down and knead the dough briefly and return balls to their respective bowls, covering again.
- Let the dough sit and rise again, another 1- 1 ½ hours
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the center position.
- Line three sheet trays with parchment paper or silicone baking mats
- Punch down dough and knead briefly again.
- One ball at a time: divide dough ball into three equal pieces, rolling dough balls into ropes of equal length, and then braiding them into a loaf, pinching off at each end to hold together. (To braid loaf, place three ropes onto a prepared sheet tray, pinch at one end, braid strands together as tightly as possible until you reach the other end and pinch again to seal).
- Brush the loaf with the reserved egg yolk evenly and lightly and sprinkle the top with slivered almonds.
- Bake each loaf about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cover with foil halfway through baking if it is getting too dark and rotate pan halfway through cooking time. Use an instant-read thermometer to determine if the loaf is done: it should be between 190 and 200 degrees F.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing.
- It is best to form one loaf and get it baking before you start forming the next loaf so that the baking times will be staggered. They cook most evenly one at a time in the oven as each loaf is rather large.
- You can also form this dough into rolls if you prefer. Just use a shorter cooking time.
I also decided to try making one in a large bundt pan. I braided it and placed it into a well-greased bundt pan and baked it until cooked through. It looked very nice but I think the outside got a bit dark. Still quite good though!
And of course it’s awesome toasted with butter!