Growing up, the best part of spring (that is, when the snow had actually melted and daffodils or tulips had started to peek through the ground) was the anticipation of Easter morning. Not only was I going to slip into my new shiny shoes, and colorful Easter outfit, but it was chocolate Easter egg hunt time.
I never found many of the eggs, and it took me a few years to figure out why.
My brother who is three years older than me (and was obviously a lot more innovative when it came to the “hunt”) would sneak out of bed, and peek through the stair’s railings. He was able to see where our mom, and older siblings were hiding all the chocolate eggs.
(This is the same brother that convinced me to stick my head in between the wooden stair railing once, telling me that in doing so, I would stretch my neck and grow taller overnight. He’s the world’s greatest salesman by the way). I was carefully extricated from my predicament and told once again, “Stop listening to him when he tells you these things.” He got extra chores.
Of course on Easter morning, his basket was filled with the most chocolate eggs, thus, winning the grand prize…a bigger chocolate egg. I did have quite a few of my own chocolate eggs that I found, and he also led me to a few eggs. (I thought he was the smartest brother in the whole wide world to be able to find all those eggs).
My parents and older siblings made him share his prize with me. Pretty sure they knew he was cheating. To this day, he claims it was not cheating, he called it and still does; having a great instinct and gifted observational skills. He would also try to sell me his share of the little chocolate eggs (because although he led me to where some were hidden, had way more than I did) at a discount price (his words) of 3 eggs for a penny….(he claims he was an entrepreneur in training).
One day I shall tell you about how he explained turbulence to me in the airplane…soft clouds, hard clouds. You’d think I’d learn??? As I said, he’s the world’s greatest salesman, so it’s not really my fault.
Besides all the Easter chocolate fun, my other favorite treat is the light, fluffy, sweet Italian Easter bread we all enjoyed. My mom would bake one loaf special for each of us. My brothers and dad enjoyed a round loaf, while my sister, mom and I had one shaped into a doll.
Easter bread is not only delicious, but so much fun to make for your family. Use your imagination and decorate with icing, sprinkles and different colored eggs.
Italian Easter Bread
Makes 6 Breads
1 package Rapid Rise (instant) yeast
1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup butter (softened, but not melted)
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 TBSP honey
3 1/2 cups flour (you may need a little more)
1 egg was (I beaten egg with 1 tsp. water)
1 teaspoon anise extract
Pinch of Salt
6 Dyed Easter Eggs
(You do not have to hard-boil the eggs. Just dye them and be careful not to crack them. They will cook at the same time as the bread. You can eat them afterward, however, I would recommend you eat the eggs right away and not have them sit around.)
In a large bowl, mix: 1 cup of flour, sugar, salt, and yeast and stir well.
In a small sauce pan over low heat, add: milk, anise extract and honey, mix and warm over low heat for about 3 – 5 minutes.
In the center of the flour mixture, make a well and pour in the milk mixture.
Using your hand, mix the flour and milk mixture in a circular motion.
Once the flour and milk mixture is well mixed, add the butter and add the 2 eggs (add eggs one at a time.)
Slowly mix in the remaining flour until everything is mixed well together and you have a doughy consistency.
Sprinkle flour on your working surface.
Turn the dough out onto your working surface and knead the dough until it is soft but elastic (about 7 – 10 minutes).
Cover the dough with a damp cloth, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
After the 15 minutes, uncover and punch dough down.
Divide into 12 pieces.
Roll each piece to form a 1 inch thick rope about 12 inches long.
Take two pieces of the dough-rope and twist together, forming a braid, pinch the ends and loop into a circle.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (or grease two baking sheets).
Cover the baking sheets with a damp cloth and let the bread rise until doubled in size (about one hour).
Once risen, brush each bread with egg wash (1 beaten egg and 1 tsp water).
In the meantime, you can dye your eggs different colors.
Once dough has risen, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove cloth from the dough and in the middle of each bread ring, gently place a colored Easter egg into the center of the bread ring.
Add some colored sprinkles (and for a sweeter bread, at this point you could sprinkle some sugar as well).
Bake at 350 until golden in color. Takes about 20 minutes.
Cool on a rack.
You could also shape the dough into a doll.
Use your imagination, with the colored eggs and sprinkles, you can pretty well make anything you want.