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Kitchen Mailbox: Italian Easter breads hatch many a sweet holiday idea

Thursday, March 23, 2000

By Arlene Burnett, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Correction/Clarification: (Published March 24, 2000) In the Kitchen Mailbox in yesterday’s editions, the directions for the second recipe for Italian Easter bread should read: Beat 6 eggs until lemon colored.


Easter is late this year, which allows more time for holiday baking. Today, Kitchen Mailbox has a can't-miss bread recipe -- Italian Easter Bread.

We have two versions. Both are yeast breads, both call for candied fruit and anise seed or extract. However, the first recipe calls for raw, colored eggs to be placed directly atop the raw dough. The bread is then baked, and surprisingly the eggs don't crack; they bake and become solid, much like hard-boiled eggs. If you're wondering why the eggs are placed on the bread, the story goes that Italian children find their Easter eggs in this sweet bread instead of an Easter basket.

The second bread recipe omits raw eggs, but adds lemon and orange extracts along with the anise. We found both breads quite tasty. Maybe it's the anise that takes this bread from ordinary to something special. Whatever it is, we'll make this bread again -- and we won't wait for Easter.

Judy Weiss of Pleasant Hills requested a recipe for Italian Easter Bread with anise seed. Here's the version sent in by Louise Morasco of Verona, who clipped it from a Fleischmann's Yeast ad.

Italian Easter Bread

2 3/4 to 3 1/4 cups unsifted flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons margarine
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup mixed candied fruits (found at any large grocery store)
1/4 cup chopped, blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon anise seed
Melted margarine
5 colored raw eggs (yes, raw)
Confectioners' sugar frosting
Colored sprinkles

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

Heat milk and 2 tablespoons margarine in a saucepan over low heat until liquid is warm (120 degrees to 130 degrees). Add to dry ingredients; beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 2 eggs and 1/2 cup flour. Beat at high speed for 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, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise, until doubled, about 1 hour.

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. Brush with melted margarine.

Place colored eggs into spaces in the twist. Cover; let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Remove from baking sheet and cool.

Frost ring and decorate with sprinkles.

Marguerita V. Glaser of Moon doesn't use anise seed, because her family does not like the seeds. This recipe was given to Glaser by an "old Italian grandma." She's been using this recipe for years.

Italian Easter Bread

3 packages dry yeast
1 cup warm water
6 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon extract
2 tablespoons orange extract
1/2 teaspoon anise oil or 1/2 bottle anise extract
1 cup scalded milk
1/2 pound (2 sticks) melted margarine (do not use a spread)
About 10 cups flour
1 egg yolk, for glaze

Dissolve yeast in warm water.

Melt margarine; let cool for about 5 minutes. Beat 6 eggs until lemon colored and thick, then add sugar. Add remaining ingredients, including margarine. Add yeast mixture and about 5 cups flour. Add remaining flour gradually to make a soft dough (dough shouldn't be sticky). Knead until smooth.

Place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down; raise a second time, until doubled. Divide dough into 6 pieces. Mold dough into desired shapes.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown. Slightly beat 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water; brush hot loaves with the egg mixture.

Note: We cut kneading time in half by using an electric mixer with a bread hook. And we also cut the recipe in half with no trouble.

Requests

Anyone have a good recipe for pastitsio for Michael Gross of Mt. Lebanon?

Don Pawlak of Wilkinsburg remembers a cookbook by Peg Bracken, "I Hate To Cook Cookbook." In that cookbook there was a recipe for 7 Hour Stew. If anyone has this recipe, please send in to the Kitchen Mailbox.

Deborah Pike of Churchill is looking for a recipe for Caramel Pot de Creme. This dessert is made like a custard and it's not the same as creme brulee.


If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com. Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence. All recipes are kitchen-tested by the Post-Gazette.



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