Greek Easter Bread

Discussion in 'Recipes' started by papa, Feb 21, 2001.

  1. papa

    papa

    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Dear Friends:

    My great aunt Ypatia was the great chef in our family and she ran our family restaurant in the fishing village of Kavouri near Athens. She was a great inspiration to me and she taught me how to cook. She used to say that a good chef is like a good surgeon. The skills are the same, just the pay is different.

    She gave me this great recipe for Greek Easter Bread and I thought that some of you might find it interesting. Please remember that I am not a chef but I am sensitive. Be kind with your professional comments.

    Greek Easter Bread:

    The traditional Greek Easter Sunday table is always graced with this almond-topped bread that heralds the end of the Lenten fast. This bread is richly textured and usually sculpted on top with the designs of spring flowers, leaves or berries. The rebirth or blood of Christ is represented by the red eggs, which are an important part of the presentation.

    Ingredients:

    For the eggs:
    6 white eggs, room temperature
    2 teaspoons red food coloring
    A few drops of blue food coloring
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

    For the Easter Bread:
    ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
    ½ cup warm water (110 degrees F)
    2 tablespoons active dry yeast
    3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
    2 ½ to 3 cups unbleached pastry flour
    ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons warm milk (110 degrees F)
    2 tablespoons extra virgin oil
    5 eggs
    Juice of ½ orange
    2 tablespoons finely grated orange zest, dried for a few minutes in an oven on a low setting and then crushed in a mortar with ½ teaspoon sugar, or, in the alternative, 1 ½ tablespoons orange extract
    ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
    4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    1 egg yolk
    1 tablespoon honey
    ¼ cup blanched slivered almonds


    Preparation:

    Dissolve 1 teaspoon of the brown sugar in the warm water and sprinkle the yeast in the sugar water. Set aside in a warm place until it is foamy, approximately ten minutes.

    Sift 2 cups of the all-purpose flour into a large bowl, make a well in the center and add the yeast mixture. Knead and slowly add the ½ cup warm milk, remaining 1 cup all-purpose flour and 1 ½ cups pastry flour or enough pastry flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. (A kitchen mixer fitted with a dough hook can be used during this process). Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for ten minutes. Transfer dough to a bowl lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil and turn the dough in the bowl to coat all the sides of the dough with the olive oil. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and set the bowl in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in size, approximately one hour.

    During this waiting period, fill a stainless steel saucepan half full with water, bring to a boil and add the food colorings. Carefully add the eggs and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add more food coloring if necessary to make the eggs a deep crimson color.

    Let the eggs cool gradually in the water, remove the eggs and set aside to try. Pour a little olive oil onto a paper towel and wipe each egg with the oil saturated towel.

    In a large bowl, beat the eggs until light and frothy and beat in the remaining brown sugar, the orange juice, orange zest, vanilla and salt. Add this to the dough along with 3 tablespoons of the melted butter and enough of the remaining 1 ½ cups pastry flour to make a soft dough that is smooth and elastic. Transfer this to a lightly floured surface and knead for four minutes.

    Divide the dough into six portions, reserving and setting aside a little dough to make decorations for the top of each braid. (The reserved dough pieces for the decoration is optional. If you elect to do so, form the little reserved dough pieces into shapes such as spring flowers or leaves or berries and apply them to the top of the braids described below before the second rising.) Using the palm of your hands, roll each portion into a nine inch rope with the middle of each rope being a little thicker than the ends which should be pointed. Brush a large baking sheet with the remaining melted butter. Bring three of the ropes over to the baking sheet, lay them side by side on the greased sheet, braid the ropes loosely and tuck in the pointed ends to form rounded ends of the braids. Repeat this process with the remaining ropes and space the two completed braids sufficiently apart to allow the placement of the Easter eggs between the braids after the final rising process and immediately before baking. (Optional: After you have formed the braids, this is the time to apply the flower, leaf or berry decorations to the tops of the braids.) Loosely cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, approximately 1 ½ hours.

    Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the eggs between the braids. Whisk together the egg yolk, honey and the 2 tablespoons milk and brush with this mixture. Sprinkle with slivered almonds and bake ten minutes. (You can spray a fine mist of water into the oven a few times during this ten minute process to form a hard exterior crust.) After ten minutes, reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees F and bake 20 minutes more or until the bread turns to a delicious honey brown. Transfer to a cooling rack.
     
  2. foodnfoto

    foodnfoto

    Messages:
    1,403
    Likes Received:
    37
    Exp:
    Owner/Operator
    Thank you for the recipe. I have always wanted to know how to make this bread properly and my experiments with baking the eggs in the bread have been frought with disaster. One question, are Easter eggs in Greece always red?
     
  3. papa

    papa

    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Dear foodnfoto:

    Easter eggs were always red in Greece when I was growing up and until the middle 1970s.

    It was some time in the '70s that I remember people dying Easter eggs in other colors (primarily blue, green and yellow). That was also the time that big supermarket chains started operating in Greece, replacing the small corner grocery stores. I believe that that was the time that new colors were introduced and to some extent they became fashionable. It was a time of economic prosperity and companies started charging more for their different egg dyes.

    The reason, however, behind the long standing tradition of dying Easter eggs red in Greece is based in religion. The red color of the eggs represents the blood of Christ and rebirth.

    I hope that this answers your question.
     
  4. papa

    papa

    Messages:
    347
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Dear Debin:

    Thank you for your considence.

    Let me know how it turns out. :rolleyes:

    Best regards,
     
  5. mudbug

    mudbug

    Messages:
    2,068
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Culinary Instructor
    Papa,

    Thanks for posting your recipe. I thought it would be interesting to include a link to other Greek Easter Bread Recipes under this post as well. There is additional interesting information on its history.

    [ February 27, 2001: Message edited by: cchiu ]