A slightly sweet Easter bread with a fluffy crumb, flavored with orange and fennel.
I started this article about 300 times, without exaggeration. Maybe a little. I wanted to whine about time going by so fast; complain that we were wrapping presents for Christmas only yesterday and now we have Easter just around the corner, etc., etc. But I think I wrote an article recently saying almost the same and I thought I was getting repetitive. But it’s how I feel these days: my eldest daughter just got her drivers license and I can not figure out where all this time has gone, really. Just yesterday she was trying to balance on both legs while pushing a wooden car across the room and now has the duplicate of my car key in her bag. I think I might be getting into a little middle-aged crisis.
Since we can not avoid the cadence of the days, I thought it was time to start with the preparations for Easter, i.e., to test a recipe for the sweet bread I want to make for lunch on Easter Sunday. I am not the biggest fan of Easter bread, at least of the ones that are usually bought, I find them tasteless and dry in texture. I like some of the traditional Portuguese Easter breads that are more flavorful and you may remember I shared a recipe for a traditional Portuguese Easter bread just a year ago. This year I wanted to try something different.
This Easter bread is a slightly sweet bread with a very soft crumb, very different from the purchased ones, that I simply flavored with orange and fennel. If you want to add other aromas (cinnamon, lemon, just to give some examples) you can do it. It is also a sweet bread that you can make at any other time of the year. Skip the boiled eggs on top, completely optional, and accompany with a cup of tea or coffee. It is delicious slightly toasted and spread with a little butter, so, if there is any left, here’s a suggestion for breakfast on Easter Monday.
This Easter bread prepares very quickly but then the dough needs time to grow. If you want to make it for Sunday lunch, I suggest that you knead it the night before and let it rise overnight. Next morning just shape it, let it rise for another hour and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.
Sweet Easter bread braid
- 325 - 400 g all-purpose flour
- 80 g sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried baker's yeast
- 1 teaspoon ground fennel
- Zest of 1/2 orange
- 60 ml vegetable oil
- 60 ml milk
- 2 medium eggs slightly beaten
- 1 beaten egg to brush
- 1 teaspoon sesame seeds (optional)
- 3 raw and whole eggs for decorating (optional)
- Place the dough hook on the mixer (if you prefer, you can knead the easter bread by hand). In the bowl of the mixer, add 325 g of flour, sugar, baker’s yeast, ground fennel and orange zest. Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the liquid ingredients: oil, milk and beaten eggs. Knead until you get an homogeneous dough, even if it does not appear to be completely smooth or dry. If the mixture is very moist add a little more flour, but only one spoon at a time. If the dough gets too dry the easter bread will also be dry after baking.
- Transfer the dough to a bowl lightly greased with vegetable oil, cover with cling film and leave to leaven in a warm place for 3 hours.
- Line the bottom of a baking tray with parchment paper. Sprinkle the countertop with a little flour. Remove the dough from the bowl where it leavened and knead it slightly to remove the air. Divide the dough into three equal parts and make a roll with each one of about 50 cm. Join the 3 rolls at one end and make a braid. Finish by also joining the three rolls at the end. Fold the start and end junctions, so that they stay below the bread. Transfer the easter bread to the tray, cover with cling film and let it rise for another hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180º C. Brush the easter bread with beaten egg and sprinkle with the sesame seeds, if using. Distribute the raw and whole eggs (optional). Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden.
- At this time of year my kitchen is not hot enough to leaven a dough. My trick is to put the bowl inside the oven with the heating function on at a temperature of 35° C (my oven only has two temperatures in this function, 35° C and 60° C).
- You can let the dough rise overnight and finish and bake it the next day in the morning.
- You may want to check also this recipe for a traditional Portuguese Easter bread.
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