Today, Gran Fran called and suggested I try my hand at another of her wonderful Easter baked specialities. Seems that she was so impressed with my version of her Pizza Rustica, that I was deemed worthy of her Easter egg bread basket recipe. As I've mentioned, I'm not much of a baker, so the prospect of taking on another baking project so soon was daunting.
And, I wanted to make these for Isabella. She is thirteen, which means that I don't have to get the Easter bunny over here, but there is still time for her to enjoy some of the fun. What was going through my mind, was how Gran Fran, no matter what, would send me off to preschool (then known as Nursery school) with fresh-baked treats for whatever holiday was being celebrated. I attended a Jewish Nursery school (long story, short, even though our family wasn’t Jewish, the private Nursery school was willing to take me a year earlier than the public school) and so Gran Fran made many challahs, and even hamantaschen cookies for Purim. She sent me the bread recipe today, which, as it turns out, is her trusty challah recipe from days of yore.
Gran Fran is always on my shoulder saying “What? So, you spend a little extra time after work making a nice treat for her? What’s it going to cost you … a little sleep?” This, from a woman who seems to need no more than 5 hours of sleep a night. Who knows if that is a product of raising five kids, what with all the worry and all, or if she was always that way.
Mine look just like her bread baskets, and I'm hoping that they are as lovely as the ones she sends over every year. No doubt, Isabella will give me very frank feedback on who's is better and what she likes about each. Either way, I'm just happy to be in possession of the recipe and to be able to make these baskets myself.
Source: Fleischmann's Yeast, a division of Burns Philp Food, Inc.
Yield: 6 egg basket loaves
- 1 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
- 2 packages (1/2 ounce or 4 1/2 tsp) Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup butter, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 5 1/4 to 5 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 teaspoon water
- colorful sprinkles, optional
- 8 hard boiled, dyed eggs
- Place 1/2 cup warm water in large warm bowl. Sprinkle in yeast; stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, sugar, margarine, salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour; blend well.
- Stir in 3 eggs, 1 egg white (reserve 1 yolk), and enough remaining flour to make soft dough.
- Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Punch dough down. Remove dough to lightly floured surface; divide in half.
- Set aside 1 half. Divide remaining half into 2 pieces, one about 2/3 of the dough and the other about 1/3 of the dough.
- Divide larger piece into 3 equal pieces; roll to 12-inch ropes. Place ropes on greased baking sheet; braid. Pinch ends to seal.
- Divide remaining piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll to 10-inch ropes; braid. Place small braid on large braid. Pinch ends firmly to seal and secure to large braid.
- Place a dyed egg into the braid and push down. As the dough rises, it will envelope the egg slightly.
- Repeat with remaining dough to make second loaf. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Beat reserved egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water; brush over loaves.
- Sprinkle with colorful sprinkles, if desired.
- Bake at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes or until done, switching positions of sheets in oven halfway through baking time. Remove from sheets; let cool on wire racks.