Prep 3 hrs
Cook 40 mins
A very special bread baked with a colored Easter Egg in the center; very attractive. This recipe calls for a flavoring called fior di Sicilia, which is orange flower water. I have not seen this in stores, but am assured it makes everything from cakes to frostings and cookies taste like a Creamsicle. Sounds yummy! I substitute vanilla and orange extract to equal about 1/4 teaspoon. Adapted from a recipe by Mary Ann Esposito (Ciao Italia).
- 1⁄4 ounce active dry yeast (1 packet)
- 1⁄4 cup warm water (110 to 115 F)
- 1⁄2 cup warm buttermilk (110 to 115 F)
- 4 large eggs, at room temperature
- 4 colored hard-boiled eggs
- 1 large orange, juiced
- 2 tablespoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon fior di sicilia orange flower water (or better a combination of vanilla and orange extract) or 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract (or better a combination of vanilla and orange extract)
- 4 1⁄2-5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1⁄2 cup sugar
- 1 1⁄2 teaspoons salt
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
- colored crystal sugar, for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Dissolve yeast in warm water in a medium bowl. Allow to proof for about 5 minutes until bubbles appear on the surface of the water. Stir in the buttermilk, then beat in 3 of the eggs, one at a time. Add orange juice, zest, and fior di Sicilia (if available) or flavor extract(s). Set aside. The fourth egg is reserved for an egg wash on the finished braids.
- In a bowl combine 4 1/2 cup flour, sugar, and salt. Break up the butter and add to dry ingredients. Work it in with your hands until mixture is crumbly. Add in the yeast mixture and continue mixing with your hands and form a ball of dough. Add additional flour, if needed, to obtain a dough that is soft but not too tacky. Dough could also be made in a stand mixer.
- Turn dough out on floured work surface and knead for 3-4 minutes until smooth. Let dough rest for 10 minutes; cover with a clean kitchen towel or an inverted bowl. Knead again for about 5 minutes and no longer tacky.
- Oil a large bowl lightly and place dough inside and turn to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
- Once it has risen to double, punch it down and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until it is smooth and not tacky.
- Divide dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a 16 inch rope. Form a braid by using 2 ropes, then bring the ends together to form a circle. Place braided ring on a parchment lined baking sheet allowing room for them to rise again (two per baking sheet).
- Place an Easter Egg in the center of each braid and brush dough with the reserved beaten egg. Sprinkle dough with colored sugar. Cover and let rise 20 minutes.
- Bake until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Cool on wire racks.