Croatian Easter Bread
This says Easter bread, but there’s no need to wait until 2021 to make it! I’m thinking this would be nice for Mother’s Day brunch…as long as mom doesn’t have to make it for herself!
Over the past few years my desire and drive to cook and bake and then blog about it has really dwindled…hence the years with no blog posts. Most of the cooking or baking I’d do would be out of pure necessity. I didn’t often find myself seeing some new recipe and excitedly deciding to make it without it serving some purpose. It just always felt like it would be more work than it was worth. I’ve been tired y’all.
I am slowly regaining the desire to cook/bake unnecessary things thanks in large part to having a life that has less structure these days. I marked this recipe for Easter morning and it was a terrific decision. Once this came out of the oven I was reminded of just how much fun it is to make something new, to see the transformation from simple ingredients to something not only edible but also beautiful and delicious. Everything about this bread, from the making to the eating, was pure joy…except for the dishes. I think Ben handled a lot of those! Thanks, babe.
Fine Cooking had a section in the April/May 2020 issue on Easter breads using one basic master dough and a few different types of breads using that dough. I chose this one because it seemed like the whole family would enjoy it…but more importantly because I had all of the ingredients! I had to make one substitution and use raisins in place of the golden raisins and it worked out well. I soaked the raisins in amaretto instead of the rum/amaretto mixture called for. Also totally fine.
The dough was pretty straightforward and I didn’t have any problems with rising. My new favorite place to let things rise is nestled in or on a pile of warm towels in the dryer. Works like a dream! I just make sure to tell everyone in the house that there’s dough in there and not to start the dryer…not that anyone in the house ever does the laundry but me or that anyone would start the dryer without looking in there. But I just know that if I don’t tell them, then that’ll be the time when someone does randomly start the dryer and then there’s a big ol’ mess.
When I first read through the instructions on shaping this bread I felt a bit daunted, but once I got started it wasn’t bad. Here’s how it breaks down. Step-by-step pics in the Fine Cooking article are very helpful.
- Divide risen dough in half.
- Divide each half into thirds.
- Roll each third into a long rope.
- Fold each rope in half and then twist it up and stretch it out.
- Connect three twists into a spiral shape, pinching the ends together as you go, then tuck the last bit underneath.
- Repeat with the other half of the dough.
I love that this makes two loaves! We were able to keep one and give the other away. I made these on a Saturday, stored in an airtight container and then reheated in a low oven on Sunday morning. Only then did I drizzle the icing. Really the icing is optional as the bread is delicious on its own or with a little spread of butter. It does make for a lovely presentation, I think. You definitely need to enjoy this warm, it is so much better that way.
You can go directly to the Fine Cooking recipe here.
Croatian Easter Bread
From Fine Cooking
For the dough
- 1/2 cup milk (I used 2%)
- 13 ounces (3 cups) bread flour, extra for the counter
- 1/4 ounce (1 packet) rapid-rise (instant) yeast
- 3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup raisins (golden or regular), soaked in 1/2 cup amaretto, and 1/4 cup hot water for 20 minutes, then drained
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- Nonstick cooking spray
For baking and icing
- 1 large egg plus 1 tablespoon water for egg wash
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk; more as needed
Make the Dough
- In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk to a boil. Let cool until just warm (110°F), about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine 1 cup of the flour with the yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir in 1/2 cup very warm water (about 120°F), and form into a ball. Cover the bowl lightly with plastic wrap. Set the bowl in a warm spot until the mixture has visible bubbles on its surface, about 30 minutes.
- Put the bowl in the mixer stand, and fit the mixer with the dough hook. On medium speed, beat in the egg yolks, sugar, butter, and salt, scraping the bowl occasionally. With the mixer running, add the milk and continue to beat until combined (it’s fine if there are a few lumps), about 2 minutes. Gradually add the remaining 2 cups flour. Raise the speed to medium-high, and knead until the dough is smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough will be soft and may not form a ball. Stop the mixer, add the raisins, vanilla extract, and lemon zest, and continue to mix until incorporated, 1 minute.
- Lightly coat a bowl with the cooking spray. Transfer the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic. Let rise in a warm place until the dough is doubled in size, 60 to 75 minutes.
Shape the Dough
- Stack two large rimmed baking sheets, and line the top pan with parchment. (Stacking the pans will prevent the bottom of the bread from overbrowning.)
- Gently scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface (try not to use more than 1 to 2 tablespoons of extra flour). Divide the dough in half, setting one of the pieces aside. With a bench scraper, divide the first piece of dough into three sections.
- Roll and stretch each section to a 14-inch length, then fold it in half to make it 7 inches long.
- Twist and stretch each section so that it’s 10 inches long.
- Starting with one of the dough twists, twirl the dough into a round, attaching the other dough twists to continue building a round loaf. (For a taller, fuller bread, allow the dough to build up into two layers of twists near the center.) Tuck the final end under the dough. Repeat this process with the reserved dough to make a second loaf. Carefully transfer the two dough rounds to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place until the dough rises by 50 to 75 percent, about 50 minutes.
Bake and Ice the Bread
- Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 375°F.
- Just before baking, whisk the egg with the water in a small bowl, and use a pastry brush to brush the dough with the egg wash.
- Bake until a wooden skewer inserted into the center of the bread comes out with only dry crumbs and the top is a deep golden amber, 25 to 35 minutes. (If the loaves start browning too deeply during baking, cover them with foil halfway through.) Let cool 20 minutes.
- Put the powdered sugar in a small bowl, and stir in the vanilla. Add enough of the milk to make a glaze. Drizzle the glaze over the warm bread. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. (Unglazed breads are good stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.)