Easter bread: our family tradition

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Every year, my husband makes the most amazing bread for Easter. It’s not necessarily the most Instagram friendly bread, but it’s a gorgeous, twisty sweet bread covered in cinnamon-sugar chopped almonds. He makes it the day before, a process that takes about eight hours in total, and it’s ready and waiting for us for Easter breakfast.

Years ago, our kids would be up early in the morning for their egg hunt, and we’d eat this with slightly bleary eyes, knee deep in caffeine. This year, I woke up late to sunshine streaming in through the window. Our daughter, who is ten, was already sitting on the sofa watching videos on YouTube. Our son, who is almost fourteen, was still asleep. We let him lie in until about 10:00am when we couldn’t hold off on the bread any longer. They still had their Easter egg hunt, but we didn’t have to hold them back like chocolate eating zombies, as we did in the old days.

This Easter bread is our family tradition, something that we made up and didn’t inherit from either of our families. We have a special plate for it, covered with bunnies and flowers, that also only comes out once a year. And it wouldn’t be Easter for us without it.

CIAMBELLA MANDORLATA 

(Rising=4 hours, Proving=1 1/2 hours, Oven temperature=220C/400F, Baking=45 minutes)

Ingredients:

2 tsp dried yeast

100 ml (3 1/2 oz) tepid milk

600 g (1 1/4 lb) strong white flour

2 tsp salt

125 g (4 oz) granulated sugar

zest of 3 lemons, grated

125 g (4 oz) unsalted butter, softened

3 eggs, beaten

100 ml (3 1/2 fl oz) water

For the topping:

4 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tbsp granulated sugar

125 g (4 oz) blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1 egg yolk

1. Sprinkle the yeast into the milk in a small bowl. Leave for 5 minutes; stir to dissolve. Mix the flour, salt, sugar and lemon zest together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centre of the mixture then add to it the butter, eggs and the yeasted milk.

2. Mix in the flour from the sides of the well. Add the water, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed, to form a soft, sticky dough.

3. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth, springy and elastic, about 10 minutes.

4. Put the dough in a clean bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave the dough to rise until doubled in size, about 4 hours. Knock back the dough, then leave to rest, covered with a tea towel, for about 10 minutes.

5. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and roll each piece into a 40 cm (16 in) long rope. Twist the two dough ropes together.

6. Place the shaped dough rope on a buttered baking sheet. Shape it into a ring by bringing the two ends of the role together. Pinch them to seal and cover with a tea towel. Prove until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

7. To make the topping, mix the cinnamon, sugar, almonds and egg yolk together in a bowl. Use a rubber spatula to spread the mixture evenly over the top of the ring. Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped underneath. Cool on a wire rack.

From: Treuille, E. & Ferrigno, U. (1998) Bread. London: Dorling Kindersley Ltd., p. 153. The book is filled with absolutely gorgeous bread recipes. You can buy an updated version (2014) on Amazon.

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