It's been quite a few years since I've thought about this Easter egg bread. My mom used to make it in a wreath shape and it was quite a novelty then. Since I didn't start eating egg yolks until I was well into adulthood, one of my memories of Easter was all the little yolks lined up in the refrigerator egg tray (where I'd put them for my dad after I ate the egg whites). Back then I don't even remember us refrigerating the colored eggs. I'm sure they sat on the kitchen table in a basket until they were all gone (and none of us died from that action). I also know I was much more interested in eating chocolate bunnies and crosses back then. Through the eyes of an adult, it seems just a bit off that we got these ornate chocolate crosses in our Easter baskets and thought nothing of chomping on them. Holidays always make me nostalgic, and with both mom and dad gone such memories are a way of keeping them alive in my heart.
Once I got it into my head to make this bread, I had to search high and low for mom's recipe. I have quite a few binders and folders filled with recipes and finally found the right one. I decided to make the bread into individual loaves since not much bread gets consumed here and this would make it easy to gift a few out (and let the results end up on someone else's hips). Such generosity!
Makes 1 wreath loaf or 6 individual loaves
1 pkg. active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk, scalded then cooled
1/3 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs. sugar
3 1/2 - 4 cups all purpose flour
salt--a pinch or two
6 raw eggs, dyed
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk
* (note that my breads have colored sprinkles; I had run out of nonpareils and didn't realize it until too late)
In a stand mixer, add yeast, slightly cooled milk, butter, beaten eggs, sugar, half the flour, and a pinch of salt. With the dough hook attachment, begin mixing, gradually adding as much of the remaining flour as necessary until the dough is no longer sticky. This should take about 5 minutes. After the first 3 1/2 cups of flour, I add it by 1/8 cup until the right consistency is achieved. Remove the dough to a floured surface and knead about 12 times. Place in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place until doubled, 1 - 2 hours. Meanwhile, color the raw eggs, then refrigerate until ready to use.
When the dough has doubled, punch it down then divide into 3 ropes (for a large wreath) or into 12 ropes (to be twisted into 6 small loaves). Roll out each rope to about 12 inches in length; braid two together, making certain to pinch the ends together and place on a baking sheet with Silpat mats (or a greased baking sheet). Cover again and let rise in a warm place until doubled (about another hour).
Gently place a colored egg in the middle of each loaf, pressing down a bit. Brush loaves with egg wash, then add sprinkles.
Bake at 350 degrees until the tops are golden brown (25-30 minutes). Cool on a rack.
Seeing these come out of the oven was a flashback to my childhood. The bread is just a little bit sweet and tastes good with just a bit of butter or with some butter and preserves. The eggs cook up nicely in the oven and round out breakfast or can be saved and made into egg salad later.