Tulips & Easter Bread

My mom sent us some tulips for Easter; they were so beautiful I thought they deserved a post of their own. They were the perfect spring addition to our brunch on Sunday. Thanks Mom!

So I decided to go all out for Easter this year. (So I was a little overambitious.) We had a really yummy brunch on Sunday morning with coffee-nut scones, fresh berries, coffee & o.j. (and mimosas for Nick.) We rarely get time to sit down to breakfast together, so it was a really nice departure from our normal coffee-&-cereal-bars grab & go breakfast.

Then came the Easter Bread.

After my success with the honey wheat bread, I decided to try my hand at this recipe for Greek Easter Bread that I found on Cooking Light. The photo of the buttery, golden, braided bread on the website was a bit intimidating, but I was confident I could pull it off. And I did! It was slightly sweet, with a little spice...delicious with a little honey and butter.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Draney Photography

Greek Easter Bread
from Cooking Light

1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 (3-inch) cinnamon stick
1 cup warm water (100 - 110 degrees)
Dash of salt
Dash of sugar
2 packages dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons each)
4 3/4 cups bread flour, divided
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon water
1 large egg yolk

Place allspice and cinnamon in a spice or coffee grinder, and process until finely ground. Set aside.

Combine water, dash of salt, dash of sugar, and yeast in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Let stand for 5 minutes. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 1 cup flour to yeast mixture, stirring until well combined. Let stand 20 minutes.

Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in allspice mixture. Add yeast mixture to butter mixture; stir with a whisk until well combined. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Add 3 1/2 cups flour, about 1 cup at a time, stirring until a soft dough forms. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky.)

Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. (Gently press 2 fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Divide dough into 3 equal portions, shaping each portion into a 14-inch-long rope. Place ropes lengthwise on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray (do not stretch); pinch ends together at one end to seal. Braid ropes; pinch loose ends to seal. Lightly coat dough with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine 1 tablespoon water and egg yolk, stirring with a whisk. Brush half of yolk mixture over loaf. Let stand for 5 minutes. Repeat procedure with the remaining yolk mixture. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

Yields 20 servings.

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