Easter Bread

Easter bread is the best! The one bread I can eat all year long, every day. Especially if it’s homemade.
Easter bread is famous all over the world, in Bulgaria we call it “kozunak”, there is the Italian Easter bread, the Greek… For me it is all the same – flour, milk, sugar, oil/butter and eggs. So, no matter how you call it, it’s all the same and I love it!
It’s the proportions of the ingredients that make a difference, I believe. I’ve heard many complicated and overwhelming techniques for preparation, but I think there is no need of over thinking an Easter bread recipe. Some people keep a steady room temperature when kneading the dough then, let it rise in the same room, without opening the door (what?!) … some “bang” it on the kneading board many times, for whatever reason they might have. I think there is no need for such drastic approaches. The “banging” is probably to let the gluten develop, but if you have a stand mixer, you can just let it do the job. As for the steady temperature – what? why?… The yeast will do it’s job, no matter the temperature of the room. Yes, dough might rise faster if you keep it in a warmer room, but no matter what, it will rise eventually. Well, don’t keep it in the fridge unless you plan to bake it on the next day, though.
***no offence to those putting an extra though and effort into the Easter bread
As for this recipe, it is absolutely delicious, but my huge recommendation would be to make it and eat it. Don’t bake it ahead cause it’s meant to be eaten right away, soft and slightly warm.
You can totally make the dough the night before and leave in the fridge covered in plastic wrap. It will slowly rise by the morning. Then take it out and leave it at room temperature for about two hours to warm up. Once at room temperature you may continue with dividing, shaping and prepping for second rise (see the rest of instructions below).
Another important thing here is to understand that such dough needs a looo-o-ot of kneading. So, in case you have a hand or stand mixer – just use it. Dough is pretty sticky, so kneading it by hand will be a challenge, and please do not add extra flour to make the hand kneading easier, cause this dough is supposed to be sticky and greasy. For kneading by hand just use a non-stick spoon/spatula or whatever you have on hands and just stir it and push it around the bowl until soft, smooth and glossy.
I made these breads with orange peel and dark chocolate, but you could do other flavors, if you prefer.
Continue reading for detailed instructions on the preparation!
Enjoy!

Easter bread

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Ingredients:
500 grams (17,5 oz) all-purpose flour
1 package instant dry yeast
A pinch of salt
220 ml. (8 fl. oz) milk, at room temperature
2 medium eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
100 grams (3,5 oz) honey
100 grams (3,5 oz) canola oil or other flavorless oil of your choice
Zest from 1 orange
100 grams (3,5 oz) mini chocolate chips or shredded chocolate
200 grams (7 oz) candied orange peel, finely chopped or raisins, soaked in rum overnight

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a bread hook, add the flour, salt and yeast. Beat for 15 seconds to distribute the yeast evenly within the flour. Add the milk, eggs and honey and beat for about 5 minutes and all is well combined. Add the oil and continue beating for another 20-25 minutes or until you have super smooth and shiny dough. Dough will be a bit sticky, but don’t get tempted to add extra flour. Within the last minute add the chocolate chips and orange peel/raisins and beat to combine, about a minute.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and scrape the dough to the center of the bowl using a rubber spatula. Dust lightly with flour and cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rest in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
After rising, gently take the dough out of the bowl, using your hands, greased with oil and place on a large kneading board or on your counter. Don’t knead the dough and be gentle with it, you don’t want to deflate it too much.
Divide the dough into equal parts, as many as you like, depending on how many breads you are making and their size. I would recommend you to make two breads, because dough rises additionally during baking, so if you use it for one whole Easter bread it will turn out pretty huge. This dough makes two perfect medium sized breads. In order to do that, you will need to divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Gently roll each piece into a long rope, twisting it as you go. Attach two ropes at the ends, then twist them to make some sort of braid. Connect both ends to make a wreath and gently transfer onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat steps for the other two pieces of dough, which will leave you with two medium size wreaths.
Set them aside to rise again for about 30-45 minutes, depending on the temperature of the room.
Preheat your oven to 170C.
After the second rise, brush wreaths with lightly beaten egg and sprinkle some sugar on top.
Bake for 30 minutes, lowering the temperature of the oven if you see the tops starting to burn.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature before serving.

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