Braided Easter Bread

For some reason this weekend, I just had a desire to make bread. But not just plain bread. I wanted something a bit more fun and interesting. That’s when I came across this recipe for Easter bread from Jo Cooks. This recipe is super easy, super buttery, super delicious, and it looks really pretty if you’re having an Easter morning brunch. I was able to make four decent-sized loaves as well, so I had plenty to share. If you’re feeling extra indulgent, I recommend having a chunk of this stuff while it’s still warm with a nice helping of butter.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup (230 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 envelopes active dry yeast
  • 5 eggs
  • 6 cups flour, plus some extra as needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons sesame or poppy seeds

Directions

1. Stir the milk, butter, and margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the butter and margarine melts, making sure that the mixture does not start to boil. Add the 1 cup of sugar and whisk until it dissolves, then remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

2. In a small bowl, dissolve the 2 teaspoons of sugar in the water, add the yeast, and gently stir. Let this mixture stand for about 10 minutes until it gets frothy. If it does not, your yeast may be too old or the water may be too hot, so dump the mixture and start again if necessary – because the yeast is key!

3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs then slowly add the cooled milk and butter mixture. Be sure to stir constantly to avoid scrambling the eggs! Once combined, add the yeast mixture.

4. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking powder. Create a ‘well’ in the center and pour in the mixed wet ingredients. Stir or work with your hands until you get a sticky dough.

5. Cover a work surface generously with flour, then turn out the sticky dough onto the surface. Gently knead the dough for about 10 minutes and add more flour as needed until you get a nice, less-sticky dough. Coat a clean large bowl with oil and place the kneaded dough into it. Cover with a clean towel and set in a warm place to rise for about two hours, or until doubled in size. (If your house is chilly, like mine, I suggest putting the bowl into a cool oven and placing a dish full of hot water below it. If it’s a sunny day though, a warm window sill works well!) 

6. After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and let it rise again until doubled, which is about another hour.

7. Divide the dough into four pieces, then cut each of these pieces into thirds. (I find it’s easiest to use a pizza cutter for this, as it slices through much more easily than a knife. I also weighed the dough to be sure that everything was even.) Roll each of the pieces into a 12-inch rope and braid three pieces of rope together, pinching the ends together and tucking underneath the loaf to seal it up. (See the photos above.) Place each of the braided loaves onto a baking sheet lined with baking parchment.

8. Set the braided loaves in a warm place to rise, until they double in size again. Then brush the loaves with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the sesame or poppy seeds.

9. Bake the loaves at 350°F (approx 175°C) for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

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