15 April 2009

Easter Bread

This Easter bread is a family tradition that I'm sure many other Italian-American families share. My grandmother, who immigrated to the US from Calabria in the 1930s, made these breads every Easter for our family while she was still able. Nobody continued the tradition after she passed; that is, until a few years ago when I started making them.

make the dough, let it rise

while the dough is rising, dye the eggs

The bread is a little bit sweet and is braided or wrapped around a raw egg before it's baked. The egg cooks during the baking process so that you can eat the whole thing - egg and all - once it's done. It makes a perfect Easter breakfast -- nice and light so you can save room for the feast that comes later.

once the dough has risen, make braids

twist up the braids

I have to admit, making the bread takes some effort (actually, it's not so bad, but for a dough-a-phobe like myself, it can be stressful), but the smiles and memories it brings back for my dad and his sisters is worth the effort. I'm happy to carry on the tradition.

place the egg in the middle - careful, the eggs aren't cooked yet

fresh out of the oven, golden brown and delicious

Easter Bread

2 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast
1.25 cups scalded milk, cooled
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
~5 cups flour
1 egg + 1 tsp water, beaten

6 eggs (not cooked), dyed if you like

In a mixing bowl, combine the yeast, milk, butter, eggs, sugar, and half the flour. Beat until well mixed (I used the dough hook on my KitchenAid). Continue to add flour, a little at a time, until the dough becomes stiff and is no longer sticky (the final amount of flour you use will vary). Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a dry dish towel and set in a warm, dry place to rise until doubled (this could take anywhere from 1-3 hours; it took ~2.5 hours for me this time). Once risen, punch down the dough and divide into 12 pieces. Roll out each piece to form a 1 inch thick log. Braid 2 pieces together to form a total of six braids. Wrap each braid into a circle, pinching the ends of the dough together to make them stick. Place the breads on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats. Cover with a dry towel and again let them rise until doubled. Brush the each ring with the egg + water mixture. Carefully place an egg in the center of each ring (the dough will cradle the egg) and coat the dough with sprinkles, if desired. Bake at 350 degrees until golden on top (~20-30 minutes).

13 April 2009

Roast beef sliders

Having a party? Can't decide what to make? Roast beef sliders are the answer. They are easy to make and can be prepared before your guests arrive. For this batch, I cooked up the beef according to this recipe from Simply Recipes. It came out perfectly rare in the middle. I cooked up the beef, slowly caramelized some onions, and made the blue cheese mayonnaise the night before the party. I threw it all in the refrigerator before I went to sleep.

The day of the party, I let the beef and onions come to room temperature while I got ready for the party. About 30 minutes before the guests arrived, we assembled the sandwiches (by "we," I mean bf did). We layered a handful of baby arugula, caramelized onions, slices of roast beef, and bleu cheese mayonnaise on mini rolls. The guests loved them!

Bleu cheese mayonnaise

4 oz. bleu cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

Mix all ingredients together until creamy. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

01 April 2009

Bleu cheese omelette

This omelette started out as an exercise in cleaning out the refrigerator and ended up a super delicious breakfast. I love it when that happens! I scrambled some eggs, added a bit of milk and a threw in a handful of chopped chives. I poured the egg mixture into a hot, buttered pan, cooked the eggs until almost set, and then threw in some crumbled bleu cheese. I folded the omelette and dropped it on a plate with some blood orange slices and bunch of red grapes. The blue cheese made for a creamy, flavorful, and satisfying omelette. This is a great way to use up the last bits of a hunk of bleu cheese.