My father was a committed bread baker, so committed he would hand grind is wheat, and work on different versions of the recipe to perfect it. It was a dense bread which was very crumbly after a day or so, and I can’t say it was my favourite thing to take to school. It was no match for the neat spongy squares of white bread that was usually spread with vegemite. I didn’t even bother to ask anyone if they would like to swap, I knew what the answer was going to be to that. But at home, there was no need to swap out. We would slather it with butter and honey just after it came out of the oven, which would drip through the holes in the bread to dribble down our fingers. This was one of my cherished simple memories of my childhood.
We had one other bread favourite, and that was Easter bread, baked annually, only ever at Easter. This continued on even when he passed away, and we haven’t skipped an Easter, ever. My children would never forgive me if I did. I sometimes have to make two, one for the family lunch, and one for us, because the one for us won’t even make it to Sunday lunch. Last year during lockdown, the kids made it a few times so they could learn it themselves and keep the tradition alive. They look forward to it every year and is definitely a highlight on our Easter lunch table.
Lockdown also provided an opportunity for my siblings and their children to learn how to make Easter bread. We all got on a zoom call after I had sent the recipe, and stepped through the process together so everyone ended up with their own loaf.
It is similar to Italian Pane di Pasqua or Eastern European Paska, and is a sweet, yeast bread with butter and eggs to add softness. We normally plait the dough, but can also be shaped as a wreath or other shapes. One year my sister in law eve made them into cupcakes. Sometimes I had sultanas, and definitely finish off with a thick lemon icing.
- 500g Flour
- 250ml Whole milk
- 25gms of fresh yeast or 10g dry yeast
- 150g melted butter
- 100g sugar or to taste
- 3 egg yokes
- 1 whole egg
- Lemon zest or sultanas if you wish
- 2 cups icing sugar
- Lemon juice
- Warm the milk in a bowl and whisk in a tablespoon of the sugar and all the yeast. Stir the mixture until all the yeast has dissolved into the milk.
- Place the flour into a large bowl and create a small well into the centre of it. Pour the milk mixture into the centre of it, and dust with a covering of flour. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and place in a warm but not hot place. Mixture should start to bubble after about 30 mins. It should approximately double in size.
- In another bowl, whisk together the egg, egg yokes, butter and sugar and add to the flour and yeast. Gently stir or mix with your hands to bring it together in a dough.
- Leave it to rise for another hour or so, or until its doubled in size. The time this will take will depend on the ambient temperature.
- Once it has risen, gently knead the dough on a floured bench, and form three long separate pieces or “sausages”, and form a plait. Place this plait on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Over with the damp tea towel again and allow to rise for another 30 mins or so. Turn on the oven to preheat at 180 degrees, and prepare your icing. You may need three cups of icing sugar depending on how thick you want the icing to be. Add more lemon juice if you want the icing to be a thin glaze.
- Once it has almost doubled in size, its ready to put into the oven. Bake on the middle shelf for approx 30 mins, making sure the top and bottom are browned. If it sounds hollow when you tap it, its done.
- Place on a cooling rack immediately and ice straight away.