As an Italian tradition my family always had three things for Easter. The first was "ham pie" which is similar to a quiche with ham, cheese and egg. The second is "rice pie" which is a simple sweet lemon flavored pie with rice and ricotta. And the third, which is my favorite, "Easter bread." This bread, also called "sweet bread," was always my favorite thing to eat at Easter. My Grandma, Great Aunt Rita and Great Uncle Joe, totally mastered the art of making this delightful light and sweet bread, but I unfortunately have not. So this year I thought I would try and give it another go. It was semi successful, but in the end....better luck next year! Like my Mom said, "at least you tried."
Easter Bread Recipe: (makes 3-8" loaf pans)
1 package dry cake yeast
1 stick oleo (butter)
1 c sugar
1 tsp salt
1 c milk
1/2 bottle lemon extract
4-5 cups of raisins (I used 5)
To start off you activate the yeast by adding 1/4 c of warm water and a tsp of sugar. If the yeast is active it will double in size in less than 10 mins, if this does not happen toss it and try a new packet. While you wait for your yeast to activate, measure your ingredients and add to the center of your flour (mix the salt with the flour first)like a "nest." Then add the activated yeast and knead with your hands. This dough is extremely STICKY so try to coat your hands with flour first. You can also remove dough on your hands by rubbing them together with some flour.
Once your dough is kneaded form a ball the best you can, cover the bowl with a dish towel or two and stick it in a warm place to rise. If it is not warm it will not rise! You want it to be at least 70 degrees. It will take the dough awhile to rise, you want it to DOUBLE in size, mine took about two hours.
Then you punch down the dough and and put in your pans. You want to fill the pans about half way. This time I did one loaf pan and some Texas sized muffin pans. Cover again and let rise again until.
Once it rose for the second time you bake it for 20 mins in a 325 degree oven. After 20 mins, brush the top of the loaves with a combination of egg yolk and water and return to the oven for an additional 5 mins. This is what makes it shinny and a little golden. You can test the bread to see if it is done by tapping it out of the pan and knocking on the bottom of it. It should sound hollow and be golden on the bottom. Here is my finished product, ready to go to Michael's Grandma's. We won't talk about what happened to the loaf, like I said, "better luck next year."