Since I was a young teen, I have made this bread every year for Easter. Why? TRADITION!
Roasting whole lamb on an outside spit with groups of family willing to rotate basting, while laughing and drinking throughout the night. Red (only) eggs dyed with a concentrated powder as dark as blood, you could only buy at a Middle Eastern or Greek market. Pastries oozing with honey. The making of a special soup called “Magiritsa” eaten first, after midnight mass, to break the forty days of lenten fasting, a soup that is made from all the lamb organs so as not to waste one part of the lamb to be feasted on, Easter Day. These are the traditional memories that fill my thoughts each and every Easter season.
We don’t roast the whole lamb anymore. We do, however always serve lamb for Easter. We don’t make the soup. Eggs are now a rainbow of colors. For several years our clan even tried a wildly popular new trend of plastic eggs hidden with cash inside. Man-oh-man, the teens suddenly LOVED the Easter egg hunt! Now that little ones have come into the family, the cash egg idea has been kicked to the curb. Might return when they are teens.
This bread… this bread however, is too yummy to make only once a year, however I hope it will remain on the table each and every year. Truth be known, I make is often because it’s the best bread to dunk in my coffee! Shhhhh.
Makes 2 large loaves
- Milk – 1 cup
- Sugar – 3/4 cup
- Butter – 8 ounces, room temp
- Salt – 1 tablespoon
- Mahlab – (aromatic flavor from crushed seeds of a species of cherry, used in Arab bread) or Mastic (aromatic flavor from crushed resin of a mastic tree, used in Greek bread) – 1/2 teaspoon of either
- Eggs – 3
- Yeast – 1 tablespoon dry yeast
- Water – 1/2 cup, warm but not hot
- Flour – about 8 cups (give or take until consistency is right)
- Sesame Seeds – 1 tablespoon
- Egg wash – one whole egg whisked with 2 tablespoon milk
Heat the milk until bubbles form; remove from heat. Whisk in sugar, butter, salt, flavor. Once blended, whisk in one egg at a time. Set aside.
In a small bowl, mix warm water, yeast and a pinch of sugar. Let set 10 minutes.
In a very large bowl, pour in the milk mixture, the yeast mixture and begin to whisk in flour one cup at a time. When the mixture begins to thicken, start to work the dough with your hand while adding flour. Press, turn, fold the dough over and over until it is no longer sticky.
In a buttered larger bowl, place the dough, cover with plastic, wrap a towel around and place in a warm, not hot, place to rise. This dough is heavy so it might take 2 hours to rise.
Preheat oven to 400. On two separate cookie sheets place parchment paper or gently oil the pan. Shape the loaves as you would like: oblong, round or braided. Baste with egg-wash, sprinkle with sesame seeds. Let rest for 30 minutes. Bake for 18- 22 minutes. Until tops are golden brown.
Keeps for a week and is fabulous for breakfast, lunch with cheese and fruit, or your favorite lamb dinner!