Easter Bread (Italian Sweet Bread)
ready in: 2-5 hrs
serves/makes: 2 loaves
recipe id: 35815
cook method: oven, stovetop
5 cups unsifted flour
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup milk
1/2 cup margarine
3 eggs, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon anise oil
1 teaspoon anise flavoring
1 tablespoon water
2 drops yellow food coloring
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast.
Combine milk and margarine in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm. (Margarine doesn't need to melt.) Remove from heat and add anise oil and yellow food coloring to make a "buttery" yellow color. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 3 eggs and 1/2 cup flour, or enough flour to make a thick batter. Beat a high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Add enough additional flour to make a soft dough.
Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover with a clean dishcloth or plastic wrap; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Cover; let rise again until almost double, about 30 minutes.
Punch dough down again; turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide in half; form into two large round balls or a dozen "buns". Place on opposite corners of a greased baking sheet. Cut a cross 1/2-inch deep on top of each ball. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Beat 1 egg the 1 tablespoon water. Use to brush tops of loaves.
Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees F.) about 35 to 45 min. (15 to 20 for buns), or until done. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire racks.
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