Italian Easter Bread
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package dry yeast
2-1/2 to 3-1/2 cups unbleached flour
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit
1/3 cup chopped blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon aniseed
2 tablespoons melted shortening
5 uncooked eggs colored with Easter-egg dyeIcing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
colored sprinkles, for decoration
In a large mixing bowl, blend the sugar, salt, and yeast well with 1
cup of the flour. In a saucepan, combine milk and butter, heating
slowly until liquid is warm and butter is melted. Pour the milk into
the dry ingredients and beat 125 strokes with a wooden spoon. Add
the two eggs and 1/2 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter.
Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in enough more flour to make a
ball of dough that draws away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about
10 minutes, working in additional flour to overcome stickiness.
Place the dough into a greased bowl, turning to grease the top.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put into a warm, draft-free
place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine the
fruit, nuts, and aniseed.
Punch down the dough and return it to a lightly floured board. Knead
in the fruit mixture, keeping the syrupy pieces dusted with flour
until they are worked into the dough. Divide the dough in half.
Carefully roll each piece into a 24-inch rope--the fruit and nuts
will make this slightly difficult. Loosely twist the two ropes
together and form it into a ring on a greased baking sheet. Pinch
the ends together well. Brush the dough with melted shortening. Open
up the twist slightly to make a place for each colored egg.
Carefully push the eggs down into the dough as far as possible.
Cover the bread with waxed paper and let rise in a warm, draft-free
place until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 35
minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a twist comes out clean.
Place onto a wire rack to cool. Once the bread is cool, drizzle the
icing on top between the eggs, and decorate with colored sprinkles.