This bread used to be eaten only at Easter time, but these past few years you can find it in the shops throughout the year. It is a light ‘bread’, and truth be told I don’t like the bought kind, because it reminds me of a sponge. So, I make a ‘version’ that is something between a cake and a cookie, with lots of orange juice and zest so that you have that fresh smell and taste. It keeps well, it freezes well, it is not very sweet and is fantastic with tea, coffee or plain milk for the children.
Ingredients 1 ½ kilos (approximately) flour 3 tablespoons fresh yeast (or 3 sachets dry yeast) 5 eggs 2 cups melted butter or margarine 1 ¾ cups sugar 1 cup orange juice 2 tablespoonfuls orange jest 1 teaspoon of salt Yolk of an egg
Warm up the orange juice (must not be hot, because it will kill the yeast, just lukewarm). Place it in a quite large plastic container and dilute the yeast (you have to work the fresh yeast with your fingers). Add 2 – 3 cups flour and mix it, until you have a kind of batter. Cover it with a clean towel, or shrink wrap and a blanket and place it in a warm place to rise. If you put it in the oven (without the blanket) at the lowest temperature, it will rise quite quickly. Watch it because it can overflow.
In a large plastic basin put the flour, salt and orange jest. Add the melted butter (it mustn’t be hot, just lukewarm), the eggs, the sugar and the risen yeast mixture. Knead so that you have a soft dough. If it is sticky, add more flour, little by little, until you have the right consistency. Cover the basin with shrinkwrap and a blanket and place it in a warm place to rise. You can put it in the oven (without the blanket, like you did with the yeast mixture). The dough will rise in about 1 – 2 hours. (If you put the dough in the oven, it will rise much faster – just check it from time to time) When it has risen, knead it lightly again so that it deflates. Cut off pieces of the dough and make various shapes, but braids are the traditional shapes for Easter. You can also make smaller, individual round breads. Lay the breads on parchment-lined baking sheets. Leave quite a lot of space between the braids, because the dough will rise and they will stick together. The number of the breads depends on their size. On each sheet you should place similar sized breads, so that they are done at the same time. Place the baking sheets in the slightly warm oven and let the breads rise again for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.
Beat the egg yolk with 2 – 3 drops of water and brush the surface of the breads. If you want them to have a darker color, you can brush them again with the egg wash. You can also sprinkle slivered almonds on the breads. Turn up the oven to 180oC and bake for 30 minutes. The time depends again on the size of the breads. If they are small, the baking time will be reduced accordingly.