Easter Sunday is almost here. For many, it’s a special occasion with a breakfast marked by the tradition of fresh-baked breads and cinnamon rolls. These sweet breads date back to days when ingredients such as dried fruit, spices, sugar, and butter were precious. In many European countries, there are various traditions and celebrations surrounding the use of bread during the Easter holiday. These rich breads like Russian kulich, Greek tsoureki, and Italian colomba pasquale are often braided, and decorated with colored sugars and boiled eggs. The extra effort to braid your homemade bread makes it not only delicious but beautiful as well.
The origin of our version of Easter bread is a mystery. However, it’s a Byrd Mill recipe that has been passed down through generations. Made from scratch with our freshly milled flour as it has been done for many years, there are no added preservatives like you may find in store-bought varieties. So, it’s best enjoyed warm and just out of the oven. Children tend like it even more with a bit of white glaze, but it’s equally as delightful without it.
Byrd Mill Easter Cinnamon Braid Easter Bread
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast 1/4 cup warm water (110° to 115°)
1 cup warm 2% milk (110° to 115°)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
5 1/2 cups of Patrick Henry All Purpose Flour
Glaze (prior to baking)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or almonds (optional as a topping)
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add the milk, sugar, butter, eggs, salt, cinnamon, and half the flour. Mix until smooth, stir in the rest of the flour to form a soft dough and fold in raisins.
Turn dough onto floured surface and knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let it rise in a greased bowl (in a draft-free warm area) for 1 hour.
Punch down, and divide into 6 equal portions for 2 loaves of bread. Roll each portion into a 12-inch rope. Place 3 dough ropes on parchment paper or greased baking sheet, braid and set aside. Repeat with the remaining 3 dough ropes. Cover and let rise again for about ½ hour.
Brush with egg and sprinkle with nuts. Bake at 350° for about 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.
*White Glaze Icing (after baking and optional)
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk or orange juice
Mix sugar, butter and vanilla together with an electric mixer. Add a drop or two at a time of the milk or juice to make a thick glaze. Spread or pour over slightly cooled bread.