It took me a few days to post this recipe, but I made this lovely, enriched, anise scented bread on Good Friday, in a lead-up to the Easter weekend festivities. I found the recipe in The Bread Bible, and decided to give it a try. The original recipe has you dividing the dough into three smaller loaves, but I decided on baking two larger loaves instead. I also simplified several of the original recipe steps for efficiency. The bread recipe itself is very similar to a challah. The bread is egg rich, and you combine the ingredients together in a similar manner to how you would incorporate them together for a challah, with a few notable exceptions. Also keep in mind, when making this recipe, that it requires an overnight or 12 hour rise.
Italian Anise Easter Bread
Recipe makes 2 braided loaves.
- 6 tbsp melted Butter
- 1 cup warm Milk
- 1 cup Sugar + 1 pinch of Sugar
- 2 tsp active dry Yeast
- 1/4 cup warm Water
- 3 cups Flour + 3 – 3 1/2 cups Flour
- 1 1/2 tsp Salt
- 2 tsp Baking Powder
- 4 Eggs + 1 beaten Egg for Egg Wash
- 2 tbsp Anise Extract
- 1 tbsp Anise Seeds
- Whisk together the butter, milk, and sugar until the sugar has melted into the warm milk and butter.
- Set the mixture aside, and in another bowl combine the water, yeast, and a pinch of sugar.
- Set the yeast aside for ~ 10 minutes, or until frothy.
- Meanwhile in a large mixing bowl, or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, combine 3 cups flour with the salt and baking powder.
- Make a well at the center of your dry ingredients, and brake the eggs into it, followed by the anise extract, the sugar/butter mixture, and the yeast mixture.
- Beat the ingredients together for ~ 2 minutes.
- Gradually add in the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, while still beating the dough, until the dough begins to pull way from the sides of the bowl.
- Switch to a dough hook or knead by hand for 4-5 minutes until the dough is still soft but springy.
- Place the dough in a deep, greased, sealable container.
- Allow the dough to slowly rise over the course of 12 hours or overnight, in a cool place.
- Gently punch down the dough, and allow it to rise for another 1 – 2 hours.
- Gently tip the dough out onto a lightly flour dusted surface, and cut it in half.
- Divide each half into three pieces.
- Roll each piece out into a long stand of dough, and then braid the three strands together.
- Move the braided loaf onto a greased baking sheet, or fold the braid into a greased loaf pan. If you are using a loaf pan make sure that the braid ends are folded under evenly so that the loaf rises evenly. I wasn’t so diligent with my loaves which caused the slight divot in the middle of each loaf.
- Form the second loaf.
- Cover the loaves with plastic, and allow them to rise for about a hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F (~177 C).
- Brush the loves with the egg wash, and sprinkle them with the anise seeds.
- Bake the loaves for ~40 minutes.
- Gently remove the loaves from the pans, and place them on a cooling rack to fully cool before slicing.