As Easter approached, it was once again time to think about making Grandma's Easter Bread. Last year, if you recall, it was quite an undertaking. The recipe was huge, and even cut down it was huge. This year with the help of Nick and my friend Tom, it was cut down again. And this year, the whole process was much more manageable.
But I had more help this year. It was the use of Grandma's Kitchen Aid. I had it last year, but I hadn't cleaned it yet. Truth is, it took me about a year and a half after she passed away to actually do more than look at it sitting on my counter. But one day I finally decided to start using it and cleaned it top to bottom. She wanted me to have it so the least I could do is use it. Year after year she made Easter bread with that Kitchen Aid so it only seemed right to use it for that purpose again. Hers is much older than mine, but these are machines that are built to last.
So this time, I started out with a much more logical amount of yeast, 1 1/2 teaspoons, dissolved in 1/4 cup of warm water.
While the yeast is proofing, take 2 cups of milk and put it in a pan on the stove and scald it, which basically means heat it but don't boil it. Then off the heat take the lard... you remember the lard right? Honest to goodness, real, it comes from a pig, lard. Not shortening. LARD. So take your 1/2 lb. of lard and put it in a pan on the stove with 2 cups of milk and 1/4 stick of margarine (2 Tablespoons). Stir so it all melts together.
After it's all melted, then add 6 beaten eggs and 2 cups of sugar. Mix well. Then add that to the Kitchen Aid that already has your proofing yeast. To that add 1/8 cup of anise seeds. You can use more if you like, I did.
Now it's time to add the dry ingredients and this time it will all fit in the Kitchen Aid! You will need 1 Tablespoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of baking powder and 3 3/4 lbs of flour. It all fits, trust me! And look how beautifully it came together.
It was absolutely perfect. So then take a damp towel, place it over the top of the dough in the bowl still and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Don't forget the damp towel or the top of your dough will be all crusty and that doesn't appeal.
Once the dough has rested, it's time to shape them. You can shape them like this...
Or with eggs.
I color the raw eggs and then put them gently in the dough. But this is the last year I will be making them with eggs. As it turns out, no matter how pretty they are to look at, the majority of people I give these out to do not want the egg. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 - 30 minutes. But watch them. You do not want to overcook them because they can dry out easily.
Once they are done, it's time to ice. Place the cookies on wire racks and then inside a cookie sheet. All it takes is some powdered sugar and some lemon juice. You want the icing to be thick but still run. So just use your instincts and stir small amounts of lemon juice into about 2 lbs. of powdered sugar until you get the right consistency. It's easy to add too much juice and get a watery icing but all you have to do is add more powdered sugar. Once it's right, drizzle over the cookies and immediately top with sprinkles. If you don't sprinkle immediately, the icing will dry and the sprinkles will not stick.
And yes, I still like to lick the icing and sprinkles off the bottom of the pans :)