Photo by Dayna Smith
Easter was a big baking holiday in our family. Our grandmother, Babee, would start baking for Easter three days in advance and would take over both her upstairs and downstairs kitchens baking for the holiday. The most important thing she baked for the Sunday feast was her traditional Greek Easter bread. Our favorite part was helping her brush the egg wash on the loaves.
- Makes 1 large loaf
- 3/4 tablespoon dry yeast
- 1/4 cup whole milk (warmed in microwave for 30 seconds)
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (European style recommended)
- 1/4 tablespoon anise
- Juice and zest of 1 orange
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon mastic (a Greek spice, available in specialty food stores or the international aisle of supermarkets; you can make this bread without mastic)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg lightly beaten with 1/4 cup water (for egg wash)
- 1/4 cup sesame seeds
- Dissolve the yeast in the warmed milk. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise for 15 minutes.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, using the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, salt, and melted butter. Add the anise, orange juice, zest, and water. Mix together.
- Add the eggs one at a time, and mix. Then add the mastic, sugar, and the risen yeast mixture. Mix together.
- Using the dough hook attachment of your electric mixer (or your hands), knead the mixture for approximately 10 minutes. Cover the bowl and allow to rise in a warm place (e.g., an oven heated to 200°F) until the dough doubles in size, approximately 2 hours.
- Remove the dough from the bowl and beat it down to deflate it. Then, separate the dough into three pieces and roll out each piece lengthwise about one foot long. Braid the three pieces together.
- Place the dough in a greased large loaf pan (5×10-inch pan recommended—or you can use a greased cookie sheet). Place back in warm oven and allow the dough to double in size again, approximately an hour.
- Brush with egg wash using a pastry brush and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F, then bake the bread for approximately 30 minutes, or until the top turns a golden brown.
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