It’s hard to believe that Easter is already here… and that it’s still in the 40s in North Carolina of all places. Every year it seems like March comes in like a lamb with a random warm spell and exits like a dying lion making a last-ditch effort for shivers. The upside of the enduring chill is that it’s the perfect excuse to fire up the oven.
Last year, I took third place in a bake-off at work and was rewarded with Beth Hensperger’s Bread Bible. Of the 300 recipes, it seems that a good ten percent of them are Easter breads; who knew the varieties ranged from the familiar Hot Cross Buns to Byzantine Easter bread and Kulich (Russian coffee cake)? Ultimately, I decided on the Italian Anise Easter Bread for reasons of heritage and simplicity– the directions for the kulich and accompanying paskha looked downright scary.
A fellow baker at Southern Season suggested I use anise oil instead of the pure anise extract that the recipe included. He did warn me to use it sparingly, but I added about three-to-four drops instead of the prescribed two. The result is an intense licorice flavor, which I love, but it’s also a buzz kill for folks who don’t hunt for the black jellybeans like I do. For those people, I recommend using one teeny-tiny drop of the anise oil. I also added a cup of golden raisins.
I think that like the panettone from Christmas, the leftovers of this eggy bread will find a second life in the form of French toast. Or just toast. With blueberry jam, mhmm.
Happy weekend to all!