Italian Easter Bread with Dyed Eggs
Yield: 1 loaf
For the Bread
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package active dry yeast
3 - 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup chopped mixed candied fruit or raisins
1/3 cup chopped blanched almonds
1/2 teaspoon anise extract
2 tablespoons melted butter
5 hardboiled eggs colored with Easter-egg dye
In a large mixing bowl, blend the sugar, salt, and yeast well with 1 cup of the flour. In a saucepan, combine milk and butter, heating slowly until liquid is warm and butter is melted. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and beat 125 strokes with a wooden spoon. Add the two eggs and 1/2 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in more flour, enough to make a ball of dough that draws away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes, working in additional flour to overcome stickiness. Place the dough into a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put into a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, combine the fruit, nuts, and anise.
Punch down the dough and return it to a lightly floured board. Knead in the fruit mixture, keeping the syrupy pieces dusted with flour until they are worked into the dough. Divide the dough in half. Carefully roll each piece into a 24-inch rope--the fruit and nuts will make this slightly difficult. Loosely twist the two ropes together and form it into a ring on a greased baking sheet. Pinch the ends together well. Brush the dough with melted butter. Open up the twist slightly to make a place for each colored egg. Carefully push the eggs down into the dough as far as possible. Cover the bread with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for about 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a twist comes out clean. Place onto a wire rack to cool.
For the Glaze
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
colored sprinkles, for decoration
Once the bread is cool, combine confectioners' sugar, milk, and vanilla and stir until smooth. Add more milk if necessary until smooth but not runny. Drizzle over the bread around the eggs, then top with sprinkles.