Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

I'm a bit in between on celebrating anything religious today - still figuring out where I am and what I believe. But today feels like Spring and renewal and life, and that I'm happy to celebrate to the hilt, regardless of anything else on top of it. Today the boys woke up to Easter baskets filled with colored foam sheets, water balloons, bubbles, glow in the dark bracelets, pinwheels, ceremonial chocolate bunnies (must bite off the ears first), and tiny wooden birdhouses. We all had pancakes with berries and yogurt for breakfast, then spent the morning baking a humongous beehive bread. We all had fun rolling out strips of dough, twisting them together, then wrapping them around a pyrex bowl to bake. The boys attacked the loaf less than a moment after I took this picture, and I don't blame them! It was delicious. It was a beautiful, sunny day today - perfect for watching the boys run through the breeze laughing and chasing each other. They had their fair share of fighting today as well, but I savored those perfect moments of sunshine, flowers, and innocence.

I got several requests for the Beehive Bread recipe, so here 'tis. The bread is sweet and rich with just a touch of lemon and goes really well with just a dab of sweet butter.

Beehive Bread

adapted from "Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads"

5 1/2 to 6 cups bread flour (I used unbleached all purpose flour)
1 package dry yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk, warmed
1 Tb grated lemon peel
5 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 egg, beaten, mixed with 1 tsp milk

1 baking sheet
ovenproof glass or metal mixing bowl - 9" wide by 4" deep

Mix 2 cups flour, yeast, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the milk and lemon peel. Beat until mixture is smooth. Add in eggs, one at a time, mixing after each is added. Stir in the butter.

Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough can be lifted from the bowl easily (you may have flour remaining).

Knead the dough about 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Cover top of bowl with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Take dough out of the bowl and knead for 2-3 minutes. Put back in the bowl, cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Shaping - the fun part!

Turn bowl over and cover with aluminum foil, pressing down to smooth the surface. Rub generously with butter and place on top of a baking dish without sides.

Take the dough out of the refrigerator. It'll be cold and pretty hard, so work it with your hands for a little while to get it moving well again. Roll dough into a thick snake and cut into 20 pieces. Roll each piece into ropes about 18 - 20 inches long and about 3/8" thick with narrowed ends. Take two ropes, pinch the ends together, and twist them together.

Wrap each twist around the bowl, starting from the bottom rim. As you add another twist, pinch the ends and overlap them a little to blend them in. Keep wrapping until you run out of dough. You might not get all the way to the top, which still looks great. If you need to have a solid bottom start from the center top and spiral around from there and down.

Cover with a cloth and let rise for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Carefully brush the bread all over with the egg mixture. Bake until golden brown all over, 25-30 minutes. You may need to turn the bread around once to get all sides evenly golden. Put the bowl on a cooling rack and let cool.

When the bread is at room temperature you can either leave it on the bowl (I did), take out the bowl and crumple up some foil to hold up the center, or flip the bread over to use as a basket. If you want a basket you may want to bake it flipped side up for another 5 minutes or so to firm up the inside edges a little.

Place bread in a conspicuous location and bask, then tear off a bit to enjoy.