I’ve been away from my blog for some time. It’s hard to get organized and write posts with 2 kids under 2 😀 I have so many projects on the go and I can’t wait to tell you about them. But first… it’s Easter weekend!!
Easter is huge in Bulgaria. It’s an amazing celebration when everyone is making Easter bread and colouring eggs. And although I am thousands of miles away from my home town, I make sure I keep the tradition every year. So simultaneously on two continents, my mom and I make our Easter bread together and send each other updates by text. The next day (Saturday) is always a show-and-tell day. She shows me her bread and we talk about the process. Then I show her mine and we talk about how I made it. 🙂 It’s pretty cool.
So below is step by step of my method and the recipe of my Easter bread, which has been in our family for more than 5 generations. If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments.
A very essential thing to remember is: PREPARATION is very important. Once you’ve prepared everything and you’re ready to knead, it all goes very fast. By the way, I am old school and I don’t use anything else for kneading, except my hands. I like to feel the dough and adjust if it’s too soft or too hard. But if you don’t feel like breaking a sweat, feel free to use a kneading machine.
Another very very important thing is: Everything must be WARM. Slightly warmer than room temperature. This is essential for the dough to rise properly. Even your room should be warmer than room temp… that sounded weird. But seriously, making your Easter bread is not the time to air out the room. Make sure you keep it that way while the dough is rising too. It needs to be snuggled in a big pot under a blanket. I’m not joking. 🙂
Here are the ingredients:
*The recipe calls for 5kg flour, but if you want to make just 1/2 of the dose, divide everything by 2. That’s what I did this year. In brackets, I’ve put the divided amouts.
5 kg (2.5 kg) FLOUR
1 litre (500 g) MILK
250 g (125 g) LARD
30 (15) EGGS
750 g (375 g) BUTTER
2 (1) LEMONS + the juice of 1 (1/2) lemon
6 (3) packets VANILLA SUGAR – Dr. Oetker Vanilla Sugar – Natural – 6 × 8 g
1,750 g (875 g) SUGAR + more for sprinkling
100 g (50 g) RAISINS
100 g (50 g) COGNAC (or any other type of flavourful liquor, but avoid strong fruity flavours – the more natural the flavour, the better)
2 tsp (1 tsp) ground NUTMEG
5 tbsp (2.5 tbsp) YEAST (1 tbsp per every kg of flour)
5 tsp salt (2.5 tsp) (1 tsp per every kg of flour)
ALMONDS (less or more depending on your taste)
PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE!
In a small bowl, mix the yeast with 1 cup warm milk, 1 tsp sugar, & a pinch of salt. Add flour to thicken the mixture until it has the thickness of cake batter. Cover the bowl with a lid and leave aside to rise.
In a pan, melt the butter and lard. Make sure you don’t cook them. Just enough to melt them. Leave stove on low to keep it warm.
In another pan, pour the rest of your milk with the sugar. Heat it until the sugar is melted. But don’t overheat or boil. Once sugar is melted, turn the stove on low and keep warm. But keep an eye on it because it may boil over.
In another pan break all the eggs and beat well. Make sure there are no unbeaten spots. I like using pans and pots with handles because it is easier to pour.
Sift your flour to get some air in it. I used a big roasting pan to knead the dough. But remember I made 1/2 the dose. If you are making the full recipe, you may need to knead on the table directly or a bigger pan.
Make a well in the middle of the flour and sprinkle all the spices, including the lemon juice on the sides. Make sure the hole stays empty.
Set up everything on the table around the pot where you will be kneading. Its important to have everything close by and easily reachable. Make sure everything is WARM. Kneading has to happen quickly – not rushed, but also make sure you have no distractions. Once you start, you cant stop. Otherwise the temperature will drop. Also keep more flour close by because you may need more if your dough turns out softer. You should be aiming for slightly softer than bread dough but firm enough to form shapes with it.
Start by pouring the yeast in the well. Yeast should be ready by now. It looks something like this. Then start adding a little bit of the butter mixture, then a little bit of the eggs. Knead without stopping. Then add a bit of the milk mixture. Keep kneading and adding the mixtures until you have added all of them. Keep kneading until there are no chucks and the dough is smooth and firm, but softer than regular bread dough. If any of the mixtures are too warm – the milk and butter mixtures tend to become too warm – make sure you let them cool down before you start kneading. Otherwise they will “cook” the eggs if poured over them.
You will end up with a nice smooth dough which should not be sticking to the pan. If it sticks too much, add more flour. But be careful not to overdo it.
At the bottom of your big pot where the dough will be rising, pour 1 cup of vegetable oil – I used Canola. Then place the dough on the bottom of the pot and pour more oil on top to prevent forming a hard core. Cover with a lid and wrap in a blanket to keep warm during rising. It will take several hours. You can check every once in a while but do not keep the lid open for too long. If you are making the full recipe of 5kg, you may need 2 or 3 pots. You need another pot if the dough is covering more than 1/3 of a pot.
The dough will be very powerful and will lift the lid when it is ready.
Once the dough is ready, transfer it on your table which is also covered in oil. For this point on, you do not use flour to avoid sticking. Use oil.
Add raw almonds and brush with yolk.
Sprinkle sugar on top.
Let sit for 30 min.