Parris House Savory Dill Easter Bread

We all have THAT cook book, especially if we've been around the kitchen for a while. It's the cook book with the dog ears, the stained pages, and a history. For me, THAT cook book is the old 1980s version of the Betty Crocker Cook Book. I received it as a gift for my bridal shower in 1987 and have used it faithfully ever since. It has the best mac and cheese recipe ever in it, and the recipe for quiche which wins me accolades. In fact, I served that quiche at our Maine studio opening event in 2013 and a couple of people still talk to me about that quiche. Really. But aside from using the recipes just as they stand, following this classic cook book also taught me a lot about cooking, and how to make my own recipes. I even have a four leaf clover pressed in to the pages of this cook book. I think that makes it extra lucky. EBCollage1 For a lot of years I used the basic bread recipe in this cook book when baking bread, but gradually over time I started diverging from the recipe, and then I started just winging bread recipes entirely. It became like soup; you just do it. The recipe for the Parris House Savory Easter Bread is a combo. The basic bread recipe in this cook book was the jumping off point, but I changed it considerably. And the traditional Italian Easter bread, which is actually a very sweet bread with lots of sugar in the dough and sprinkles on top, also inspired this bread in form and appearance. My mother made Italian Easter Bread every year, and so I hesitated before so radically changing the recipe for our Easter dinner, but I wanted something savory with a rustic farmhouse look. Here's what I came up with...
  • 1 package dry yeast (or 1 TBSP)
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup warm milk
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1-1/2 TSP sea salt
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3-1/2 cups bread flour (add more if you need to but be careful not to make the dough tough)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
Just before baking:
  • Six RAW eggs, colored or not (your preference)
  • 3 TBSP melted butter
  • 2 TBSP sea salt
OK! Combine the yeast and all the wet ingredients, the sea salt, and the sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk them well. Gradually mix in the flours until you have a wet dough, then add the chopped dill, mix some more. Add the rest of the flour and when you have a knead-able consistency turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead it for several minutes until it starts to become nice and smooth. EBCollage2 Use a little cooking spray or oil in a large bowl and plop the dough down in to it. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm location to rise. EBCollage3 While the dough is rising, choose your decorative eggs. I chose to use the eggs just as they are straight from the Parris House Hens. These girls lay pretty eggs. 914Chickens1 However, you could certainly use any eggs you wanted, and in traditional Easter breads, dyed eggs are used. I chose these six: EB13 After about an hour your dough should be at least double in size. See the before and after pics here... EBCollage4 Now it's time to punch the dough down, and create the circular braid. Divide the dough in to three equal sized balls, then roll them out in to equal length and width ropes. From there it's just like braiding hair. Braid the dough and then form it in to a circle, molding together the two ends. Don't worry that the connection doesn't look braided; you're going to just put an egg in there. Space the other eggs evenly tucking them in the nooks in the braid. These eggs should be RAW because they bake in the oven as the bread bakes, so be careful about pushing on them too hard at this stage lest they break. EBCollage7 Now you need to let the bread rise again, about 45 minutes. It will again almost double in size and puff up around the eggs. EBCollage8 Now it's time to prepare the bread for baking. Melt a little butter and brush it on to the bread, avoiding the eggs so that they do not discolor during baking. Sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the buttered areas, again avoiding getting it on the eggs. I actually did get a bit of sea salt on my eggs and they speckled from it. EBCollage9 Heat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (I'm sorry, my Canadian friends, I don't know what that translates to in Celsius) and bake on the top rack for about 15 minutes, then move to the bottom rack for another 15 minutes. I do this in my oven because I find that way it doesn't get too brown on the top or the bottom. However, I would caution you to check the bread frequently because ovens differ. For example, the electric oven at my lake cottage will burn things like this in a heartbeat if I'm not carefully watching them. When the bread it finished it will be golden top and bottom but not too dark. EB23 That's it! It's a very easy bread to make and would go nicely with a variety of dishes. The eggs are hard boiled (or really, hard baked) when the bread is finished and can be eaten along with it. Tomorrow my husband Bill will be making his family's homemade French vanilla ice cream recipe. Stay tuned for that as well. Happy Easter, happy Spring, and happy hooking! - Beth

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