Baking your own sweet Easter bread is not for the faint hearted, but for the ones committed to patience, sensitivity and lightness of touch. Once the dough has been mastered, the rest of the preparation is simply a piece of cake. I could describe in full detail each step of the process, but the easiest way of learning is simply trying until it works. In my experience, learning the theory is indeed very helpful, but nothing really works better than rolling one’s sleeves and getting the job done. And here is my family’s generations of wisdom on the “how”!
How to transform a Sweet Easter Bread recipe into a recipe for an Italian Panettone?
The Italian Panettone and the Bulgarian Sweet Easter Bread have a lot in common. In essence, the Italian Panettone does not have any turkish delights inside only sultanas and sweetened orange peel. You may follow all recipe steps up to step 7 and then instead of the Bulgarian egg yoke, sugar and nuts topping use the Italian almond paste topping. Then bake as instructed in the recipe below.
- 6 eggs
- 1kg plain flour
- 300ml milk
- 350g sugar
- 30g yeast
- 100g butter or fat
- 1tsp of salt
- Zest of one lemon and one orange
- 1tsp of lemon juice
- 100g Candied Orange Peel or Turkish delights (chopped in small peices)
- 100g Marzipan (chopped in small peices)
- 100g sultanas (optionally soak in amaretto for at least two hours before use)
- 100g almands or walnuts
Italian Almond Paste Panettone Topping
- 55 g granulated sugar
- 3 g ground almonds (or almond flour)
- 4 g vegetable oil
- 4 g corn flour
- 4 g cocoa powder
- 30 g egg whites
- scraped seeds from 1/5 of a vanilla bean
1. Sift the plain flour into a large bowl.
2. Warm the milk (it should not be hot to a touch), pour in a deep bowl and crumble inside the yeast, adding one spoon of sugar and mixing well until the sugar and the yeast have been dissolved. Add two spoons of flour and mix well with a wooden spoon. Let the yeast rise for at least 15-20 min.
3. In another bowl whisk with a mixer the remaining sugar, the vanilla and the 5 eggs and one egg white, leaving the egg yoke aside. Beat the mixture until light and fluffy. Add the lemon and orange zest and the lemon juice into the egg mixture.
4. In the meantime, the yeast mixture should have risen. It not visibly enlarged, wait a few more minutes until the yeast have had sufficient time to activate. Add the salt into the flour bowl. Add the egg mixture into the flour bowl mixing with a wooden spoon the liquids and the flour. Add the yeast mixture into the flour bowl and continue to mix with a wooden spoon. Add the melted butter or fat into the bowl and continue mixing. When all liquids have been absorbed into the flour, take away the wooden spoon and start folding the dough within the bowl with your hands until all the flour has been absorbed.
5. Lightly cover a table surface with flour and take the sweet easter bread dough out of the bowl and start kneading the dough with a strong but light touch. Knead for 2-3 minutes than stop, take the dough into your heads, raise it high and slam it into the surface with force several times. This will enable air to get into the dough and let it rise even more. Repeat this process for at least 15 minutes.
6. Grease the inside of a large bowl and let the dough rest inside until it has doubled its size (at least one hour). Let the dough rest somewhere at a warm place as the warmth will help it rise.
7. When risen, take the dough out of the bowl and place it on a lightly greased surface. Cut it into three equal parts. Spread each part open by stretching the dough aside and fill the inside with sultanas, nuts, turkish delights, marzipan and candied Orange Peal. Roll the surface of the dough until all the inside filling has been covered. Twist the dough ribbons and bind in a braid.
8. Grease the surface of a deep baking tin where the sweet bread will be baked. Place the sweet bread dough inside and let it rest for at least one hour until doubling its size. When risen, cover the surface with beaten egg yoke, sprinkle with sugar and whole almonds of walnuts. If there is there is a preference for Italian Panettone topping, make a paste using the recipe ingredients mentioned above and spread generously over the bread.
9. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the sweet bread inside and let it bake for 10 min then decrease the oven temperature to 160C. Bake for additional 20 minutes until golden brown on top and baked inside (a tooth pic should come out clean when inserted inside the pastry).
10. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 2 min in the baking tin, then take it out of the tin and let it cool.
11. Keep in dry place and the sweet easter bread could last for a week.