Damn the weather is funky this week, it is hard to believe it is July. There has been so much rain, I feel like I am living in a rainforest. Where did the summer go? I know rain is good for my garden, fills our reservoirs, and calms the earth, but man this constant shower is dreary. Before the deluge, I planned on making more recipes from my grill, but sadly these plans got flooded out. Fortunately, I could easily change plans with a chicken skewer recipe that has all the charm of a grilled dinner without lighting a match, Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary.
Seared chicken skewers are as easy to prepare as threading a needle. Ribbons of herb marinated chicken strips get skewered through rosemary stems then seared on a stove top grill pan or skillet. Once the chicken skewers get good and golden, they are popped in a hot oven to finish cooking in a wine bath. It may sound like a lot of steps, but the two-part cooking process goes by very quickly and effortlessly.
La Cucina Italiana
I first discovered the idea of using rosemary stems as skewers several years ago in La Cucina Italiana magazine, the English version, (May 2013). If you wish to browse through this lovely magazine online, you will need your browser to translate the pages for you. This picturesque magazine is all about Italian cuisine and Italy, and I only have this one volume. Their chicken skewer recipe is part of a feature on cooking with fresh herbs. I spotted their Spiedini di Pollo Marinato alle Erbe recipe, (which means herb marinated chicken skewers) because it uses woody rosemary stems for the skewers. What a clever use of something one would normally throw out.
We always have a lot of rosemary around our house because Joe makes a delicious sourdough olive rosemary bread for Rochambeau Farm Stand. Sometimes there is a lot of rosemary left over so I am always looking for recipes to use up any leftover sprigs. Fortunately, we buy our rosemary at a restaurant supply store and can get rosemary sprigs that are 10 to 12 inches long. These woody sprigs make the best skewers for grilling and a great substitute for bamboo skewers if you can get them.
Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
I love cooking with fresh herbs and use them whenever I can. A simple scattering of fresh herbs like basil, tarragon or rosemary lifts any food from standard fare to interesting and uplifting. This herb marinade is a good example of how using fresh herbs can make a big difference in flavor. It just wouldn’t taste the same if you made the marinade with dried herbs.
The only change I made is adding minced garlic to the marinade and Kosher salt to the chicken before adding the marinade. Adding the salt first gives the salt time to steep in the chicken meat. Boneless skinless chicken breasts need a lot of help developing flavor and I wanted the chicken to taste seasoned without being salty.
I thought the original recipe needed some more oomph, so I added a lot of garlic. What I then realized is this marinade is very similar to the marinade in my Lemon Herb Roast Chicken Recipe.
A bonus using this marinade is there is no acid to turn the chicken breasts mushy. As a result, you can easily prepare the marinade and chicken in advance, then skewer and cook the chicken right before you plan on eating.
Another aspect I like about this recipe is the two stages for cooking the chicken. First, you sear the chicken skewers, which only takes about 2 minutes per side, then the skewers are roasted in a very hot oven with some white wine. This creates a moist chicken with a light tasting pan sauce. This pan sauce helps keep the chicken tender and adds another layer of flavor to your meal.
If you wish, and already have the grill going for another food, sear the chicken skewers on your grill, then finish cooking them in the oven as directed.
Is It Done Yet?
The most difficult part about this recipe is determining when the chicken is done. Everything else is very straightforward. Like chicken kebab, the chicken gets packed in on the skewer making it difficult to determine when it is done. It is important to check the pieces in the middle of the skewer where it is compact and thus need a longer time to cook. Getting a good look at the inside of the chicken is difficult therefore a good instant read thermometer is your best tool for the job. I love my Thermapen thermometer, but any fast and reliable instant-read thermometer will work.
Vegetable Side dishes for Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
These chicken skewers will pair well with many vegetables and sides. Here are just a few from my blog.
Check out my new Recipe Index. It is now easier to look up a recipe on my blog by clicking on a category in the recipe index. It is easy to read on a laptop or desktop computer. Unfortunately, the index and categories get spread out when viewing from a mobile device like your phone. You can find my recipe index at the top menu on my home page.
Seared Chicken Skewers with Rosemary
You can get long and woody rosemary sprigs at farmers markets, restaurant supply stores, or wholesale stores.
Seared Chicken Skewers with rosemary is an easy family meal or great for entertaining.
Depending on how big each chicken breast is, there is enough chicken for 4 people with hearty appetites or 6 to 8 people served with two other side dishes.
- 2-3 lb. (1 k -1.5 k) boneless skinless chicken breast -4 breasts
- 1 tsp (3 g) Kosher salt
- 3 - 4 cloves garlic minced
- 2 heaping TB (10 g) heaping Tablespoons minced rosemary
- 1 tablespoon (1 g) thyme lemon thyme if you can get it
- 1 TB (1.5 g) minced parsley
- Zest of one lemon
- ¼ cup (60 ml) 70 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus more for searing the chicken
- 8 - 10 bamboo skewers or long woody rosemary stems
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) dry white wine or dry vermouth Like Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
Press on the chicken breast so they have an even thickness. You do not have to pound them out, just even them out a little. Slice each breast lengthwise into ¼ inch (.5 cm) slices. Add the chicken ribbons to a bowl large enough to hold all the chicken without crowding them and sprinkle with Kosher salt. Using clean hands, mix the chicken with the salt until it is evenly incorporated. Thoroughly wash your hands and the bowl of chicken aside.
Prepare the herb marinade
In a small bowl add the minced garlic, minced rosemary, thyme, minced parsley, lemon zest, and olive oil. Stir to combine. Remember to wash your hands after you mix the chicken before you touch anything else.
Add the herb marinade to the chicken and toss with your hands until the chicken strips are evenly covered in the herb marinade. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 to 8 hrs.
Cook the Chicken
If you are using rosemary stems, cut the end to make a pointed tip for easy threading. Soak the bamboo skewers or woody rosemary stems in water for 30 minutes. Bring the chicken out of the refrigerator to rest on the counter and come up to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 450°F / 230°C / Gas Mark 8. Slide the oven rack in the middle position.
Thread each skewer with the chicken slices. You can roll up each slice and spear it on the skewers, or weave each slice of chicken, over and under the skewer creating a ribbon of chicken. Squish the threaded chicken to make room for another slice. Depending on the length of each skewer, you can fit 3 to 4 slices of chicken on each skewer. Be careful not to pack the chicken in too tightly.
Heat a grill pan or a large skillet on medium-high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the grill pan is good and hot, add the chicken skewers to the pan. Only add enough skewers to not crowd the pan, about 3-4 skewers. Sear the chicken until nicely browned, about 2 minutes. Turn the chicken over and sear the other side, about 2 minutes more.
Place the seared chicken skewers in a baking dish large enough to hold all the chicken in a single layer without overcrowding, but small enough so the liquid won’t dry out when cooked. See Note.
Continue to sear the remaining skewers in batches until all the chicken is seared.
Add the white wine or dry vermouth to the baking dish holding the chicken skewers. Add more if the wine does not cover the bottom of the pan.
Place the chicken in the oven and roast until done, about 10 minutes. Start checking the chicken at around 8 minutes. A good instant read thermometer is your best tool here for determining if the chicken is done. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F / 74° C. Once done, take the chicken out of the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Serve hot with pan juices with grilled asparagus or zucchini.
The original recipe calls for a 9" x 13" (23 x 33 cm) baking dish. That is a little too small to fit 8 skewers without overlapping. Often, I needed to nestle each skewer around the dish with some laying vertical and others horizontal at the top and bottom of the dish. Trim each skewer to help them fit easily in the pan. Other times I used a larger baking dish 15" x 10.5" (38 x 27 cm) which is a tad too big. When I use a bigger baking dish I add more wine to make sure the liquid covers the bottom of the pan, so it does not dry out in the oven.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
When I look through some of my older cookbooks, like Gourmet Volumes 1 and 2, or Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, I often wonder if people still eat the same way. Some foods in these books just seem dated. Like aspic. Does anyone make aspic filled with fish or meats anymore? Yet, there are those recipes that remain as classics and stand the test of time. It is my belief that salmon mousse is a classic appetizer. No matter what decade or age, salmon mousse continues to appeal to our taste buds and senses. It is fresh and light tasting with an elegant creamy texture. In my experience over the past 30 or so years, it is one of those appetizers that people just adore.
This is a classic recipe from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins. By coincidence, this book was first published during a transitional time for me in my early 20’s. I just graduated from college and started living full-time in New York City. With eager and innocent expectations, I was ready to explore many frontiers and cooking was one of them. As a result, this cookbook taught me about foods from all over the world, with new and exciting bold flavors. Illustrated with fun drawings and a causal style, The Silver Palate Cookbook encouraged a relaxed and festive attitude towards cooking and entertaining. It inspired me to experiment, but most of all to cook. I felt like I graduated from an apprenticeship with the Joy of Cooking into a Master’s program with The Silver Palate.
For more fun appetizers try: Point Reyes Blue Baby Cheesecake
What I love about this salmon mousse recipe is the fresh salmon flavor. It is creamy without any heaviness, which is often the case with classic French inspired foods. You can serve this as a first course in ramekins or a stylized plating. Also, it is delicious as a spread served in a bowl, or shaped in a decorative mold. Generously spread the mousse on dark pumpernickel cocktail bread, toast, water crackers, cucumbers or endive. No matter how you serve salmon mousse, it has a sophisticated presentation and eating experience. There is no need to go crazy with decorative piping in fancy pastry. I prefer serving the mousse as an appetizer spread. People can help themselves and often keep coming back to the plate for more. Where ever the salmon mousse is set, that location becomes a gathering spot for feasting and interaction.
Salmon mousse happens to be one of my favorites appetizers. It is perfect for New Year’s Eve or any special occasion.
Happy New Year’s Everyone.
Airy Salmon Mousse
- 1 envelope unflavored gelatin
- 1/4 cup 60 ml cold water
- 1/4 cup 60 ml boiling water
- 1/2 cup 125 ml mayonnaise
- 1 TB fresh lemon juice
- 1 TB finely grated onion
- Dash of Tabasco
- 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
- 2 TB minced fresh dill
- 2 cups 500 ml / 305 g / 11 oz finely flaked poached salmon, or finely flaked canned salmon with the bones removed
- 1 cup 250 ml heavy cream
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the gelatin in cold water to soften. Add the boiling water and gently whisk until the gelatin is dissolved. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
Add in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, grated onion, Tabasco, paprika, and fresh dill. Whisk into the gelatin until completely combined and smooth. Cover and cool in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. The mixture will look thicker and starting to gel.
In a medium size bowl whip the heavy cream until peaks form when you lift the beaters out of the cream. Set aside.
Fold the finely flaked salmon into the gelatin mixture.
Carefully fold in the whipped cream until evenly incorporated.
Pour the mousse into individual ramekins (if you are serving them as a first course) or a 4- 6 cup (1 L - 1.5 L) bowl or mold.
Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours. Serve chilled with water crackers, on toast crackers, pumpernickel cocktail bread, or sliced cucumber rounds.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Sometimes when I begin a new cooking project, I need to forge ahead with blind faith and fingers crossed. Lingering in the back of my conscious is a belief that everything will work. The last thing I want to worry about is my latest “masterpiece” ending up in the trash can. This tomato tart recipe is a perfect example of my latest cooking adventure starting with confidence from blind faith.
I have always wanted to make a tomato tart. Every time I see a photograph of one, I drool over the pictures and imagine tomatoes roasting in the oven, cradled in a buttery pastry crust. Unfortunately, I don’t always believe photographs of tomato tarts show any real likeness to a real-life fully cooked one. Tomatoes consist mostly of water and a tart baked with a lot of tomatoes could easily become a soggy mess. So, I often wondered what I was seeing in the tempting photographs was accurate. None the less, I never made a savory tomato pastry, so I can’t say for certain how they look in real life.
Taking inspiration from a cookbook I am reading, Six Seasons, A New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden, I finally managed to motivate myself and make a tomato tart. I also needed to use up some leftover ingredients.. Often some of my best meals are the result of needing to use up the leftover ingredients from a former meal. If you haven’t noticed already, a regular statement of mine is, “I created … because I had leftover… Now … is a family favorite”.
There are two recipes in “Six Seasons” cookbook that create the foundation for my tomato tart recipe: Israeli-Spiced Tomatoes, Yogurt Sauce and Chickpeas, and a recipe for Pecan Pie Dough. The Israeli-spiced tomatoes have a bright flavor that compliments the natural sweetness in fresh summer tomatoes. It is a delicious salad with the yogurt sauce and chickpeas. This recipe gave me the idea of making a tomato tart using the same seasoning and preparation technique for marinating the tomatoes. I also had two ripe heirloom tomatoes on my window sill giving me the use or lose stare-down.
I also wanted to make the nut pie pastry crust, and Joshua McFadden has an alluring recipe using pecans. A tomato tart seemed like the perfect recipe to use a nut pie crust. Plus, and I am always open for any excuse to bake. For my recipe, I substituted the pecans with walnuts and reduced the amount of sugar to one tablespoon.
More recipes inspired by Joshua McFadden, Summer Vegetable and Steak Salad.
The biggest challenge when baking tomatoes and pastry dough, is keeping the crust from getting a soggy bottom. If you know the challenges ahead, taking the necessary steps to prevent them, will guarantee a beautiful flaky pie crust. With the two foundation recipes set, I went about making the tart and using a few necessary steps to create a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust that was anything but soggy.
For my first step, I par-baked the pie crust. Par-baking a pie crust is a technique used for many types of pies and tarts, like a lemon meringue pie. Partially baking a pie crust before adding the filling helps produce a dry and flaky pie crust. It might take longer to finish the pie, but this technique really works.
Even a par-baked crust needs a layer of protection between the crust and the filling. For this recipe, I decided to baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the pre-baked crust. The mustard adds some tang and will mix well with the ricotta cheese. If you do not like Dijon mustard, baste a layer of egg wash over the bottom of the par-baked crust. It does the same job as the mustard without adding any additional flavor.
Try this recipe for potato salad with tomatoes and summer vegetables.
Firing up the grill this weekend? Grilled Chicken with Poblano Chili Cream Sauce
Spread over the mustard, I added a layer of ricotta cheese. Good quality fresh ricotta is so creamy it is worth the higher price. If you can find some at your grocery store, I recommend it. In this tart, the ricotta cheese layer absorbs any of the juices from the tomatoes which helps keep the ricotta from drying out and the crust dry. A lot of tomato tart recipes do not call for ricotta cheese. I added it because it was another leftover ingredient I needed to use up before it expired. The ricotta’s creamy flavor is a nice contrast to the roasted tomatoes. Also, adding the ricotta makes the tart more substantial as a main course for lunch or a light supper.
For the final step, I seasoned the tomatoes and let them marinate for an hour. The salt with the spices causes the tomatoes to release some of their liquid. Later, before I arranged the tomatoes around the tart, I used a paper towel to blot the tomato slices and dry them up a bit. The tomatoes marinate while the crust par-bakes, so no additional time is added to the whole process.
It might seem like a lot of steps, but they all add up and work. The result is a tomato tart with a nutty and flaky crust, with a creamy ricotta and roasted tomato filling. I started making this tomato tart with blind faith and fingers crossed. Fortunately, after thinking ahead I came up with solutions to solve any challenges along the way. With inspiration from creative chefs as guidance, I made a tomato tart that I am proud of. There is no false advertising with these photos. What you see is what you get.
Tomato Tart with Ricotta and Mediterranean Seasoning
- Walnut Pastry Dough recipe follows
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 3/4 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp sumac*
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
- 2 tomatoes medium to large size
- 1 cup (8 oz / 241 g) fresh ricotta
- Zest of one lemon finely grated
- 2 tsp lemon thyme roughly minced
- 4 medium size leaves of fresh basil chiffonade
- Kosher salt if needed
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1 TB (11 g) 3/4 oz / 11 g Dijon mustard
- Finely grated Pecorino Romano Cheese optional
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Garnish with fresh lemon thyme and torn basil leaves
Walnut Pie Dough
- 1/2 cup (2 oz / 58 g) 2 oz / 58 g walnuts
- 1 2/3 cups (7.25 oz / 208 g) All-purpose Flour, plus more for rolling
- 1 TB granulated sugar
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 4 oz 113 g cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces (1 stick)
- 2 TB ice cold water more if needed
Walnut Pie Dough - Makes enough for one 9-inch (cm ) single crust pie or galette
Place the walnuts in a food processor and pulse until a fine and even crumble. Be careful to not over-process the nuts into walnut butter. Pour the walnuts into a mixing bowl and add the flour, sugar and Kosher salt. Mix the ingredients together with a wire whisk until evenly combined. Add the cold butter pieces to the flour mixture and toss to coat the butter with flour. Smush the butter with your fingers into the flour until you get a pebbly mixture of all different sizes. Add 2 TB of ice water and using your hands briefly toss to mix and form a ball. If the dough seems dry add more ice water, one tablespoon at a time.
Lightly dust a clean work surface with flour and place the dough ball on the surface. Starting at the upper edge of your dough, use the heel of your hand to press down and smear a portion of the dough away from you. Use only one motion per part. Continue to smear a portion of the dough away from you until you have worked your way through the ball of dough, about 4-5 smears. Gather the dough and form a disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days. The dough will keep in the freezer for 3 months.
When you are ready to bake, take the tart dough out of the refrigerator and allow it to rest for 10 minutes. This is also a good time to pre-heat your oven to 400°F (204°C). If you have a baking stone place it on a rack in the middle of the oven. Once rested, sprinkle your counter surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Whack the dough with a lightly floured rolling pin. Whack the dough moving from left to right to flatten it out. Turn the dough a quarter turn and whack 4 more times, moving across the disk from left to right. Turn the dough over and repeat 2 more times. Turn the dough over again and repeat. This process helps the dough to form a circle shape.
Roll out the dough with your rolling pin. Always starting at the center of the dough, place your rolling pin in the center and roll away from you. Turn the dough a quarter turn and roll across the dough beginning in the center and roll out. Repeat. Turn the dough over and roll out the dough until you have a 12-inch (30 cm) circle and the dough is about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Dust the countertop with flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking.
Once you have completed rolling out your dough, place your rolling pin across the middle and lift and drape the dough in half over the rolling pin and towards you. Lift your pastry draped rolling pin across the center of a 9-inch (23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom, and unfold the dough over the pan. Lift the dough edges and ease the dough into place, carefully pressing the dough into the corners without stretching it. Trim the edge of the dough and fold over, into the tart pan to form a thicker tart side. Press the sides of the dough up against the side of the tart pan and even out the edge. Fix any cracks. You want the sides of the tart pastry to be even all around and not too thick. Loosely cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Par-bake the walnut pie dough. Once the dough in the tart pan has chilled for 30 minutes, cover the dough with aluminum foil and make a well. The foil should be wider than the tart pan to lift the sides and remove it filled with the pie weights. Fill the interior of the foil well with pie weights or dried beans. Spread them out so they evenly cover the surface of the tart bottom. Place the tart pan on a sheet pan then place the whole thing on the middle rack or baking stone. Bake for 15 minutes then remove the aluminum foil with the pie weights off the tart shell and remove. Turn the heat down to 325°F (162°C) and continue baking for 20 minutes. You want to dry out the crust, but not let it get too brown. Reduce the heat to 300°F (149°C) if the crust edges start to get too dark. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 15-20 minutes. Turn the oven temperature up to 375°F (190°C)
Meanwhile, while the dough is chilling for the first time (before you roll it out), mix together the minced garlic, sumac, ground colander, ground cumin, Kosher salt, and red pepper flakes into a small bowl.
Slice the tomatoes into thick slices across the middle about 1/4-inch (6 mm) thick. Set the tomato slices on a sheet pan in one layer. Sprinkle the seasoning evenly over the tomatoes and let it marinate for one hour.
In a small mixing bowl, stir until smooth and creamy the ricotta cheese, lemon zest, minced lemon thyme, and basil. Taste the ricotta. If your fresh ricotta is salty leave it alone. If you think it needs salt, add about 1/4 tsp Kosher salt and stir to combine. Set aside or refrigerate until needed.
While the par-baked tart shell is cooling, line a couple of plates with paper towels. Place the seasoned tomato slices on the paper towel lined plates, seasoned side facing up. Pour any tomato juices and seasoning into the bowl with the ricotta cheese and stir.
Once cooled baste a thin layer of Dijon mustard across the bottom of the tart pastry. If you are not a fan of mustard, baste a lightly beaten egg across the bottom of the tart.
Spread the ricotta cheese evenly over the mustard in the tart.
If using, sprinkle a light layer, about 1-2 TB, of Pecorino Romano cheese over the ricotta cheese.
Layer the tomato slices, seasoned side up, evenly around the tart in a decorative fashion. You will need to overlap each slice because they will shrink while baking. If you have large heirloom tomatoes, you might need to cut them in half to fit as many tomatoes as you can in the tart pan. Any leftover tomato slices you can eat for lunch or a delicious snack.
If using, lightly sprinkle Pecornio Romano cheese over the tomatoes, then drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the tomatoes.
Place the assembled tart on a sheet pan, then place in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, then check to see if the crust is browning too dark. If the crust edge is browning too quickly, cover the rim with aluminum foil, but careful not to cover the tart filling. Continue baking, checking the tart every 10 minutes or less, when you get closer to the end. It could take around 50 minutes total time. The tart is done when the juices throughout the tart bubble, the tomatoes are shriveled, and the Romano cheese begins to brown on top. Also, when the crust has a nice golden-brown color.
Remove the tart from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for 20 minutes.
Remove the tart pan rim. Carefully place the tart on top of a large can of tomatoes or other can or bowl with a secure flat top. Carefully hold the pan rim and slide it down off the tart. Place the tart on a cooling rack and continue to cool. When cool use a wide spatula to help slide the tart off the bottom portion of the tart pan. (Or you can leave it alone if you don't want to take any chances). Garnish right before serving with fresh lemon thyme and born fresh basil leaves.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Best eaten the day it is made.
Sumac is the ground berries from a Sumac bush. It has a slightly bitter taste and a popular seasoning in Mediterranean cuisine. There is no great substitute to resemble it. If you do not have it, or cannot get it. Sprinkle finely grated lemon zest over the tomatoes when it is done baking.
If you do not own a tart pan, you can make this tart a galette. However, there are some changes in the preparation and baking. There is no need to par-bake the dough. After rolling out the dough, Move the dough to a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. Arrange the tart ingredients over the pastry dough in the same order as in the instructions, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the rim of the dough over the ingredients and pleat to seal. Refrigerate the galette for 30 minutes. Brush the dough with melted butter, olive oil, or egg wash and bake, following the instructions above.
Some Mediterranean spices are easily available at your grocery store. Kalustayan’s in New York City is a very reliable store for all kinds of spices and food items. You and buy online or in person. Click here for Aleppo Pepper, and Sumac.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
In many cultures, bread is symbolic for life and sustenance. If there is bread in the house, no one will go hungry. Bread has symbolic meanings in different religions as well. Throughout Europe, Easter bread symbolizes new life and served at breakfast on Easter morning. The history of Easter bread goes back hundreds of years and is enjoyed during a meal at the end of Lent.
Sweet Easter Bread
For the Dough
- 2/3 cup / 150ml whole milk
- 5 Tbs / 70g granulated sugar- divided
- 1 3/4 tsp / 1/8oz / 6g active dry yeast
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 2 3/4 cups / 405 g all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp / 3 g Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup 10 stick / 113g unsalted butter, melted
- 1 Tb / 23 g melted butter
- Finely grated zest of 1 orange optional
- 1/2 tsp of ground anise or fennel pollen optional
- Poppy Seeds for decorating optional
- 1 egg plus 2 teaspoons of water mixed (for egg wash)
For the decorative eggs
- 5-6 large eggs
- Food coloring of your choosing
Make the Dough
Heat the milk in a 2-cup microwave safe glass measure in the microwave until the milk reaches 110-115F (43-46C). (Can also heat the milk on the stove in a small sauce pan). Start at 30 seconds and check the temperature of the milk and add 10 seconds until you reach the desired temperature. You do not want it hotter than 115C because the higher temperature will kill the yeast.
Gently stir in 1 tablespoon (13g) of the sugar, and the yeast into the milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes. The milk should get foamy from the yeast. (If the milk does not get foamy your yeast is not active).
Melt the butter and let cool.
Whisk the eggs into the milk and add the cooled melted butter.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the remaining 4 Tb (58g) sugar, all-purpose flour, and Kosher salt, orange zest (optional), and ground anise or fennel pollen (optional). Mix together with a whisk or fork to get the ingredients evenly combined. Attach the bowl to the stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
On low speed, add the milk mixture to the flour mixture and mix to get the ingredients combined. Stop and scrape the bowl when necessary. About one minute. Turn the speed up to medium high and mix for 5 minutes until the dough gets soft and silky.
Brush the insides of a medium mixing bowl with the remaining half tablespoon of melted butter. Add the bread dough into the bowl and butter the tops and sides of the dough with the remaining butter. Turn the dough around in the bowl to get a good coating of butter all over it. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter in a warm spot until it doubles in size, for 1 1/2 hours up to 2 hours.
The dough can be made ahead up to the point of the first rising. Refrigerate the dough, then when ready, rest the dough at a warm spot on the counter and let it rise for 2 1/2 hours.
Color your eggs according to the directions of your food coloring. You do not need to hard boil the eggs first, just be careful not to crack any eggs while you are coloring them. The eggs will cook in the oven while the bread is baking. Refrigerate your decorated eggs until you are ready to use them.
Assemble the bread
Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and divide the dough into three equal pieces.
Lightly sprinkle flour over your work surface and dust your hands with flour.
Roll each piece of dough into long tapered ropes about 16 inches (41cm) long. If your dough is springing back and not lengthening, cover the strands with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Arrange the strands lengthwise across the sheet pan and pinch the top of the strands together. Loosely braid the dough. Drape the outer left strand over the middle strand, then drape the outer right strand over the (new) middle strand. Repeat alternating the left and right outer strands until you are at the bottom. Pinch the bottom strands together and secure. Tuck the eggs between the braided strands down the middle of the bread. The eggs will slide out if they are too close to the sides of the bread. Loosely cover the bread with plastic wrap or clean kitchen towel and let the bread rise for 45 min - 1 hr. The bread will puff up but not double in size.
Meanwhile, arrange the oven rack to the middle position, and if you have a baking stone place it on the middle rack. Pre-heat the oven to 350F/ 175C/ Gas Mark 4. When baking bread, I like to preheat my oven for an hour. I believe the temperature is more even and accurate.
After the final rise, whisk together one egg with 2 tsp water and brush the bread with the egg wash. Avoid getting the egg wash on the eggs. Sprinkle with poppy seeds, if using, and place the sheet pan with the bread on the middle rack in your oven. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until the internal temperature is 190F (88C).
Take the bread out of the oven and slide it with the parchment paper onto a cooling rack. After 5 minutes remove the parchment paper. Can be served warm or room temperature.
The bread can be made the night before serving for breakfast, 8 hours in advance. After 8 hours, the eggs might start to turn bad. The bread will be fine for a couple of days, but not the eggs.