Are you a sweet or savory breakfast person? If you are like me, someone who finds it difficult to choose between the two, frittatas are a wonderful choice and a healthy(ish) alternative to quiche. Because frittatas lack an all butter pastry crust, heavy cream and extra cheese, they are not as rich as quiche, Plus they are much easier to make. What this means is, you can serve up a savory frittata as a main course and include all the pastries or coffee cake you crave. Sweet and savory satisfaction without the guilt, (kind-of). I created this spinach frittata with the dual purpose of making something elegant and savory to serve for breakfast or brunch that also leaves room for something sweet, like The Best Damn Lemon Cake or Apple Muffin with Lemon Glaze.
Spinach Frittata Inspiration
My spinach frittata recipe combines two ideas from my favorite egg dishes. The first idea is from Deborah Madison’s cookbook, In My Kitchen. She adds saffron to her Swiss Chard Flan recipe, giving the custard an exotic floral nuance that I love. Saffron compliments custards and leafy green vegetables nicely, so I decided to use it instead of freshly grated nutmeg for some extra elegance in the frittata. I love saffron and don’t mind spending the extra money to buy it. However, if you rather not use saffron, add some freshly grated nutmeg directly into the egg mixture. Fresh basil or mint provides a brighter and fresher tasting substitution for saffron, and it pairs very nicely with the spinach frittata.
The second idea is the addition of fresh ricotta, whipped smooth and spooned on top of the spinach frittata. The first time I tasted a ricotta topped frittata is when I made Joshua McFadden’s Red Pepper, Potato, Prosciutto Frittata with Ricotta from his cookbook, Six Seasons. The ricotta transformed an ordinary western omelet into a very special occasion. The ricotta gets soft and warm baked with the frittata and you want every bite filled with this light creaminess. I totally got hooked on ricotta topped frittatas and now want to add ricotta cheese to just about everything.
It pays to buy the freshly made ricotta cheese, there is a big difference in taste. Usually you can find good quality ricotta near the deli department at your grocery. Or make a small batch of ricotta cheese. It takes a lot less time than you think and tastes like real milk.
Making a frittata is fairly straight forward and quick. The only challenging part in this recipe is to julienne the leeks. For a change I decided to julienne slice the white and light green parts of the leek instead of cutting them into circles or half-moons. It doesn’t really matter how they are prepared as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and cooked till soft and translucent. The julienned leek disappears into the spinach and eggs but adds lovely sweet onion background flavor.
To julienne the leeks, cut the leek in half lengthwise then clean between the layers. Then cut across the leek dividing it into chunks the size of your desired length, mine where about an inch and a half (3.5 cm). Then slice the portioned leeks, lengthwise in very thin strips, mine were about 1/16-1/8 of an inch (about 2-3 mm). Because you won’t see the leeks you do not have to worry about being precise like you would for julienned carrots in a vegetable sauté, so don’t fret about it.
Check out this video for a live example of how to julienne leeks. In this video he discards the root end of the leek. I do not discard it and julienne cut the root as best I can.
Coming up with a name for this spinach frittata was challenging. With all the special ingredients, it could easily have a name that takes longer to say then it does to cook. Yet the mood of this frittata is all about spring and representing new life and the warming of the earth and air. Fresh farm eggs give the vegetables its foundation with a salty bite of Romano cheese. Young spring spinach and leeks provide a sense of newness to the frittata which in turn is gets grounded from the floral but earthy notes from the stamens of spring crocuses, otherwise known as saffron. Warm, creamy fresh ricotta tie all the flavors together for a sunny “Good morning” greeting. All that goodness is invigorating but not filling leaving plenty of room for pastries or dessert.
Frittatas are delicious for breakfast, brunch, lunch, or a light supper. For a spectacular Mother’s Day brunch (or any brunch), serve the spinach frittata with your favorite sides like sausage, bacon, green salad, fruit salad and your favorite pastries.
Ricotta Spinach Frittata
An elegant frittata recipe for the times when you want a special breakfast or brunch that is also easy to make. It is a lighter and healthier substitute for quiche.
- 1 pinch of saffron 1 TB boiling water
- 6 eggs
- ¼ cup 24 g finely grated real Romano cheese
- Kosher Salt
- Fresh ground black pepper
- 1-2 TB olive oil
- 1 leek about 6 oz (187 g) Pale green and white parts only
- 5 oz 142 g spinach cleaned, and stems removed
- ½ cup 117 g real ricotta cheese
Prepare your ingredients
Preheat the oven to 400°F / 200°C / Gas Mark 6 and place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
Place a pinch of saffron in a small bowl and add 1 TB of just shy of boiling water to the saffron. Set aside and let the saffron steep.
In a medium size bowl, mix the eggs together with a fork until there are no egg whites visible in the mix. Add the Romano cheese and mix again until combined. Set aside.
Thoroughly clean and julienne slice the white and pale green parts of the leek, about an inch and a half in length and about 1/16 of an inch wide. See blog post for a video demonstration.
In a small bowl, whip the ricotta with a pinch of Kosher salt and a few grounds of black pepper until smooth. A fork works nicely for this job. Set aside.
Place an 8-inch (20cm) skillet, preferably a non-stick skillet with an oven-proof handle, on a burner and turn the heat to medium-high. Pour in the olive oil and heat up. Add the sliced leeks and turn down the heat to medium then sauté until soft, but not browned, about 5-7 minutes. Add the prepared spinach, in batches, and cook down until completely wilted and soft, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, pour the saffron and water to the eggs, making sure you get every last drop and all saffron threads, and whisk together with a fork.
Make the Frittata
Pour the egg mixture into the skillet with the spinach and leeks. Tilt the pan to make sure the egg mixture is evenly distributed across the whole skillet. Turn the heat to medium and let the eggs cook undisturbed for a couple of minutes.
Run a thin rubber spatula around the edge of the frittata to loosen the eggs. Pull the eggs toward the center with the spatula creating pockets for uncooked runny eggs to fill up. Repeat this step going around the circumference of the frittata. Continue to gently cook the frittata until there is a thin liquid layer on top of the frittata.
Drop spoonfuls of whipped ricotta cheese around the frittata, about 6-8 spoonfuls. Place the skillet in the oven and cook until it is solid all the way through, about 6 minutes. You may need to place the frittata under the broiler to brown the top. It is not necessary, only if you want browning on the top. If you do, watch the frittata carefully because it should only take a few minutes.
Remove from the oven and run the frittata around the edge of the skillet, then slide the frittata on to a serving plate.
Frittata is best eaten warm the same day it is made.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
During the 70’s and 80’s, Deviled Eggs was a popular appetizer. Many cocktail parties had a tray of these creamy bite size egg nibbles politely passed around on a tray for your convenience. Of course, I was a teenager then, but during my teenage years I made money as a hostess helper where I prepped, cooked, served, and cleaned up at people’s parties. I loved the job because I got to see what people where serving and how they entertained.
For some reason Deviled Eggs lost some popularity in the 90’s. I believe it was because people believed eggs were unhealthy. Fortunately, eggs have made a comeback, and with that so have Deviled Eggs. I love Deviled Eggs and based on the reaction I hear from people outside my home, so do a lot of people. I believe they are a perfect appetizer for a cocktail party. One that is not too rich, are easy to eat while holding a drink, and provide some needed protein to help fill one’s appetite. In general, I believe eggs are comfort food and just like egg salad, deviled eggs have that creamy wholesome comfort I crave.
How to Cook Hard Boiled Eggs for Deviled Eggs
The key to making good deviled eggs is making perfect hard-boiled eggs. Ones that are not rubbery, with cooked but tender yolks, have an even oval shape, and have a shell that is easy to peel off. What I discovered is there are almost as many tricks as there are recipes, with most of them providing inconsistent results. Over the past couple of years, I discovered two techniques for making hard-boiled eggs that are consistently easy to peel and do not get over-coked. No technique is entirely foolproof, but these two techniques are very reliable.
First, according to Food52, warm up the eggs in hot tap water while you wait for the water to boil. Putting eggs straight from the refrigerator into a pot of boiling water causes the shells to crack and give the eggs a misshapen appearance. Warming the eggs for a few minutes helps the egg whites set into their natural oval shape and prevent the shells from cracking.
Second, if you only adapt one of these techniques, this is the one to do whenever you cook hard-boiled eggs. Shock the cooked eggs in ice water for 15 minutes or more just when they finish cooking. In layman’s terms, this technique causes the egg whites to constrict and pull away from the sides of the shell. With everything else being a constant, this one technique produces hard-boiled eggs that are easy to peel.
Also, the myth about younger fresh eggs being hard to peel is true. Older eggs like store-bought or farm fresh eggs that are at least 2-weeks-old are much easier to peel. Other than the shock from the ice bath, the age criteria is the only “egg lore” I found to be consistently correct. If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of the best techniques for cooking hard-boiled eggs, read this article from Serious Eats.
If you are making hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs, make more than you need so if you get a couple of eggs that don’t peel easily or are misshapen, you have extra to choose from. Use up the extra eggs for egg salad or chopped and sprinkled over asparagus with some olive oil.
Deviled Eggs Four Ways
There are endless ways to personalize this classic appetizer and I have provided four variations for you to choose from. First off is the foundation recipe which all the other recipes are a variation from. Each recipe is proportioned using 4 hard-boiled eggs, giving you a total of 8 deviled eggs. The recipe is easily adapted to doubling the amounts. With the egg yolk filling, I look for a smooth consistency with a very slight amount of grain, and a creamy balanced flavor between the mayonnaise, mustard and egg yolks.
From the foundation recipe I built two other variations. The first I made Pickled Deviled eggs with cornichons, a couple of the onions from the bottle, and pickling liquid to the foundation recipe. This added a subtle pickle flavor complimented with some heat from a light sprinkle of hot paprika. If you can’t find cornichons use sweet gherkin pickles or relish
For decadent deviled eggs, I used either white or black truffle oil and slightly adjusted the foundation recipe. If using white truffle oil, it will have a subtler flavor, but it is still delicious. The egg filling gets a double dose of truffles from truffle salt and truffle oil, which I am lucky enough to have both on hand. However, if you only have truffle oil, you will still have the truffle essence, albeit a subtler one. If you are fortunate enough to have a real truffle, mince up a sliver and add it to the egg yolks or use as a garnish. Italian truffles are not available now (early Spring), but usually become available for a couple of months in the summer, and in the winter.
The recipe for spinach deviled eggs is from Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything. He made them sound so good I just had to try them out. He is right they are delicious with a great flavor of spinach and Romano cheese. The filling has a dark green color which was different from what I expected. (I thought they would have a pale green color.) Yet, I believe they will surprise and delight your guests as something delicious and unexpected.
His recipe calls for Parmesan Cheese, but I prefer the sharpness of Romano Cheese. If you wish, use Parmesan cheese, but make sure it is the Parmesan Reggiano from Italy.
Pair Deviled Eggs with any of these Appetizers
Deviled Eggs are a timeless appetizer perfect for a cocktail party. The foundation recipe is a traditional recipe made with mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and some hot paprika. All the variations start from this traditional recipe with some tweaks. Listed below are four variations to choose from to suit your mood and preference. All of them are delicious.
The Spinach Deviled Eggs is from Mark Bittman's cookbook, How to Cook Everything.
Deviled eggs are best eaten the day they are made. Assemble right before serving.
- 4 hard-boiled eggs
- 2 ½ TBS mayonnaise
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Pinch of Kosher salt
- A few rounds of fresh ground black pepper
- A couple of dashes of hot paprika to taste and garnish
- Dill for garnish only for the foundation recipe
Use a sharp paring knife, cut the hard-boiled eggs in half lengthwise. To make a clean cut, wipe off the knife between each egg. Scoop out the yolks and place into a small bowl. Reserve the egg whites. Mash the egg yolks with a fork until they look like small pebbles and almost a paste. Add the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper and mix and mash together with your fork until it gets as smooth as you can make it by hand. Taste the mixture and adjust with any of the ingredients to get the consistency you wish. Sprinkle a couple of dashes of hot paprika, or sweet paprika if you do not want the spice.
Spoon or pipe the egg yolk filling into the body of the cooked egg whites. Garnish with a tip of dill and a dusting of paprika and black pepper.
Serve immediately or refrigerate covered in plastic wrap until needed. Deviled eggs are best eaten soon after they are made.
Cornichon Deviled Eggs
Follow the directions of the foundation recipe for deviled eggs. Once the egg yolks are mixed and add 4-6 diced cornichons and two diced pickled onions from the cornichons jar. Add about a half teaspoon and up to 1 teaspoon of the juice from the jar of cornichons. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon the deviled egg filling into the body of the hard-boiled eggs and garnish with sliced cornichon and a dash of smoked paprika.
Poor Man’s Truffle Deviled Eggs
Use the foundation recipe, except use only 1 ½ tablespoons of mayonnaise and add one tablespoon of white or black truffle olive oil. Use the same amount of Dijon mustard, but add a pinch of truffle salt instead of Kosher salt. (Optional, add 1 TB of butter.) Mix until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pipe or spoon the egg yolk mixture into the egg white bodies. Garnish with fresh ground black pepper and drizzle with truffle oil.
Spinach Deviled Eggs
Steam 3 oz (81 g) of fresh spinach (cleaned and stems removed) for 5 minutes. When cool plop into a flour sack kitchen towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. Or put in a fine mesh strainer and press out as much liquid as possible. Place the squeezed spinach on a cutting board and mince several times over. In a small bowl mash up the egg yolks and add the spinach, 1 ½ TB mayonnaise, and 1 TB extra virgin olive oil, 1 TB of slightly softened butter, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, and a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, less than a ¼ tsp. Mash everything together until smooth. Add ¼ cup, (65-70 ml) finely grated Romano Cheese and stir to completely mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Pipe or spoon the filling into the hard-boiled egg whites. Garnish with thinly sliced pickled peppadews.
Hard Boiled Eggs
- 1-6 eggs
- 3 quarts (3 liters) water
Fill a pot large enough to hold the eggs without crowding them with 3 quarts of water. Turn on the heat to high. Bring the pot to a boil.
While the water is heating up on the stove, add the eggs to a bowl filled with hot water. Let the eggs warm up in the bath. This step help prevent the egg shells from cracking as they cook and maintain an oval shape.
Carefully, add the eggs one at a time to the pot of boiling water. A large slotted spoon or spider are great for this job, and cook for one minute. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cover the pot. Cook for 10- 12 minutes. 10 minutes will give you eggs that are cooked but have a slightly soft middle spot in the yolk. 12 minutes will give you eggs where the yolks are cooked but not dried out.
Just before the eggs finish boiling, fill a large bowl part way with ice then fill it with cold water. Set aside.
When the eggs are finished cooking, immediately remove them from the pot and add them into the bowl with the ice water. Use a slotted spoon to lift the eggs out of the hot water before you add them into the ice water. Let them cool in the ice water for 15 minutes or longer, adding more ice if necessary to keep the water cold.
To peel the eggs, gently tap the egg against the side of the sink to make cracks all over the surface, then roll the egg back and forth on the counter’s surface. Starting at the wide bottom end of the egg, peel away the shell under cold running tap water. Repeat until all the eggs are peeled. Place the peeled eggs in a bowl of cold water and keep in the refrigerator uncovered until needed.
© 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
One of my earliest posts on my blog was a story about when I first learned to make an omelet. It was a treasured moment between me and Aunt Bunty. I will never forget it. The post included two omelet recipes. Currently, my recipe plugin only allows one recipe per post, and now each recipe must stand on their own. Fresh herb omelet has bright flavor from the fresh herbs, goat cheese and roasted peppers. I believe it is outstanding, and compare all other omelets to this one. Click on this link to read the story and recipe for Cheese Omelet.
I still stand by my premise from my original post: If you can only learn how to cook one thing let it be with eggs. An omelet is perfect for any meal of the day, inexpensive, and provides a nutritious meal. Fresh herb omelet with goat cheese is fancier than the standard cheese omelet, but it is worth knowing how to make. You never know when you will need to make something impressive.
No matter what age, starting out on your own is daunting. Learning to cook is no different. Having the skill of making a meal, such as an omelet, can help soften any transition be it work, school or learning how to cook. There will come a time when friends and/or family members will put out a call to action for the in-house “chef” to satisfy a hankering of a home cooked anything. The person, who can satisfy this need, usually reaches celebrity-nobility status for life.
Your friends might not remember your record-breaking accomplishments throughout your tenure in college or successful career, but they will remember your late-night comfort food and thank you for it. An omelet is a great place to start. If you can only cook one thing, make it with an egg.
The fresh herb omelet with goat cheese and roasted red pepper is inspired by a Barefoot Contessa episode “Fines Herb Omelet”. It is a creamy and luxurious omelet. Fines herb is a French term for the fresh herb combination of tarragon, chervil, chives and parsley. Unfortunately, I cannot get chervil at any market around me, so I usually use whatever fresh herbs I have at home. Use equal amounts of fresh herbs in any combination of 2 to 4 fresh herbs to your liking. Great combos are: 1) basil and parsley (you could also add mint), 2) chives, tarragon and parsley, 3) Fines Herbs, 4) dill, 5) whatever suits your taste.
Fresh Herb Omelet with Goat Cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 1 oz 28 g goat cheese (crumbled)
- 2 TBS mixed fresh herbs any combination of minced herbs, tarragon, chive, parsley, basil, mint, chervil
- 1 oz 28 g chopped roasted red pepper
- 1/2 TBS 7 g butter
Mise en Place
Get all your ingredients prepped and ready for cooking.
Mix the two eggs in a small bowl until they are completely combined.
Chop the herbs and mix half of the herb mixture into the eggs.
Chop the red pepper.
Measure and gently crumble the goat cheese. Set all ingredients to the side of the stove for easy access.
Get all your cooking utensils and pan ready. I use an 8-inch frying pan, a heat proof rubber spatula and a pancake spatula.
Cooking the omelet
Place an 8-inch frying pan on a burner and turn the heat to medium high. Heat the pan and melt the butter.
When the butter is completely melted, lift the pan and swirl the butter around so that the butter completely covers the bottom of the pan and up the sides.
Pour the mixed eggs into the center of the pan. Let the egg mixture settle for a few seconds. Using your utensil, (fork, wooden spoon, heat proof rubber spatula), gently pull the eggs from the edge of the pan towards the center. If needed, slightly tilt the pan by lifting the handle, to help guide the eggs into the cleared space.
Repeat this step 3-4 times going all the way around the perimeter of the pan.
Before the eggs are cooked all the way through, the eggs will still be a little wet on the top, place the rubber spatula between the edge of the pan and the eggs and slide it all the way around the perimeter to make sure that the eggs are loose and not sticking to the pan.
Slide the spatula under the eggs then flip the omelet over like a pancake. Once flipped, immediately sprinkle the goat cheese, roasted red pepper and half of the remaining herbs down the middle of the omelet.
Turn off the heat.
Tri-fold the omelet: Using your spatula, fold over one side of the omelet over the center of the omelet to cover the cheese and herbs
Continue to gently roll the omelet over, using your spatula to encourage the omelet to roll over onto itself, towards the other side of the omelet.
Place your serving plate at the edge of your pan and slide the omelet onto your plate seam side down.
*A slightly easier way to tri-fold your omelet after you have sprinkled your fillings down the center of the omelet, fold over one side of the omelet to cover the cheese filling in the center, then fold over the opposite side toward the center to cover the filling. Use your spatula to lift the omelet out of the pan and place it seem side down onto your serving plate.
Sprinkle the omelet with salt and pepper and the remaining fresh herbs and serve.
I prefer to make an individual omelet with two eggs verses a larger omelet with more eggs and for more portions. The one portion omelet cooks quickly and more thoroughly. If you want to make larger omelet you should use a 10-12-inch skillet, (depending on how many eggs), and possibly not flip the omelet over like a pancake, just fold the omelet in half. A larger sized omelet will be more fragile and it could rip. Once folded in half the eggs will continue to cook while the cheese melts.
© 2017 – 2018, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.
Every time I walk around the Farmers Market I feel like I am on a treasure hunt. There is an element of familiarity with each vender, but also curiosity as the seasons transition from the sparse offerings of early spring to the abundant fall harvest. At every visit, I anticipate the changing produce and new discoveries. Fortunately, this past week was no exception for I discovered sorrel.
In my area, sorrel is only available at Farmers Markets. It is a green leafy vegetable with a bright lemony flavor. It is a hardy plant but for some reason does not have wide appeal. However, every vegetable centered cookbook I own has a few sorrel recipes. Therefore, it must have some appeal. If Deborah Madison and Alice Walters took the time to highlight this vegetable, it is worth bringing home to see for myself.
© 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.