I thought this was the perfect time of year to share a seasonal Greek recipe: Lambropsomo, or Greek Easter Bread. The bread is braided from three ropes of dough, to symbolize the Trinity. The red Easter eggs symbolize the blood of Christ.
If you’ve never dyed Easter eggs red, they really do look beautiful, especially if rubbed with a bit of olive oil afterwards to give them a sheen. These eggs, beside being symbolic, are also used in the Easter egg game, where you crack eggs with your opponent and try not to let your egg break. (My husband has a very effective method — we hardly ever win against him!)
The following recipe is my mother-in-law’s. Not being Greek herself, she got the recipe from The Santa Monica Evening Outlook in 1969, when the family was living in LA. Why not from her own Greek mother-in-law? As with many Greek cooks and bakers, my husband’s yiayia never wrote recipes down and did not learn how to cook via written recipe. She learned by watching others as well as by doing. Family members got recipes from her by watching her cook or by having her tell them how to make something and then they wrote it down.
This is a beautiful bread, fragrant with the scents of orange and anise. It is a little time-consuming, but not difficult. Bread baking can be very relaxing in our fast-paced society! I hope you enjoy this recipe.
Joyce’s Greek Easter Bread
Prep time: 2-1/2 hours (this includes time for the bread to rise). Cook time about 35 minutes
6-7 cups flour, sifted
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup water
¾ cup milk
2 tbsp margarine
2 (room temperature) eggs
½ cup orange juice
½ tsp anise extract (or 1 tbsp ouzo)
3-5 hard-cooked eggs, dyed red (Use bottled red food coloring)
1 egg mixed with one tablespoon water (for glaze, before baking)
Note: This method does away with the tricky step of dissolving yeast in warm water. Instead, undissolved yeast is added as a dry ingredient with the other dry ingredients. Most of the beating can be done with an electric mixer.
In a large bowl, mix 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, grated orange peel and undissolved dry yeast. Combine water, milk and margarine in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are warm.
Gradually add liquids to dry mixture and beat 2 minutes in an electric mixer at medium speed. Add eggs, orange juice, ouze or anise extract and enough flour (about 1 cup) to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed two minutes. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.
Turn onto lightly floured board. Knead until smooth, 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl and turn over to grease top of dough. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Shape 2/3 of dough into a rope about 30 inches long. Place in a round on a greased baking sheet, shaping into a ring. Pinch ends to seal. Take the rest of the remaining dough and divide in half. Make each half into a rope about 13 inches long. Place over dough, crossing in the center. Tuck ends underneath dough.
Place a red hard-cooked egg on top of the rope where it rests on the ring. Put remaining hard cooked eggs around the center of dough.
Blend together one egg and 1 tbsp water; brush dough. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Bake about 35 minutes and cool on wire rack.
When the loaf is finished, brush with melted margarine to make it shine.
Makes one large loaf.
(Photos by Google Images. Put the red egg in the center of the dough for the recipe shown here).
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Until next time,