I was so excited to make this bread for Easter this year--I'd been waiting several months since discovering this recipe from King Arthur Flour. And it was lovely and delicious! A stunning centerpiece for a festive Easter table. Pre-dyed, uncooked eggs are placed in the dough after shaping and baked along with the bread. What a great idea! The bread itself has a nice flavor and great texture. It is only slightly sweet with a light cinnamon taste. I loved it warmed, spread with butter. And of course it is a perfect pairing with the accompanying hard-boiled egg! Continue for recipe.
King Arthur's Egg Braid
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup warm milk
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 stick butter or margarine
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 tablespoon (1 1/2 teaspoons) cinnamon
7 to 9 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
12 dyed uncooked eggs
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt to help liquefy the egg)
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in the sugar and add 1/2 cup flour. Let this sit for 10 minutes to give the yeast a chance to get going. Add the milk, eggs, butter, salt, and cinnamon. Stir in 4 cups of the flour. Add more flour, until the dough starts to form a shaggy mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough has formed a smooth and satiny ball. The dough will be a little tacky, but it shouldn't be sticky.
Put the dough into a clean bowl and coat it with a little melted butter. This will help prevent the formation of a skin on the dough due to exposure to the air. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it's quite swollen and puffy-looking. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead it gently to expel any air bubbles. You don't need to actively knead the dough at this point; that will excite the gluten in the dough and make it harder to braid the bread.
Divide the dough into 2 pieces and set one aside. Divide the first piece into 3 even pieces. Roll each piece into a rope that is 1-inch in diameter. Braid the set of ropes and shape the braid into a large circle. Place the circle on a greased or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Cover the loaves with damp towels and let the wreaths rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the eggs on the wreaths and gently press them into the dough. Brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake the loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, until nicely browned. Occasionally, an egg will split in the oven. Use a sharp knife to remove it from the wreath and substitute a dyed hard-boiled egg. Cool the wreaths on a rack and ice when fully cool. Makes 2 wreaths, each yielding 12 large slices.
Optional Icing Glaze
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugarBeat the sugar and the liqueur together. The icing should be the consistency of a thick salad dressing. Use a fork to drizzle the icing on the wreaths.
3 tablespoons orange liqueur