Saturday, April 4, 2015
Spring Bird's Nest Breads
An amazing thing happened in March. Spring arrived in Minnesota. We haven't seen spring since 2012 and we all thought Spring was tired of fighting the North Wind and had left the Northland for good. It's the season of baking with cream, milk, eggs, wheat and eggs - all signs of spring and new birth. May I just say how lovely it is to do so when a blizzard isn't raging? Of course Spring did play an April Fool's joke on us when the temperatures soared to 83 degrees F. (Spring does have a cruel sense of humor, "You want warm, I'll show you warm.") But nobody dared say they were hot.
If you have colored, hard-boiled eggs lying around - this is just the recipe to showcase them. It's a sweet bread - no yeast - no proofing. Mix. Let rest. Braid. Eat. (If you want egg salad instead: hardboiled eggs, chopped green olives, celery, fresh dill and light Hellman's mayo - addicting. When the kids were little, we used to leave some for the Easter Bunny and I would tell the kids the Bunny made egg salad. Specifically, this egg salad.)
But try the bread. It's from Cooking with Nonna and couldn't be easier. She made eight breads out of this and I made six slightly larger ones.
4-1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter - softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup whole milk
egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of water)
Optional sprinkles which are never optional in my home
In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
In a mixer or by hand in a larger bowl, combine sugar, shortening and sugar. When all is well-mixed, add the eggs - mixing well in between each addition. Add vanilla and milk and mix well. In thirds, add the flour and mix - on low speed. When all is added and mixed and doughy - divide into thirds and wrap in plastic. Let it sit in the fridge overnight. While the dough rests, you can rest!
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking pan or two with parchment paper. Take out your dough balls open at a time and divide in half. Divide in half again and roll each half between your hand until you have a rope about 7-8 inches long. You now have two ropes. Braid them and then twist them into a circle to form the nest.
Repeat with next half. And go on to the next dough ball until you have 6 birds nests. Brush with egg wash and add the not-required-but-recommended sprinkles. Gently push your hard boiled egg in the center of the nest. Bake for 20-22 minutes until the breads are light golden-brown. Cool. Wrap and save or eat right away.
And for my hand-pie loving son-in-law, I have a few of these (because you can never have too much dessert.) Blueberry hand-pies.
Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Eastover, Buona Pasqua, Happy Spring! I hope i's a sweet one for all of you.