Easter breads

For many, Easter morning wouldn't be complete without a golden braided loaf of sweet bread on the table. (Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

Zest the oranges and set zest aside. Then peel the oranges and discard the white pith. Place oranges in a blender or food processor and puree.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water.

Mix flour, salt, sugar and powdered milk together in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Add shortening and butter and mix to combine. Add the eggs and mix in.

Add the orange puree and zest, and then add water-yeast mixture.

The dough will be on the softer side.

Continue to mix with the dough hook until the dough comes together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is too wet and isn't coming together, add some flour 1/2 cup at a time.

Turn the dough out onto a board or baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until it doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.

Once raised, punch the dough down again, divide it into three 1-pound pieces. Let the divided dough rest on a floured surface for about 15 minutes.

Then divide each piece into three portions, roll the portions into long strands and braid or twist the strands into loaves or wreaths. Or dough can simply be left in round balls.

Place shaped dough on baking sheets.

Cover loaves with a towel and let them rise again until they are almost doubled, about an hour to an hour and a half.

Brush tops with egg wash.

Bake loaves at 375 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes 3 loaves.

Note: For anise-flavored bread, omit the oranges and increase the water by 1 cup. Then add 1 teaspoon of anise oil or 1 tablespoon of anise extract with the eggs.

--Michael Pallotta, Pallotta's Pastries, Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio


2 cups milk