I am participating in a lot of challenges lately. Not that I mind, though! I have joined the bakers from Bake the World a while ago but so far I hadn’t been able to join in the fun for various reasons. When I discovered what they had in store for March’s challenge, I knew I didn’t want to miss out.
This unusual Croatian bread (unusual for me, at least) is similar to other sweet breads baked around the world for Easter. Eggs, too, play an important part in the symbology.
I looked up many recipes (in various languages) but finally decided on the one by Ana, whose beautiful blog won’t see the last of me.
I followed her recipe quite faithfully although I halved the recipe, the only minor change I made to the ingredients was to substitute part of the milk with water to get a fluffier dough (it was a dream!). As for the method, I changed it slightly: I melted the butter in the lukewarm milk and then added it to the dry ingredients alternating with the beaten egg. My facilities are a bit limited so I didn’t dry the eggs (also because the ones I had weren’t white so I left them as Nature intended them to be). With the leftover dough I am now making some off-seasonal Stollen as I find the dough to be similar (you’ll have to wait till Christmas to see the photos!).
Bebe uskrsne Primorski (Anna’s recipe)
Makes 2 loaves, 12 bread dolls or 1 loaf and 6 bread dolls
2 cups milk, scalded and then cooled to room temperature
2 packages active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 eggs or 6 egg yolks, beaten
½ cup butter, at room temperature
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Over medium heat, heat milk until small bubbles appear on the surface. Remove from burner and allow to cool - the milk should still be warm but not hot. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar in the milk, stir gently to combine and set aside to proof until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine eggs, butter, sugar and salt at a medium speed for about 3 minutes. Begin adding the flour one cup at a time, alternating with roughly half a cup of the milk and yeast mixture. Repeat this until you have added 4 cups of flour and all of the liquid. After this point, begin adding ¼ to ½ cup of flour at a time, waiting until all of the flour is fully incorporated into the dough before adding more. Stop adding flour when the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to the bowl (you may or may not use all 6 cups of flour). Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead 4 or 5 times into a smooth, round ball. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and set in a draft-free area of your kitchen until it has doubled in volume, about 3 hours.
When the dough has risen, punch the centre and turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 2 minutes. Separate dough into the required pieces, depending if you are making loaves or dolls, or both (each loaf and doll requires 3 balls of dough to braid). Allow to rest for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees farenheit. Braid the dough, following the pictures above (for the dolls, wrap the eggs in the dough as tightly as possible so that the eggs don’t fall out when finished baking) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash (1 egg, 2 tablespoons of water) and allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes before baking. Bake until the tops are golden and the bottom is light brown, around 20 minutes. Allow to cool completely before serving.