Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lemon Glazed Easter Bread

Yesterday, my neighbor, an old dashingly handsome, retired actor, turned 80. Pat is from a Sicilian family of 9 and grew up as a first generation American in Chicago. His partner passed away a few months ago and crushed his heart. She took care of him the past few years during his illnesses and they'd known each other since their 20's; great friends they were. I knew he missed her cooking aside from her companionship. I pop in at least once a week to visit, pay his bills and on occasion, bring him some homemade baked treats. I'd been experimenting with recipes using lemon, for another friend and decided upon a Lemon Glazed Bread...don't ask me why. I guess I felt like making bread and the my other friend LOVES lemons. I decided to test it out on Pat...and brought him almost to tears. He couldn't believe I had recreated something he had as a child. He informed me I had baked a typical Sicilian bread made that his mother used to make every Easter . The only thing it needed was more candied citrus zest as the grated zest I had put in was to small to notice, but not too small to give it flavor. That was easy to remedy. Next time around, I added the candied zest. It really is delicious.

Sicilian Lemon-Glazed Easter Bread
by Rebecca Dru


1 1/3 cups whole milk
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise
1 cup sugar
3 TBSN (packed) grated lemon peel
4.5 cups (or more) bread flour, divided
1 envelope instant or rapid-rise yeast
3 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 TBSN Cognac
2 TBSN Fresh squeezed Lemon Juice
2 tsp salt
1/2 lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3/4 cup apricot preserves
1 1/2 cups (or more) powdered sugar
3 TBSN strained fresh lemon juice
For dough:
1.Pour milk into small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to simmer. Remove from heat; cover and let steep 20 minutes. If necessary, rewarm milk until instant-read thermometer inserted into mixture registers between 105°F and 115°F before continuing.
2.Blend sugar and lemon peel in processor.
3.Mix 1 1/2 cups flour and yeast in bowl of heavy-duty mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Discard vanilla bean and add warm milk to bowl; beat to blend. Let stand until slightly puffed, about 15 minutes.
4.Add 3 cups flour, eggs, and brandy to yeast mixture; beat on medium speed until smooth and slightly firm dough forms, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if dough is sticky or adding water (or lemon juice) by tablespoonfuls if dough is dry, about 6 minutes.
5. Add sugar-lemon peel mixture and salt. Beat on medium speed 5 minutes.
6.Add butter and beat until absorbed and dough is smooth and soft, about 5 minutes longer.
7.Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.
8.Generously butter 12-cup Bundt pan. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface; knead gently into ball. Using fingers, make hole in center of dough, creating doughnut shape. Transfer to prepared pan, pushing hole in dough over center tube in pan. Cover pan with plastic wrap; refrigerate overnight (dough will rise to top of pan).
9.Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until dough no longer springs back when gently pressed with fingers, about 1 hour 30 minutes (dough will rise above pan by 1 to 1 1/2 inches).
10.Meanwhile, position rack in lowest third of oven and preheat to 350°F.
11.Bake bread until well browned on top, about 20 minutes. Wrap sheet of foil loosely over top and sides of pan to prevent overbrowning.
12.Continue to bake bread until deep brown on top and tester inserted near center comes out clean, rotating pan occasionally for even baking, about 40 minutes longer. Immediately invert bread onto rack.
13.Stir preserves in small saucepan over medium heat until melted. Brush preserves all over warm bread. Cool completely, at least 3 hours.
For glaze:
Sift 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar into small bowl. Add lemon juice and whisk to blend. Add more powdered sugar by Tablespoonfuls if glaze is too thin to adhere to bread. Drizzle glaze over cool bread and let stand until glaze sets, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap loosely in foil and store at room temperature.)

note: optional - add additional larger sized candied lemon zest to Step 5 to be more typically sicilian.
3 Lg Lemons Zested in long strips
1/2 cups Water
1 Cups Sugar A little extra for coating
1. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Using a zester,remove zest from each lemon in one continuous strip, working your way around the lemon from one end to the other in a spiral. Place peels in the cold water, and soak for 1/2 hour.
2.Place zest strips in a large saucepan, and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil. Strain, reserving zest. Repeat process (boiling and straining) two more times.
3.Return zest to saucepan. Pour 1/2 cup water and the sugar over zest. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat, and simmer until zest is almost translucent, 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, gently shaking zest to remove as much syrup as possible, and transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. (Zest will be very sticky.)
Fill a bowl with sugar. Toss zest in sugar to coat, then shake off excess. Place on a wire rack to dry, about 5 minutes.. Shake off any remaining excess sugar, and continue to dry on rack until hardened, about 30 minutes more. Candied zest can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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