Okay. This one’s just a little bit more involved, but it’s also totally worth it.
It’s bread. Specifically, it’s anise bread. Formerly, I think it’s known as Italian Anise Easter Bread (even though it’s in our family’s recipe google doc as Greek Christmas Bread?!). My mom has made it every Easter for as long as I can remember. I taste it and I think of vibrant green grass, warm spring days in North Carolina, wearing bright sundresses to church, and the many bunny figurines that always populated her Easter tablescape when I was growing up.
I reworked it a bit, though. My mom makes it as one big loaf. Very practical. I, on the other hand, am a people pleaser. I like the idea of each family member having their VERY OWN LOAF. Yeah, that’s right. SO I took the dough and I made 5 (one for each member of my immediate family) twisted mini loaves. Pretty! And to make it even prettier, I took some pastel dyed eggs and fit one into the middle of each loaf while they baked. Now they look like festive bird nests. Success.
The recipe is a little ways down. It might seem counterintuitive, but I actually want to show a quick step-by-step for how to achieve the “twisted nests” shape first. It’s so easy, so it won’t take long to master. I promise.
Step 1: Take two chunks of dough (each maybe the size of your palm/fist), and roll them out till they are about a foot long, equal in width and length.
Step 2: Twist the two pieces around each other from one end to the other. Squeeze the ends of the twisted dough so it all stays together.
Step 3: Arrange the twist in a circle, and fold one end over the other.
Step 4: Add colored eggs (hardboiled) to the middle of each “nest”. Brush with egg wash and place on cookie sheet for baking.
Obviously, this means nothing without the recipe. So without further adieu…
Italian Anise Easter Nests (makes 5-6 nests)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 c warm water
1/2 c whole milk, scalded and then cooled
1/2 lb (1 c) butter, melted and cooled
4 eggs and 1 egg white
3/4 c sugar
2-3 tbsp crushed anise seed
1 tsp salt
7 c white flour, unsifted
Preheat oven to 325 F.
In two microwave safe bowls, melt the butter and scald the milk (separately). Let these bowls and their content cool.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, blend the yeast, water, and milk. Let this mixture stand for about 5 minutes.
Add butter, 4 eggs, sugar, anise, and salt to the mixing bowl with the yeast mixture. Blend thoroughly.
Gradually beat in the flour. Once all the flour is in, knead the dough on a floured surface for a few minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and let rise for 2 hours or so. The dough will almost double in size.
Punch the dough down and then start making your nests (instructions above). Brush the nests with beaten egg white from 1 egg. Bake in oven for about 45 minutes.
If the loaves start to brown too quickly, just cover them with aluminum foil and continue baking! I had no problem with this, but I know my mama has in the past. Don’t panic!
Let’s say this recipe makes 5-6 mini-loaves. Wouldn’t it be so fun to make enough so that each of your guests has a beautiful, personal LOAF OF BREAD waiting on their place setting when they arrived for brunch?!
Could you imagine a better greeting than carbs?! Actually, yes. PERSONAL carbs. Talk about luxury, y’all.
Thanks for reading!