Recipes Alice Wilhelm, Photography Roelene Prinsloo

Are you already looking for a variety of goodies to bake for the family this Easter? Worldwide a variety of different breads are made for Easter, each bread shape having a symbolic meaning. These are a selection of some of the tasty spiced breads.

Braided Easter egg bread

This attractive Easter bread has whole eggs baked into it. Do not cook the whole eggs before as they will bake at the same time the bread does. The eggs can be dyed for extra colour.

Makes: 1 loaf

Time: 3 hours

Ingredients:

625ml flour

60ml sugar

5ml salt

10g instant yeast

165ml milk

30ml butter

2 eggs

5 whole eggs, dyed if desired

30ml butter, melted

Method:

1 Preheat the oven to 175°C. In a large bowl, combine 250ml flour, sugar, salt and yeast. Stir well.

2 Heat the milk and butter in a saucepan until warm and the butter is softened, but not melted.

3 Gradually add warm milk and butter to the flour mixture, stirring continuously. Add the two eggs and 125ml flour. Mix well. Add the remaining flour, 125ml at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.

4 Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Leave in a warm place, covered with a damp cloth, to rise until doubled in size – about 1 hour.

5 Punch the dough before turning it out onto a lightly floured surface. Portion the dough into two equal sized rounds. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes. Roll each piece of dough into a long roll rope, about 90cm long and 4cm thick.

6 The two long pieces of dough can then be loosely twisted, leaving spaces for the coloured eggs. Join the ends of the twist together and use your fingers to slide the eggs between the braids of dough, evenly spaced.

7 Place bread on a greased baking tray, cover loosely with a damp cloth. Place in a warm place, leave to rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

8 Brush risen loaf with melted butter. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until golden.

Apricot kolaches

This is a traditional Czech recipe made with a delicious fruit filling. Variations include cottage cheese, prune and apricot.

Makes: 24

Time: 45 minutes + resting time

Ingredients:

Filling:

180ml dried apricots

375ml water

180ml sugar

Dough:

250ml butter, softened

170g smooth cream cheese

30ml sugar

500ml flour

Method:

1 Preheat oven to 200°C. To make the filling: combine the apricots and water in a saucepan, cover and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes or until apricots are soft. Cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until most of the water has been cooked away. Mash the apricots, stir in the sugar and leave to cool. Set aside.

2 To make the dough: place the butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer and beat until fluffy. Add in the sugar and beat well before adding in the flour and mixing well. Shape the dough into a ball and put it in the fridge for about an hour to rest.

3 Once rested, roll half the dough on a well-floured surface to 0,3cm thick . Cut into 5cm squares. Spoon a little of the apricot filling into the centre of each square. Bring the four corners to meet in the centre and pinch to seal.

4 Bake for about 15 minutes. If desired you may brush kolaches with butter halfway through baking. If you would like a slightly sweeter product sprinkle lightly with icing sugar.

Ciambella mandorlata

This Italian Easter bread, originally from Bologna, is decorated with a sweet crunchy nut brittle.

Makes: 1 huge loaf

Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Dough:

550g bread flour

45g sugar

10g salt

Zest of 2 lemons

1 egg

45g butter, melted

25g milk powder

15g yeast

310ml tepid water

Nut brittle:

25ml cinnamon

50ml sugar

120g toasted almond, roughly chopped

1 egg yolk

Method:

1 Preheat the oven to 200°C.

2 For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and zest. Combine the egg, melted butter, milk powder, and yeast – mix to dissolve.

3 Add liquids to dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon, slowly adding the water. Once too stiff to stir, knead on a floured surface for 10 minutes until dough is smooth and springy. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, swirl to coat the dough. Cover with cling film, and leave to double in size in a warm place for about an hour.

3 Knead the dough again before dividing it into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. Plait the three ropes and leave to rise, covered with a damp cloth, for about 15 minutes.

4 To make the topping, mix the cinnamon, sugar, nuts and egg yolk. Spread this over the top of the plait and then bake for 60 minutes, or until golden and sounding hollow when tapped.

Chocolate and orange hot cross buns

The custom of eating spiced buns on Good Friday was conceived by the English in Tudor times. The cross on the bun first appeared in commemoration of Christ’s cross in 1592. At this stage the cross was simply incised with a knife, rather than piped on in pastry.

Makes: 16 buns

Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

100ml tepid milk

90ml tepid water

1 egg

10g instant yeast

60ml butter, melted

5ml salt

85ml sugar

2.5ml ground cinnamon

Pinch ground nutmeg

5ml orange zest

750ml bread flour

125ml raisins

80g chocolate, roughly chopped

30g white chocolate, melted

Method:

1 Preheat oven to 190°C. Mix the milk, water, egg, yeast, and melted butter together in a small bowl. In a separate bowl combine salt, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, zest and flour in a bowl.

2 Add the liquid to the dry ingredients slowly while mixing with a wooden spoon. Once forming a dough put onto floured surface and knead to mix the ingredients thoroughly, about 5 minutes. Leave to prove in an oiled, covered bowl for 30 minutes. Then knead in the raisins and the chopped chocolate.

3 Form into 16 buns, placing them evenly spaced in a greased 35 x 25cm pan. Leave to rise for 1 hour.

4 Bake for 25 minutes, or until baked through.

5 Cool before icing on the cross with melted white chocolate.