Easter Bread Baskets

I love this bread. It’s fast and easy, uses only a few ingredients, and tastes like heaven . . . soft and fluffy inside, crispy and crackly outside, though for this recipe I added a little olive oil and skipped the steam bath in the oven, because as much as I adore that crackly crust, it wasn’t the look I was after.

The recipe makes enough for a large basket, flower decorations, and lots of rolls to fill your basket with. If you just want to make the basket and skip the rolls, cut the recipe in half.

Making the basket really isn’t hard at all. If you’ve ever made a lattice pie crust, you’ve got this! You know, under and over. Under and over. If there are any unattractive spots, cover them with flowers! I made roses for one and daisies and wild flowers for the other, then painted them with colored cream.

This recipe looks intimidating, but that’s just because I had a really hard time explaining the details of weaving with dough, Just look at the pictures; you’ll figure it out!.

Easter Bread Baskets
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Makes a large basket, flower decorations, and enough rolls to fill it to overflowing. If you only want to make the basket, cut the recipe in half! YOU WILL NEED AN OVEN-SAFE BOWL
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups very warm water
  • 2 packages active-dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • heavy cream and food coloring if desired for flower decorations
Instructions
  1. Cover the outside of an oven-safe mixing bowl with foil, pressing firmly to smooth out wrinkles. (I used an 8-inch bowl because that was all I had, but a larger one would be great.) For best results, spray foil lightly with a flour/oil baking spray.
  2. In a large bowl (a sturdy stand mixer is highly recommended) combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes to soften yeast.
  3. With mixer running on low and using a dough hook, gradually add flour and salt. Once combined, add olive oil.
  4. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand on lightly floured surface for 7 minutes. Dough should be smooth and buttery, not sticky.
  5. Place dough in greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled - about 1 hour in a warm kitchen.
  6. Heat oven to 375 F.
  7. Punch down dough. Divide in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover to rise again. Place the other half on a lightly floured surface and roll out approximately 16 inches by 13 inches.
  8. Use a sharp knife or pizza cutter to cut 8 long strips, about ⅓-inch wide. Turn prepared bowl upside down on a baking sheet and place one strip across the bowl, letting it drape down both sides to the baking sheet, leaving at least 1 inch extra at the bottom. Cut off any extra. (Keep scraps under plastic wrap to use later.) Repeat with the other 7 pieces, keeping them evenly spaced. I find it's easiest to start with one horizontal, then one vertical, and then fill in the gaps.
  9. Cut 7 more strips. (Hint: If the long strips are too awkward to work with, cut them in half. You can hide a jointed piece under any vertical strip.) Lifting every other piece, weave the dough strip under and over the vertical strips at the top of the bowl. (Which is actually the bottom of the bowl, right? So confusing.) Add another ring, then press them down firmly. Once baked, this will be where it sits, so it needs to be firm and flat.
  10. Continue down the side of the bowl. Try not to stretch the dough.
  11. When you get to the bottom, Fold the vertical strips over the bottom ring and pinch firmly. (Some will go up and over, some with go under. Use your thumb to press around the bottom, at each vertical strip and in the space between.
  12. To make roses, cut strips 4-5 inches long and roll up, pinching to thin dough as you go. Press firmly onto basket. Cut out and add other flowers and leaves using small cutters. (Remember to point the leaves down, because it will be flipped over when it's baked.) Paint with a little heavy cream colored with food coloring.
  13. Bake for approximately 15-17 minutes, until it begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit until almost cool. Gently pull pan and foil away from basket.
  14. HANDLE: Twist two ½-inch wide strips of dough together. Place over upside down bowl and trim at the bottom, tucking the ends under the bowl. Place on baking sheet. Bake for about 12 minutes, until it starts to turn golden. Remove and let cool.
  15. ROLLS: Increase temperature of oven to 400 F.
  16. Punch down remaining dough. Cut into equal-size pieces (about 2 ounces each) and shape into balls. Use the scraps to make more rolls. Place 1 inch apart on parchment covered baking sheets and let rise for 30 minutes. Cut an "X" into the top of each and bake until tops are golden - about 15-17 minutes.
  17. Handle can be attached with toothpicks, or simply set into the basket, supported by the rolls.

Place dough in greased bowl. Let it rise until doubled.

Fat and sassy! It took an hour to rise in my (very) warm kitchen. If your place is cooler, it could take longer.

I rolled mine long and skinny. Doesn’t matter, as long as it’s about 1/4-inch thick.

Lay 8 strips across bowl, evenly spaced. Leave at least 1 inch at the bottom. (Use more if you want a tighter weave.)

Weave the first strip, over and under. Pinch together where they meet.

2nd strip. Press down with hand before working your way down the bowl. The basket will sit on this, so make it nice and flat!

Fold extra dough (trimming if necessary) over bottom ring.

After folding ends over bottom ring, press around the bottom edge at junction of horizontal and vertical pieces and once in between each vertical piece. Just makes it purty.

Cut flowers and leaves using cookie or gum paste cutters, or press dough into fondant molds

Roll strips of dough to create roses.

Press decorations firmly onto basket. Paint with heavy cream and food coloring.

After basket is baked and removed from bowl, twist two pieces of dough together and lay across bowl, tucking ends under to hold in place. Bake. This is the handle. (Totally optional.)

I added some little dove rolls and decorated “egg” rolls to this basket. The egg rolls were uncooperative. Maybe a different bread dough would be better. The doves were fun and sweet. But that’s a blog for another day.

The world is going crazy right now, but I wish you a blessed Easter. For the record, baking is supposed to be very calming to the spirit. I recommend it highly!

Lorinda

Football Dip Bowl

Here is the perfect bowl for serving dip at the Superbowl. Why? Because it’s festive, delicious, and you don’t have to wash it after the crowd leaves.

French bread is the easiest bread there is to make. It takes a little more time because it requires two risings before it’s shaped, but it is the closest thing to a “no-fail” bread I’ve ever tried. I usually put a pan of hot water in the oven to get it all steamy, which makes the crust more crispy, but this time I left that step out so it would be easier to slice the top off to make the bowl. It still came out crackly and crisp, but cut easily.

This recipe will make two large loaves. Even if you only need one dip bowl, go ahead and make them both footballs. That way you can pick the prettiest one for display, and a football is a pretty traditional French bread shape anyhow.

Once the bread has cooled, slice off the top and scoop out the insides. You may be able to turn the excess bread into croutons or bread crumbs, or just nibble as you work! Fill the bowl with your favorite dip and put the top back on until it’s time to serve. Then break up the top and use it for dipping.

Football Dip Bowl
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Makes 2 large dip bowls.
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups very warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl (a stand mixer is best) combine the water, yeast, and sugar. Allow it to it until bubbly - about 5 minutes.
  2. Add 3 cups of flour and the salt and beat well.
  3. Remove ¼ cup of dough and put it in a plastic zipper bag. Don't zip the top, just set it in the refrigerator for now.
  4. Switch to a dough hook and add the remaining flour. Knead with the machine for 5 minutes, or if you're kneading by hand, put dough on a floured surface and knead for 7-8 minutes. Dough should be slightly sticky and very elastic.
  5. Place dough in a large greased bowl, turning the dough to coat evenly. Cover and allow it to rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
  6. Punch down dough, cover, and allow it to rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.
  7. Punch down dough and divide it into 2 pieces. Shape one piece into a slightly skinny football. Repeat with the other piece of dough. Put both loaves on an ungreased baking sheet (you may sprinkle with cornmeal first if you wish) then cover and let rise until almost doubled.
  8. When the dough is partly risen, heat the oven to 450 F. Give it plenty of time to get hot.
  9. When the loaves have risen, remove the bag of soft dough from the refrigerator. Snip one of the corners off and squeeze side stripes, a center seam, and lacing on each loaf.
  10. Bake for about 35 minutes, or until the loaves are a rich brown.
  11. Cool thoroughly on a rack.

 

Yeast is bubbly...Add the flour!

Yeast is bubbly…Add the flour!

The dough - smooth and elastic!

The dough – smooth and elastic!

First rise

First rise

Shaping the dough

Shaping the dough

Shape like a skinny football. It will puff out!

Shape like a skinny football. It will puff out!

Squeeze on the designs and it's ready for the oven!

Squeeze on the designs and it’s ready for the oven!

miscjan 070

Hearty French Bread

MiscNov 054A tender bread with a crispy-crackly crust, french bread is one of my favorite breads to bake. It’s very simple to make, as long as you’re not in a big hurry. It rises twice before you form the loaves, so although you spend less than a half hour of actual prep time (if you’re using a stand mixer), you’re committed to hanging around for nearly four hours, total.

This is almost identical to my french roll recipe. I just replaced one cup of white flour with one cup of whole wheat flour and dropped the baking temperature just a little, and of course shaped the dough differently.

The trick to getting a nice crust on the loaves is steam. I put a big lasagna pan of water on the bottom rack of my oven and start it preheating while the loaves are rising. This fills the oven with steam, and then the loaves are carefully¬† put in the oven to bake. From experience I can tell you to wear an oven mitt and don’t get your face close to the oven door when you open it up. That steam is HOT!

 

Hearty French Bread
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Ingredients
  • 2½ cups warm water
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 5 cups white bread flour (regular is okay, too)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Cornmeal
Instructions
  1. In a large mixirollng bowl, stir sugar into warm water and then stir in the yeast. Let sit until bubbly (about 5 minutes).
  2. Add whole wheat flour, 4 cups of white flour and the salt. Beat with electric mixer, using paddles, for 5 minutes.
  3. If you prefer to knead by hand, put the remaining cup of flour on the board and knead for 7-8 minutes. If you have a sturdy stand mixer and prefer to let the machine do the hard work, switch to your dough hook, add the remaining cup of flour, and let it knead for 5 minutes. Your finished dough should be smooth and elastic. If it isn't coming cleanly away from the side of the bowl, add a little more flour.
  4. Place the dough into a large greased bowl. Turn to coat. Cover and let rise until doubled. Depending on room temperature, this could take anywhere from 1-3 hours. (A slow rise makes more flavorful bread, so don't rush it!)
  5. Punch down the dough, turn it over, and let it rise again until doubled, about 1½ hours.
  6. Punch down the dough and divide into two pieces.
  7. Sprinkle cornmeal generously on a large baking sheet.
  8. Shape each piece into a long slender loaf, and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover lightly with a clean dishtowel and allow to rise for 45 minutes.
  9. While the loaves are rising, place a large pan of water on the bottom rack of the oven, and preheat to 425 F.
  10. When the loaves have risen, dust them with flour and, with a very sharp knife or razor blade, cut ¼" deep diagonal slashes along the top of the loaves.
  11. Carefully (it will be HOT) open the oven door and quickly put the loaves in, trying to let as little steam escape as possible.
  12. Bake until rich brown, about 35 minutes, and cool on a rack. Listen to them crackle!

French bread is luscious when it’s warm and fresh, but goes stale fairly quickly. It rarely has the opportunity to get stale at my house, but If this happens I just make french toast, garlic bread, or croutons!

Bread doesn’t get more basic and satisfying than this, and sometimes that’s just what we all need.MiscNov 055