Braided Easter Basket

I go a little nuts at holidays. With baking, that is. It’s all those lovely pictures from my magazines and cookbooks that show everything I would love to have on my holiday table. I have a friend who calls this obsession “holiday hopes and dreams” but I think she is referring to her kids. Strangely, I still have a collection of those.

I saw this loaf and thought it was so pretty, while also being not very sweet, a good addition for someone who likes to go a little overboard on the breads and candies. It’s a charming centerpiece and an easy bake, and rewardingly simple. The recipe comes from Recipes from the Old Mill: Baking with Whole Grains.

You can also see the multiplicity of bakes here: I couldn’t stop with just the Braid! I actually also made cupcakes and cookies, too. And distributed many of them. My additional holiday hope and dream is to cover the house in Cadbury Mini Eggs. I mean, it’s just once a year.

Braided Easter Basket

2 1/4 t. yeast
3/4 c. warm water
1/4 c. sugar
3 T. instant dry milk
1/4 c. oil or butter
1 t. salt
1 egg
1 c. whole wheat flour
2-2 1/2 c. flour

Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let set for 5 minutes. Add sugar, dry milk, oil or butter, salt, egg, and whole wheat flour. Add enough flour to make a soft dough.

On floured surface, knead 8-10 minutes, till smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl, turning once to grease surface. Cover. Let rise in warm place till double, about 1 hour.

Punch down. Divide in thirds. Cover. Let rest 10 minutes. Shape 1/3 of dough in 6 “eggs.” Place close together in the center of greased baking sheet. For nest, shape remaining dough in two 26″ ropes. Twist together. Coil around “eggs.” Seal ends. Cover. Let rise till double, about 45-60 minutes.

Bake at 375 degree for 15-20 minutes.

Frost the braid with confectioner’s sugar icing (powdered sugar, a little milk, and vanilla or orange zest for a little more flavor), starting with the “eggs.” As soon as iced, sprinkle with candy decorations. Glaze the coiled nest. Sprinkle with coconut that has been tinted green with a few drops of green food coloring.

Not-as-Sweet Pumpkin Bread

 

Pumpkin Bread less sugarLast time I made pumpkin bread, my mouth was ringing for a bit afterwards. It just had way too much sugar in it. So, since I’m trying to cut sugar in non-conspicuous ways (I’m not against it, but I just don’t think we need to use quite so much of it!), I changed this recipe a bit, hoping it would still be sweet enough that my kids would eat the whole loaf without question. Totally worked. They didn’t suspect a thing, the loaves were beautiful and delicious, and for me, better, because without so much sugar, the cinnamon and the pumpkin tastes were heightened. I wanted to make sure to write this variation down, before I forgot it. 

Not-as-Sweet Pumpkin Bread

2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour (the original calls for only all-purpose, which works great, of course, too)
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
4 eggs
1/2 c. white sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 1/2 c.)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 c. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. applesauce
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. pecans or walnuts (optional)
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease two loaf pans (Pam works fine here).

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients: flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and soda. In another bowl (or in a standing mixer), beat eggs and sugars for one minute, then add the oil, combine, and then the pumpkin. Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until combined, then add nuts and chocolate chips, if using.

Spoon the batter evenly into the two pans, and then bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to a rack, and let the loaf cool for another 20 minutes or so before slicing.

Yields 2 loaves.